Lowering Expectations as a Parent

by: Laura Akkapeddi

Expectations. We all have expectations of ourselves, and expectations of others. And I would guess that you have set the bar higher for yourself than for other people. I know I do, and it’s something I struggle with every day.

When I was newly pregnant with my second baby, I shared the news with a couple of moms. I didn’t know them well, but our kids had played together in the dirt a few times at a park. After receiving their congratulations, one of the moms gave me some advice. She said, “lower your expectations.” “My expectations of what I’ll be able to get done?” I asked. “Of everything.” she replied. 

The reality of setting the bar high for yourself

After the baby arrived, I was exhausted. I had an 18 month old and a newborn, and a husband who travelled to Australia for two weeks for a work commitment. But I also was adamant that the house would be clean and tidy, all the baby items in order, and the toddler would absolutely continue his music class and enjoy the inside playspace membership I had paid a fortune to join for the winter.

So instead of hibernating and cutting myself some slack, I ended up dragging my tiny humans and my exhausted bones all over Brooklyn. We went to the Children’s Museum, and we finished out the semester of that music class. One day all three of us lost it in the very very public place of that indoor playspace. I hoped the baby would sleep in his baby carrier and that the toddler would play by himself or with other kids, and I could just sit. But the baby woke up to be fed. The toddler was running around like a Tasmanian devil, throwing a fit about eating some other kids’ raisins. I ended up with one boob out, trying to convince a screaming baby to latch on to a moving nipple while I chased a raisin-stealing kid. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a harder time holding in tears of frustration and exhaustion.

Acceptance isn’t giving up

I learned the lesson, and I lowered my expectations two-fold. First, on my actions – the mundane things like a well balanced home cooked meal every night, or remembering to respond to every text, phone call, and email. I definitely got comfortable allowing my older son to wear pajamas to play outside (who am I kidding, I’m always wearing leggings and those are basically pajamas, too). Secondly, I lowered those expectations on myself. I don’t have to be the strongest person in the room. It’s ok if I make a mistake. I learn and move on. I can’t sit in shame or guilt. Accept yourself for who you are and don’t try to be someone else.

Acceptance isn’t giving up – I can accept where I am in my life, while still moving forward. For me, it’s about giving myself the freedom and grace to be imperfect. It’s about not comparing myself to others. Can we all agree to make a huge effort to get rid of that comparison crap we pile on ourselves? Not everyone has the same priorities – and that’s ok. Not everyone has the same goals, and that’s ok. Some people want to travel the globe with their entire family in a camper van 24/7 (no judgement). And some people don’t feel the need to travel much farther than their hometown. It’s all ok. In fact, it’s great. Any reasonable expectations I do have of myself, will not be based upon the preferences of other people.

Moms really do know everything

So what should we do when the acceptance is hard to find, and the high expectations we hold ourselves start to take over our lives? We put together this Mama to-do list to offer up a few techniques we’ve found that work for us. The goal is to focus on your needs for the day, and ultimately what will make you happy in life. 

And I’m here to let you know that it’s ok if you don’t do holiday cards this year. I haven’t done them in four years. 

Want some help finding your own breath in those stressful “I’m about to lose it” moments? Watch our Effort & Grace yoga video.