The beginning of this year has been rough...and we hadn't even recovered from last year. Since June of last year we have lost two pregnancies, out cat was hit by a car, we downsized from a 1200sf 3 bedroom/3 bath duplex to a 900sf 2 bd/1ba apartment, and my husband started his masters program (for real...full time). It's been a lot to handle and I think we've done pretty well (all things considered).
However, today as I look around at my house I realize how easy it is for me to feel overwhelmed. We have a lot going on. Not just in dealing with the last 7 months, but also in looking forward to the future. I know this is something that many people find overwhelming, which is probably why so many choose to just live today and worry about the future some other time (we were these people when we first got married). Unfortunately it doesn't get any easier to start really evaluating where your life is going and how you are going to get to the end or do all the things you want to do. Remember when that movie The Bucket List came out? And all of a sudden everyone started talking about all the crazy dreams they had for their life...the things they wanted to accomplish before they died? Maybe it wasn't as wide-spread as it seemed at our little college, but I remember thinking about all the cool things I wanted to do (visit Europe mostly). But I don't remember spending too much time thinking about how in the world I was going to finance all those cool things or when I would plan on doing them. As I've gotten older and become responsible for more lives than just mine, I realize that the time spent planning for those things is so incredibly important. But it's also important to be realistic in that planning. I can't just decide to go to Europe for 3 months next summer...it's not realistic. For one, my husband doesn't have that kind of time off work, nor would we be able to save up enough money for all of us to head over there next summer even if we could.
This brings me to the title of my post..."not living up to expectations". While it can be difficult to feel you don't live up to the expectations place on you by society or your parents or your friends or your spouse, that isn't really what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the expectations that we place on ourselves...which can be so much harsher than anything anyone else could put on us--except maybe my kids because they expect me to be a princess and I can think of few ways I will live up to that everyday...pretty harsh stuff :).
My expectations are pretty high. Here are a few things on the list:
- keep my house clean
- keep the clothes washed
- don't drown in dirty dishes (and don't resort to environment-killing paper/Styrofoam)
- get my homework done and don't fall behind
- limit my kids screen time
- feed my kids healthy meals 3 times a day plus snacks (most should be homemade)
- cook a nice meal each night for dinner
- cook something decently nice for my husband at lunch
- do fun things with my kids each day
- read a lot of books to my kids
- do fun projects and crafts with my kids
While those are some of the things I expect from myself I can easily be disappointed. Here is an example of my day today...a day where I feel VERY disappointed:
- my kids ate peanut butter/cheese crackers and vanilla wafers for breakfast
- we have eaten almost exclusively off paper plates for almost a week
- the paper plates have NOT kept me away from a mountain of dishes that seem to be multiplying in my sink faster than bunnies!
- my kids have spent the majority of the day watching tv or playing on their tablets
- my house is dirty...not just a little unkempt but downright dirty :(
- the craftiest thing I did with my kids today was let them color on their white boards
- my husband got McDonald's for lunch today and we had hamburger helper yesterday
- I have yet to workout again since recovering from my cold two weeks ago
- I almost broke an ankle climbing over hot wheels and tiny trains to turn the light off in my kids room at nap time
- I HAVE managed to get quite a bit of homework done...but the homework time is mostly to blame for the status of the rest of the things on this list
It would easy right now to beat myself up about all the things I did wrong or haven't done at all today. But is it helpful? I'm not the kind of person that responds well to "harsh" treatment, so why is my first response to beat myself up? I know it won't help, it won't make me any more productive and, in fact, just might drive me to finish off the chocolate chips in the pantry. I have to learn a new way to respond to myself. I don't think the answer is to have no expectations or even ridiculously low ones, but rather to find peace with the compromises you are making and knowing that they are what is best...trying to see the big picture.
For me, it's being ok with eating off of paper plates. It's trying to find balance between crafts and books and tv and still finding time for homework. It's limiting my exposure to things that cause me to compare myself and feel bad about where I am on my journey (I'm looking at you Pinterest and Facebook). Someone told me last weekend something that has really been a source of comfort and strength for me..."your story isn't the same as anyone else and their story isn't yours". I have to find ways to remind myself where I am (overwhelmed) and come up with a plan on how to get where I want to be...even prioritizing all the different things I want. Finishing school is a big motivator for me and my husband. If that means we eat off paper plates for a while or we eat more fast food than normal then maybe we need to find peace with that...it's not sacrificing one thing for another (health for school) but finding a middle ground that works.