I recently finished a book (I know, a major victory in motherhood, right?) called No More Perfect Moms by Jill Savage. Her main premise throughout the book is that we often set unrealistic expectations in all areas of our lives. Then we wonder why we are unhappy, overwhelmed, disappointed, or downright miserable when those expectations aren’t met. Yup, I’m totally guilty of that one! You too? Great, let’s talk about this then.
I find that I want to be perfect in every area under my jurisdiction (a.k.a. as a wife, mom, daughter, friend, sister, homemaker, writer/blogger, and Christian). At least, I want to appear perfect, but also come across as relatable and real. Ok, that seems a bit contradictory, but a woman’s mind rarely makes perfect sense, right?
Obviously, I have an expectation problem. But, the worst part is in how I react when things don’t go the way I had hoped. There’s usually irritation, [rude] sarcasm, eye-rolling, extra loud closing of doors, and quite possibly tears.
So as I read this encouraging book (thank you to my friend, Lisa, for sending it to me!), I began thinking of all of the dumb, unrealistic expectations in my life and how to combat them.
#1 I should be the perfect hostess
This has always been a tough one for me. Or more accurately, I have always made excuses as to why I’m not a good hostess and therefore I should not even try.
When my husband and I lived overseas as missionaries, we had ample opportunity to welcome people into our home. My very people-oriented husband would have loved to have people over, but my introverted, scared-of-doing-it-wrong self only said “ok” to hospitality on a handful of times over the course of that year. My excuses? I don’t speak the language well enough to visit with them. I don’t know how to cook their style of food. If we order the food from a restaurant, it will look like I am a terrible wife, or we are just snobby.
When we moved back to the U.S., I became a mom. My excuses then became: I can’t prepare my home to be presentable for company. I can’t cook a meal with a baby strapped to me without getting very stressed. No one wants to come to dinner and have an obviously stressed out hostess.
These days, I find myself wanting to have people over, and yet I still make excuses. Well, we are living in my parents’ home, so I can’t invite people over without and have my mom feel like she needs to host. Or, that lady has little kids like me so we’ll never find a time that works for both of our families.
These excuses, no matter what stage of life I have been in, are pretty pathetic. You know what else they have in common? They’re all about ME! It feels so ugly to even admit that, but it’s true. When did my definition of hospitality become focused on me? Back to the book I told you about, Jill Savage takes a chapter to talk about homemaking and focuses quite a bit on hospitality. She sites another book entitled, A Life That Says Welcome (this just went on my “must read” list) by Karen Ehman. I loved her take on hospitality, “entertaining puts the emphasis on you and how you can impress others. Offering hospitality puts the emphasis on others and strives to meet their physical and spiritual needs so that they feel refreshed, not impressed, when they leave your home.” YES!
#2 once my kids learn something new, they will never do it “wrong” again
Yes, I am going there. Placing expectations on my children. I’m not talking about the healthy, God-centered dreams that I have for their lives. I mean the everyday, behavior-focused expectations I place on them (which is even more ridiculous when I remember that they are 3, 2, and <1 year old).
Does God place expectations on my behavior and then dole out punishment when I fail to meet them? Um, no. That’s the whole point of grace! He sees me entirely in Jesus Christ, and so it is the behavior of Christ that identifies me. Jesus’ perfect life is now mine, and when I forget that and sin – forgiveness, love, grace and acceptance are already waiting for me. They are mine to enjoy. No more feeling like I have disappointed God! That’s simply not true. I can let go of whatever guilt I feel over my actions because God has already chosen to forget it. This is the beauty of grace!
So, back to my kids – how do I apply this to raising and mothering them? Obviously, they still need to be taught right from wrong. And when they choose to disobey a clear instruction that I’ve given them, they will face appropriate discipline.
BUT, should I be expecting perfection from them at all times? Should I expect that once they have learned a new skill, like potty training, that they will never stumble or falter in the use of their new skill? I’m realizing more and more just how ridiculous that sounds! Not only is that way of thinking (which I am guilty of daily) absurd and impossible, but it does not line up with grace. At the end of the day, that is what I want to teach my children above everything else!
I want to be a mother who loves them, accepts them (with their diverse personalities and skills) completely, forgives them unconditionally, supports them, encourages their growth, and provides a sense of security/safety (physically while they are young, and emotionally as they get older). Why? Because I want them to see Jesus! This is the type of parent that God is to me. This is where I will have healthy expectations (and realistic ones) over their lives.
If I could keep my unrealistic expectations in check, imagine how wonderful and welcoming our home would be for my family, and for all of our guests. If I could remember that God does not expect anything from me (thanks to Jesus taking care of it ALL), imagine how free and relaxed I could live in every area of my life, not just hospitality and parenting. I would be free to be who I am, free to share that with others, free to let my kids be kids, and free to be a vessel for Jesus to show His grace.
What about you? What areas do you see in your life where you’ve set unrealistic expectations? How can you get out from under that weight and walk in freedom? What are 2 practical steps you can take today to challenge your expectations, and make them more reasonable for your situation?
I’ll share my 2 with you as an example: Hospitality will look different now, while we live under someone else’s roof, but my mom LOVES to play with her grandchildren. So, as she entertains them, I would be freed up to prepare a meal when we invite friends over. As for parenting, when my toddlers are having a more difficult day, I can have a special box of activities ready which will change up the momentum… help them snap out of their funk.
Ok, those are mine! Time to share your ideas below! Let’s walk in freedom together!