Expectations Vs. Reality

I have been struggling with this month’s happiness project. When I chose this months project, parenting, I envisioned reading some books, listening to podcasts, and experiencing a total family transformation. I pictured asking my girls to clean their rooms and them skipping away while singing the clean up song. I pictured them happily eating vegetables while having discussions of why it’s important to eat healthy foods. I expected that because I was focused on parenting, we would have more positive interactions, and less stress. However, the past week I have found myself getting more and more frustrated.

When my expectations, which I set for myself, weren’t being met I found myself becoming more and more irritable. I found my patience being shorter, and overall I was becoming more and more stressed. The harder I tried to be a good mom and meet these expectations, the worse I felt. Not reaching the standard I was shooting for, created a disastrous cocktail of agitation and guilt. And sure, a 25 minute toddler melt-down about having to split a doughnut didn’t help, but overall I feel like this month hasn’t been going how I expected.

So I decided something needed to change. In the Happiness Project, when Gretchen focuses on her marriage, she doesn’t try to change her husband, she changes herself. When I focused on my marriage last month, I focused on how can I act in my marriage, and how I can control my actions and reactions. Yet this month, I took a different approach. The wrong approach. While thinking about all of this, and how I can adjust my attitude and intention, I remembered a quote from Tony Robbins “Change your expectations for appreciation.”

Initially when I read this quote a few months ago, it resonated with me, I wrote it down, and yet I wasn’t exactly sure why. Yesterday, Mother’s Day, I realized the meaning of this. I was trying to fit in my workout and the girls were running around, trying to get my attention, asking me for a cup of water, when their dad was literally standing in the kitchen. I found myself getting more and more flustered; I wasn’t enjoying my workout and my patience was wearing thin. And then I decided, it was Mother’s Day, and I didn’t want to spend it frustrated with the tiny people who made me a mom. I wanted to spend the day appreciating my life, rather than being disgruntled about not being able to do another round of squats. So I pushed pause, and decided that if the day allowed, I would try again, and if not that was fine too.

In that moment and in thinking further on this, I have decided I have been going about this month’s focus entirely wrong. I was basing the success or failure of the month on whether or not the girls ate their vegetables, or if they were successfully potty trained (We haven’t even started yet); when my focus needs to be on me. How do I handle when they don’t eat their veggies, or when they repeatedly ask for a sucker for dinner over and over again? How do I respond to the tantrums? That needs to be my focus. How do I respond when they ask repeatedly to play a puzzle? Because guess what would stop that; just playing the puzzle.

In a Super Soul Sunday Episode with Shonda Rhimes, she discusses that she found herself constantly rushing around and always saying “just a minute” or “maybe later” every time her 3 year old wanted to play. So, in her “Year of Yes” she decided that every time her daughter asked her to play, she would just stop and play for a few minutes. So for the rest of the month, this is going to be my focus. Being present. Focusing on my interactions. Playing with my kids more, instead of running around making sure the house is spotless and dinner is exactly at 5:30. I’m doing to take a page from that evil-genius Shonda, and just play with my kids. And enjoy my time with my kiddos, because like the saying goes, “the days are long, and the years are short,” and the kiddos would much rather hang out with a not-so-perfect mom who plays with them than a mom so focused on doing it exactly right, that she does it all wrong.

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  1. My mom always tells me when I am being hard on myself, “Shawna, you don’t have to spend an hour with each child a day. Take a few moments every time you have the thought come up or they ask you to watch/play/sit with them to do it. Every time. But remember, it doesn’t have to be for long periods of time.” She is so right! I sit there thinking of all the things I need to do as if I am going to be sitting with them for an extended period of time (as if THEIR attention spans are that long). The fact is, our children want nothing more but to be seen, heard, and understand. It really doesn’t take much from us! I am loving this blog!

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