Monday, March 21, 2011

This is what I expected

Yesterday I was out the door for church an hour late, with orange hair (a mishap from the night before I didn't really have time to fix), I actually hadn't prepared my church lesson (gasp - I know my husband never prepares a lesson in his life, but that is so not my style) and I slid my way into class without a second to spare. I then realized that my hot rollers (that never actually made it into my hair) were still plugged in 30 minutes away at our house that I had left covered in a mess of clothes that hadn't fit.  Sigh.

 Before I had children, someone once told me, "Motherhood is a great equalizer."

I hadn't fully understood what she meant until I had children.  Once I had my first, I got the message loud and clear - if you think you're on top of your game, give motherhood a shot.

I remember after having our first how much I'd look around at other moms thinking - wow, I know exactly what you went through to get out the door this morning, and having all new appreciation for them. I also felt slightly deceived at first as well - why didn't any of you warn me what my body was going to go through?!?  You all act like this is OK??? But yes, suddenly I wasn't breezing out the door by myself in the morning, looking all coiffed and polished, going the extra mile for everything, getting paychecks and traveling on airplanes and feeling like I had it together. Suddenly my life, my body, and so many other things felt out of my control. But I knew I was on the same footing as every other mom out there.

I think I've been reflecting on this as I've hit that point with a new baby where exhaustion starts to win out over euphoria, I realize I never get anything done, my beautiful baby is covered with cradle cap and baby acne, and every time I sit down I have to tuck the overhang back into the maternity pants I wish I could say I wasn't still wearing.

And I realized, boy, have I embraced this lifestyle of total imperfection or what? 

It's probably a good thing. (Although I always figure if I take a few decent pictures, touch them up and throw them on the blog, people will just assume I'm on top of my game. Is it working?  :) 

The fact of the matter is that I am not going to be walking around my house on an average day wearing a stylish ensemble from Anthropologie, I will probably not be doing crafts with my kids, sewing my own curtains, throwing super-themed dinner parties for my friends, or making cute handouts for my next church lesson.

The reality is that I will probably be late, I will probably forget one or many things I was supposed to bring with me, do for you or take to my child's school that day; at some point and to your horror, one of my children will probably eat something off the ground without a word of discouragement from me, I will probably smell like spit-up, my kids will probably watch too much tv and eat too much sugar, and one or all of my children may not be wearing shoes at any given time.

Yep. I'm getting pretty used to it.

And then I smiled today when my aunt (thanks Susie!) sent me an article by April Perry that reinforced my thoughts exactly and helped me gear up for tomorrow - when my mom leaves.(Yikes.)

"How we feel about our lives depends on the relationship between our expectations and our realities. One way we can understand our potential and the nature of family life is to accept the fact that the world is made up of opposites. If it seems like the world is against us some days, and that we’ll never “reach our potential” or create the “perfect” family life, that’s okay. In order to enjoy the good, we need to experience the bad.

We wouldn’t know how beautiful an entire eight hours of undisturbed sleep is if we hadn’t had nights where we saw the clock change every single hour. When we become mothers, we need to expect opposites and realize that we have the capacity to grow and nurture our families—even when times are tough.

If you wake up in the morning saying, “Well, I know I’ve got my work cut out for me today. Hard things are definitely going to come my way, but with the help of Providence, I am ready for them,” then when hard times DO come, you think, “This is what I expected. And look what a great job I am doing!”

On the other hand, if you wake up thinking, “Today better be less crazy than yesterday. This is my itinerary, this is what I need to get done, this is what I want to happen, and if anyone gets in my way, there’s going to be heck to pay!”, then when the challenges come, we scream, “I've been cheated! Today turned out horribly! This wasn’t supposed to happen!”

I know that I’ve been guilty of these misplaced expectations. I’ve made the overflowing to-do list and been upset when nothing got checked off. I’ve been surprised when I went to the store with three little children and didn’t get complete cooperation.I’ve also been frustrated when the house turned into a pit on a day I was babysitting four other children. What on earth was I thinking when I hoped for anything different?

Now I think like this: “Expect the worst, and be happy if things don’t get there. It’s okay for some things to be mediocre.When my expectations are realistic—not low, not “giving up,” I start to see my potential in a totally different light."

I love that - this is what I expected. And this is what I chose.  So yes, expectations will be pretty low around here for a while. (Ok, and have been for, oh, like 3 or 4 years.  :)  But I'm going to try to just enjoy it.


Melissa said...

Right there with you girl!

Tennille said...

See, this is why I like reading your blog. I get so frustrated sometimes by reading about the lives of some of my friends and even people I don't know. Maybe they only post about the good days--the days they do crafts, ride bikes with their kids, and pick apples in an orchard--but man, it gets me depressed sometimes. Cause then I start to think that maybe they really do have it all together, and I'm the only loser who cries at the end of the day because I'm so exhausted and fed up with my kids.

I love the quote, too. Words to live by.

Laura B. said...

I love this.
This is real life. This is how probably 98% of mothers feel.
I love how you embrace it and are so honest about motherhood.
It's not all Anthro-lovliness. Somedays Gap sweats are as fancy as I get (today).
But, you're right...we chose this and I am SOOO glad we did!
Thanks for posting this!

Amy said...

well you looked pretty dang put together yesterday at church....just sayin.

Anne Marie said...

This is one of the best blog posts ever. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Geoff and Bets said...

amen and i only have half the amount of children

Lois said...

Jen, I always love your comments and often they are just what I needed to hear. Thanks for keeping it real and not 'pretending' everything is always perfect. Life is so real with kids and I've been thinking so much lately about focusing on being and becoming, rather than 'looking like' I have it all together and figured out.

Chadlee said...

Wow, you said a lot of what I've been feeling lately. And I only have half the kids you do and no newborn! After a few years of being a mom, I am still trying to accept the fact that I am not in control of my life anymore and trying to accept chaos as much as that is hard for a type A person to accept. Is it sad that I'm counting down the days (years) when all of my kids will be in school full time? I keep thinking that life will be calm and normal then, when I have a chunk of time to clean, organize, prepare, get caught up on everything. Six more years . . . By the way, I recall wearing maternity clothes for at least a few months after delivering.

Spar-Mar Girl said...

I completely agree!! When I found out I was pregnant with Molly I told Adam, "Let's just accept that the next two years are going to be H*%#. That way when we have a good day, we'll be elated!" It's become so much more true since Molly was born. My only goal for the next year and half is to survive. Literally. Getting dressed, washing hair, everything else is just icing on the cake. It makes it much easier to have a good time. Good luck with your survival mode-just keep reminding yourself that older moms are always saying we'll miss these days at some point! :)

Becki said...

You don't know me...but we have a mutual friend...AnnaMarie...and she shared this post with me. I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and wisdom...I get so overwhelmed at times and so stressed about it's good to read REAL moms with the same thoughts...who don't just smile and not say anything. So thank you...I admire you and think you are an amazing person...and I don't even know you!!! Thank you again!!

Melanie said...

I have always had this policy towards vacations. When my expectations are high im always disappointed but if I just roll with the punches and expect difficulties Im rarely unhappy. Mediocrity is sometimes the secret to happiness.

Karen said...

Amen, girl :o) Couldn't have said it better myself. But I needed to hear it today, so thank you for reading my mind!!!

Susan said...

I loved this post! I don't really feel warm and fuzzy around people who make it look so easy. I feel warm and fuzzy around people who are willing to do hard things that might not make them look so good all the time, but that are so very much more worthwhile than looking good. May God bless you in your labors!