Caught in a landslide..no escape from reality... (I am sorry, kind of)
Yesterday morning, I was semi-daydreaming through a workshop titled “Expectations in Relationships”. While the workshop was focused on romantic relationships, I couldn’t help but think about a different relationship and the expectations I had once held for motherhood. The definition of expectation is “the act or state of looking forward; a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.”
The goals of the workshop were to decide if we should have expectations? Identify Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Expectations, and to offer tools to build healthy expectations.
Immediately I thought about how Motherhood is rampant with misconceptions, expectations, and idealizations that unlike the gradual reality of a romantic relationship, are typically thrust upon you in one final push.
Some healthy examples of expectations for relationships included: my partner will communicate with me and my partner will put in their share of the work. Unhealthy examples included, my partner will know what I am thinking, and my partner will complete me or make me fully happy.
Comparing the examples to the list of “Motherhood Expectations” I solicited from an online group of moms, I found that many moms are entering this relationship full of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for themselves, their partners, and their babies. The crash of reality with these unrealistic expectations has to do damage mentally, emotionally, and socially.
Where do our Motherhood Expectations come from?
Expectations typically come from our experiences (ie, we decide to do things or not to do things the way our mother did them), our past experiences with infants, and societal norms. One way our unrealistic expectations are allowed to develop is the fact that nobody talks about the ugly, the unpleasant, or the unmentionable. We often only see the pretty side of motherhood, amazing birth photos or new nursing mom's with a happy baby perfectly latched, or my personal favorite, calmly sleeping babies in a beautifully decorated nursery. Social Media highlights the joys and precious moments. What about the sore bottoms and chapped nipples? Friend and mentor Sarah Workman Checcone of Postpartum Society of Florida decided to change this by discussing the unspoken details in her book From Bump to Grind.
Let's look at some of the Motherhood Expectations voiced by the mom's group members.
Full disclosure, for my first son, some of these expectations were met. So I had no reason to believe otherwise that there weren’t universal truths. And in the same manner, some realities were blown with him, so my second time around I had no expectation of a clean house, healthy prepped dinners, or routine. But each expectation or “ideal” we strive for, is an opportunity for disappointment.
Part of me laughs as I say the easiest way to deal with this disappointment is to drop the expectations. But realistically, we will have expectations. So, based on the suggestions from the presentation, I would like to offer some tools, or tips really, for creating healthy expectations.
Occasionally, even when we manage to lower our expectations, we discover that something about motherhood just doesn’t meet the bar. When these expectations are unmet, it is common to feel upset. So I leave you with a few reminders of what to do when you find yourself disappointed by unmet expectations.
Each walk is different, but we walk together, and that makes all the