Up on my soapbox again. This time it’s about all the flipping expectations your friends, your family members, church, school, Pinterest, bloggers, the WORLD! place on you. On all of us. Heck, I’m going to rant about the expectations we place on ourselves! Because enough is enough.
I’ve had enough. And I know I’m not alone. I know there are people of all ages, genders, locations, religions, classes, who are sick to death of trying to live up to a million unattainable, unachievable expectations. And we shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to feel bad about ourselves, we shouldn’t have to stress and worry. We should enjoy and celebrate what we do instead of suffer over what we don’t.
I have two little boys, ages 3 and 1. They are more than a handful. Most days I feel like I’m herding cats. They get into things. Lots of things. Everything. They need lots of attention and praise and direction to keep them out of trouble…which still isn’t a guarantee that my books will stay on the shelf or the dishes in the cupboards. They are really learning to excel at tantrums and defiance. My husband has been extra busy at work getting cows where they are supposed to go and pivots ready to run. I have a calling (unpaid job) at church working with the teenage girls. I started blogging while still writing for the lawn care company I’ve been writing for for a few years. Spring pretended to come which always gives me the itch to clean and plant a garden and clean up my yard. To put it gently, I started feeling overwhelmed. I have also struggled with intermittent depression since at least 6 years old. And I was in a bout of it. And for me, depression isn’t always sadness. More often than not, it is extreme grumpiness and feelings of inadequacy. Perfect storm.
One evening, my youngest son rummaged through the garbage and dumped stuff all over the kitchen floor. I was exhausted and frustrated and on the verge of crying BEFORE he made a huge mess. That was pretty much the straw that broke the mommy’s back. I felt something inside of me break off and die. I walked out of the room to get a broom and came back to my husband on the ground, picking up tiny pieces of rice off the floor. I asked him to move so I could sweep it up but he told me, “No. I got it.” I told him I had the broom and it would be easier for him to just get out of my way. Bless this poor man’s heart for trying. He simply wouldn’t quit. No matter how I explained it to him, no matter how frustrated I became, he wouldn’t move. (Strangely, he wouldn’t even take the broom. Nope. Grains of rice must be picked up on hands and knees I guess.) He wanted to shield me from this latest frustrating experience but instead I exploded.
Luckily, (so my children didn’t witness this) I made it to the garage before I LOST IT in a screaming, air punching fit that would have made a world champion tantrum thrower jealous. Not proud. It was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. And it didn’t take me long to realize how ridiculous I was, but there was so much discontent in my heart, I couldn’t snap out of it. I looked at the car sitting there in the lonely garage with me and thought, What if I just left? What if I got in that car and drove away and never looked back? I didn’t have my phone or wallet or really anything, but in that moment, it took every ounce of willpower I had to walk back into the house instead of getting in the car and finding a new life somewhere else. I hated my life. I hated being a mom. I hated cooking dinner and cleaning house and doing everything I did every day. I hated me. I hated my family. But mostly, I hated hating everything. Beyond that, I felt like I was bad at everything. I felt like a total failure. I didn’t like feeling like this. I knew part of it was my depression speaking but not all. There was something really wrong with the way I was doing life. And now I realized it. I went inside and did my thanking and apologizing and then sat down and wrote a list. I called it “Suffocating Expectations I feel as a white, middle-class, young mom, rancher, Mormon, Teichert/Knudsen American.” Yes, very catchy I know. Looking at it now, there are so many other titles I fly under I could have added that come with their own set of expectations. Daughter, wife, blogger… But the title wasn’t the point. The list was.
I listed the expectations I felt. And I tried to keep most of them very broad so as to not run out of room in my notebook. In 10-15 minutes I wrote down almost 50 unique expectations I felt at that particular moment. 50! Without even thinking about it. At that very moment, I felt like I should be excelling at 50 different things! Many of them could have been divided into 5-10 more specific expectations as well.
A few of the more notable include:
- Look Good/Modest/Hot/Maternal/Hip (yes, I wrote Hip…yikes!) (As if I could do all of these at once!)
- Prioritize time so you can squeeze every beating second out of it to use it to the best of your ability.
- Organize. Everything.
- Prepare for the end of the world.
- Go out (on the ranch helping) all day but magically have the house and kids and meals all put together at the end of it.
- Have unlimited energy.
And I ended this list with:
- And love all of it.
When I stopped and looked back at all of the things on the list, I realized that some of them were completely in conflict with others! I had one about being frugal and another about giving my children lots of great clothes and toys and experiences. Hmmm…. Then I started looking at where these expectations came from, which were important, which were absolutely awful, which I actually enjoyed. I categorized them by Necessary, Good, Worthless, and Enjoyable. And I eliminated a lot. Making this list let me step back and see the ridiculous pressure these expectations placed on me. It also allowed me to prioritize, to set my own expectations instead of trying to live up to everyone else’s.
I also saw, that while a lot that I labeled Good, were actually really quite good, I wasn’t there yet. Yes, while it would be good to Never Yell, I don’t have that down. Yeah, it would be good to Never Slack Off but it’s also good to have “Me Time”. In my mind, they don’t work together. I saw that I don’t have to hold myself to some ridiculous imaginary standard. I can see what would be Good and work on those a little at a time. I need to focus on Necessary and Enjoyable.
(I threw anything labeled Worthless out immediately. What a relief!) When I counted up those categories, only the Necessary and Enjoyable, I had 15 expectations. From 50 to 15 just by listing them. And what I labeled and what you might label as Enjoyable or Necessary are probably very different. You might decide decorating your house is Enjoyable while I labeled it Worthless and stopped stressing about finding a “theme” or “vibe” or whatever Pinterest tries to teach you. And I really truly stopped worrying about it. (Which I did…a lot, before this.)
So here is your assignment. If you are feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, write your own list. Be as detailed or broad as you choose. But list the weight of the expectations you feel and then label them.
You can use my labels or some you find more fitting.
Since that day, I have been more calm and patient. I have enjoyed my children and husband again. I have felt 100 times lighter. I have laughed and smiled. I now only hold myself accountable for my own expectations. Listing them allowed me to see which ones are mine and which were the ones thrust upon me by others. It was freeing. It was liberating. It was amazing.
P.S. I also started on some light therapy which is amazing! I would love to write about it a bit if anyone is interested in learning about it but don’t want to waste everyone’s time if you aren’t. So let me know in the comments if this is something you’re interested in and if enough of you are, I’ll tell you all about it next week! If not, I can tell you that are interested about it on Facebook or something. Because it is healing – in any and every sense of the word. It got my mood under control and helped my dad kneel down for the first time in over 50 years by bringing feeling back to his leg. Amazing I’ll tell you.