Well this post is a great example of why I need this word.
I’ve been writing this post in my head since before Christmas, but here we are, a month later, finally having a chance to get it all out.
Normally I would be consumed with frustration. Why can’t I find a few minutes to work on my blog, my creative outlet, my community? Why did I spend money to renew my blog again if I’m never going to be able to write? Why do I even try?
But this year I’m taking a step back. I’m focusing on my word: Expectations.
Realistic expectations. Possible expectations. Fewer expectations.
You see, this year was really tough. I had a physically and emotionally draining pregnancy followed by a lonely and chaotic postpartum and a speedy return back to working outside the home.
We battled what seemed like non-stop illness from March to December (and then started the new year off with the flu).
It was a rough year.
But, when I sat down to prayerfully reflect back on the year, all that chaos was compounded by my own unrealistic expectations.
Of my husband, our children, myself.
Too many expectations.
This isn’t to say I have zero expectations. I’m just learning to take a step back and identify if the expectations fit the situation.
Can I reasonably expect my 3yr old to sit through the entire Mass without asking for a snack or a toy or a book? Probably not. Can I reasonably expect her to sit when we sit, stand when we stand, kneel (or stand on kneeler) when we kneel? Definitely.
Can I reasonably expect my husband to know when I am desperately needing to emotionally reconnect with him? Probably not. Can I reasonably expect him to carve out 10-15 minutes with me later in the day when I directly give him a head’s up I need it? Yup.
Can I reasonably expect my still recovering from pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding body and brain to operate the way it used to? Definitely not. Can I reasonably expect my body to tell me when I need to rest and endure when it needs to, but that it won’t always be easy or pretty? Yes.
Moms, we live in a world post-Pinterest and let’s be honest, most of us bear the scars of a cliquey, judgmental puberty and enter online conversations with our defenses up and without the benefit of being able to hear tone and inflection. We are quick to assume someone else is judging us. We’re quick to get down on ourselves when our toddlers don’t have matching socks or our sweater wears the battle stains of motherhood. We tell ourselves we’re supposed to bounce back, that we’re supposed to be taking regular date nights and having more sex and putting our husbands first. We tell ourselves our children should be eating perfectly planned and cooked meals several times a day and that they should hate everything sugar and brightly colored and love to munch on steamed broccoli.
These are all fine, but they aren’t all attainable. They aren’t all reasonable. And quite frankly, we all need a dose of Godly priorities.
This year, I’m working on reasonable expectations and reprioritizing.
Here’s a glance at my current list of expectations.
- Marriage: Have a genuine conversation with Husband at least twice a week. Make a point to greet him at the door whenever he comes home after me. Support him however he needs it to finish school. Plan something fun for his birthday.
- Children: Spend at least 20 minutes every day playing with V. Have monthly dates with just V. Continue to breastfeed Baby A; wean V. Keep them both fed, clothed and healthy as much is in my power.
- God: Attend daily Mass 2x per month. Begin reading/journaling in new journal Bible. Continue reading V’s Bible with her regularly.
- Food: Make batch of bone broth 2x per month. Buy more fruits and veggies. Get in the habit of prepping healthy snacks on Sundays. Make a full home meal 2x per week.
- Home: Find a cleaning routine I can manage. Make beds daily. Do dishes nightly. Begin using one load laundry rule.
- Self: Shower at least 2x per week. Find a new way to relax. Get at least one professional haircut.
Now each of these categories have a few other details in them but you get the gist.
I believe firmly that we need to set goals that stretch us but don’t break us. Setting ourselves up for failure by setting goals based in the ideal is not good for anything. It’s like when you work out to build muscle mass. You stretch the muscles beyond their limit, causing little tears that when they heal create a stronger muscle. But if you stretch too far, the tears become rips and cause injury. When you set goals for yourself and your family, make sure they only cause tears and not rips.
For example: Ideally, I would attend daily Mass daily. But that’s not even remotely reasonable. Attending daily Mass once per week sounds great, but for where I am now, I know that would be a rip. It’s not really that unreasonable but I know it’s not attainable. It may be my goal next year when things have settled down a bit. But attending daily Mass twice a month is twice more than I’m currently doing and, while it will require planning and effort and could be seen as an inconvenience (re: tear) it is doable.
Or ideally, we would only eat organic, grass fed, local food made at home. Maybe in a few years we will be at a point where that is a reasonable goal. But now is certainly not that time. Getting down on myself because of that isn’t productive and affects my ability to be a joyful wife and mother. Again, stretch, don’t tear.
I’ve also been reflecting on what is most important, priorities.
Sometimes when I’m knee-deep in “I haven’t had a single minute where I’m not being touched or talked to by one or both children”, it’s easy to lose perspective. When I do, I usually resort to my phone or the TV, easy things that can distract me from my responsibilities. But that’s just a selfish waste. We already cancelled Netflix and Hulu and we’re implementing family rules about our phones. We need to help ourselves with boundaries just like we need to help our children.
Anyway, in this same vein of thinking, I’ve been coming back to this verse that was actually part of the readings at our wedding.
“If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing”
1 Corinthians 13:3
Being a mother, a wife, a follower of Christ, these are all vocations that call us to constantly give of ourselves. We have to give our body, mind and spirit over, and we have to do it with love.
Sometimes, in order to love my husband or children or God with love, I need to take some time for myself. But a lot of the time, I need to give up myself, my selfish desires, my petty wants, and give of myself more fully with love.
When I spend precious time making a meal instead of grabbing something I can just heat and serve, if I spend that time thinking of all the fun things I could be doing instead, I will resent it. I’m not giving myself fully with love. I’ve gained nothing.
But if I spend that time pouring love into my food, thinking about how blessed I am, how much I love my children and I’m excited to be able to cook food to help nourish their little brains and bodies, I am giving of myself with love. That’s what we’re called to do. To give of ourselves with love.
So those are my two goals for the year: reasonable expectations and prioritize to give of myself with love.
Not sure what a word of the year is or how to choose one? I really like this post about the process. Do you have a word of the year or other goals? I’d love to hear about it! Share in the comments or over on Facebook!