Expectations for Motherhood from a New Momma

Expectations of MotherhoodI am going to take a stab at defining some of my expectations of being a mother. And since this will post in my first week as a mother, I thought it would be kind of fun to look back at this and see if any of them were reasonable. This might be a little easier in retrospect say like a year from now. But in theme with the mini blog series I am doing on expectations, I thought I would give this a try. First, I have to confess that I am terrified and I have no clue what this is going to be like. I feel completely unequipped to take care of a little person and raise them to become a functioning adult. My parents and friends with children have reassured me that every new parent feels this way. Especially when coming home from the hospital. The thoughts are “Wait, where is the manual for this thing? And they really are going to let me take him/her home?”
Expectation number one is that I am going to be tired. Like really tired for the first few years of her life. Although, on second thought, I might be really tired all of her life because having a teenager sounds like a time where loss of sleep is guaranteed. Hmm.. maybe you get to sleep when they are in elementary school? I pray that by some grace of God, my daughter manages to have an easier go at being a teen than I did. But now I am getting ahead of myself. Rumor has it infants get up every two hours to eat around the clock. So I am expecting I won’t sleep. And because of this, I am expecting in my delirium to at times be grumpy. I am hoping and praying that I don’t hurt my husband/parents too much in this totally sleep deprived state.
Second, I am expecting I will love this little person more than I can even fathom. I am genuinely curious about a mother’s love. It’s something I have tried and tried to imagine. But I just can’t. Just like I tried to imagine what it would be like to love my husband before I was married. Seriously so much greater than I could even grasp until I was walking in it. Parents tell me that there is nothing like loving a child. So I anxiously await experiencing this great love. People have told me that it gives you insight into God’s love in a whole new way. I am eager to have this new insight as well.
Third, I am expecting that I will discover a new part of myself that I didn’t know before. The mom part of me. I have always wanted to be a mom. I have maternal instincts and attributes already; but I know that there are things that I haven’t developed because I haven’t had to. I am excited to develop in this way and figure out who I am as a mom. I anticipate I will become an expert on things like breastfeeding, baby things, responding to cries, multitasking, cleaning up puke, showering in two minutes, and many other things mom’s do that I don’t even know about.
Fourth, I am expecting to discover how selfish I really am. If I am honest, right now my life revolves very much around myself and of course Chad. It’s not that I never think about other people. I just anticipate learning just how much I prioritize my needs over the needs of others and how selfish I am when these things are in jeopardy. My time will no longer be mine. There will be another person’s needs that will come before mine. And while Chad and I do that for each other, there is often compromise involved so we both can have needs met in a timely fashion. Luxuries like spending a day at a coffee shop or a book store will be over too. Unless one of us is at home with her, she won’t have the patience to hang out while we read/write/code and hibernate a snowy day away.
I am expecting it to go entirely too fast. I think about how fast my pregnancy went and tear up thinking about all the milestones she will go through in just the first year. I know at two in the morning when she is crying, I won’t feel this way. I probably won’t feel this way when she is two and melting down in the middle of a store while I am a shade of crimson. But I want to treasure it all, because I feel like I will blink and I will be watching her walk down the isle getting married. I mean isn’t this just what happened to my parents? I’m sure my mom feels like just yesterday she was in my shoes, about to give birth. In my sappy hormonal state, I have already cried about her future wedding day and all the feelings I think I’ll have in that moment. Seriously people.
Finally, I expect this to be the hardest thing that I have ever done. I think I will be humbled with all the things that I thought I knew and don’t. (All those moments where you think “If I was the mom, I’d do blah blah blah and my kid wouldn’t do blah blah blah). I have been thinking about that lately and how the reality is you are trying to raise a person, who has an independent will, who is going to do their own thing and go through their own milestones of learning. One of those milestones of learning might be humiliating to me as a mom and make me look bad in a grocery store. Like 5,000 times. I think there will be days I am faced with serious feelings of inadequacy and other days where I feel like the best mom in the world. It’s a job title that I get permanently. It’s something that I will never stop doing, even though I know that my role will shift as she develops into a young woman. As my own mom says, “once a mom, always a mom”.
Most importantly, I think I will love it.
I’d love to hear from some of the Mom’s out there. What surprised you about being a Mom? I’d love to read your replies in the middle of the night when feeding. 🙂 You know, like a little something to look forward to.
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Three Ways to Manage Expectation

Expectation Management
My husband and I have been blessed with a strong marriage from the beginning. For that I am very thankful. We know couples who really struggle the first year of marriage. That was not our story; we have faced a large variety of other trials that came with their own set of great difficulty. I tend to think that each challenge is hard, painful and comes with its own forms of deep grief caused by a set of expectations. In this current season of walking down an unexpected road of a major career change that demands more of my husband than anything ever has in his life, we have faced new challenges in our marriage. We have to ask ourselves often how do we prioritize our marriage when school demands 12-16 hour days every day of the week? Part of prioritizing our marriage comes with what I call expectation management.
We each approach every situation with a set of preconceived expectations of how something “should be.” These are formed by a variety of things. Culture, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, friends, family, our upbringing, world view and socioeconomic position, to name a few, form expectations. In some ways, expectations are not inherently bad. We wouldn’t accomplish things if we didn’t push ourselves in certain situations to meet expectations. Or we would maybe compromise for something that wasn’t God’s best if we didn’t have expectations. But expectations have a dark side. Particularly in relationship.
During this season where Chad puts an enormous amount of energy in learning a new skill set in a school environment that makes grad school look like middle school, I have taken on a support role. I am completely powerless most days to help him as he wrestles through content I know nothing about. This is new for us since we studied in seminary side by side. We no longer have a common language around something that takes most of his time. I am no longer the sounding board I expected to be as a wife. I can listen, but rarely can contribute thoughtfully on the topic. This is different than what life was like when we were vocationally pursuing ministry together. Coding is like a foreign language to me. And while my vocabulary on the subject is expanding daily, I know about as much as the size of an ice cube compared to an iceburg.
On top of that, we are becoming parents. As a woman, I am learning that there are a lot of secret expectations that I didn’t even know I had surrounding this life event. I have had to lay down expectations and dreams of what being pregnant together in this season would look like. Visions of shopping leisurely together for tiny baby things, preparation for baby at home, birthing classes, long conversations about names and parenting plans are all luxuries that haven’t been afforded to us in the last few months. It has been a huge internal battle of frustration and grief that we would be in such an intense season of schooling while leaping into parenthood.
Not only have those expectations had to die, so have the amount of time to we have to connect. The love language that outweighs the rest for me is quality time. I emotionally have to connect with people in my life through time that is intentional and rooted in conversation to feel loved. My poor husband wants so badly to meet this need but also feels immense responsibility to do his absolute best to prepare for our future in order to provide for us. At times I know he feels like these two things are completely at odds with each other.  I confess that my husband has done everything in his power to manage the many demands competing for his attention. He is a disciplined student, devoted husband and passionate father. But there certainly has been sacrifice on expectations and hopes all around. It’s hard to see the grief in his eyes when I know he wants to emotionally meet me in my need to connect on a deep level, but exhaustion is so overwhelming that sleep is about to usher in at any moment. I also may never forget the look on his face the night before he missed his first ultrasound during our pregnancy. He wanted so badly to be there to see his daughter swimming around, but he couldn’t miss school to come.
Each of these area’s have underlying expectations for both of us that we are learning to navigate. Some of them are harder to tease out the roots of, but each of them have to be managed in order to not allow the dark side of expectation to sabotage our marriage. I am learning that this is a form of guarding our marriage from the enemy who would love to take us out. Let me share with you what I am currently wresting through regarding expectation management.
1. Expectations are dangerous and corrode relationships when they are unreasonable.
So often expectations become roots of discontentment when they are unmet. When we hold expectations, reasonable or not, we likely will be faced with disappointment if they don’t come to fruition. Disappointment can lead to bitterness if not dealt with properly.  Also, expectations are not always reasonable. I find myself asking often, is this expectation reasonable to have of my husband/relationship? Is this something that is important to further the strength of our marriage? If it is unreasonable and does not further the strength of my marriage nor meet a need of mine that is a non-negotiable, I need to let it go. Instead of taking it immediately to Chad, I spend time praying through the expectation to discover whether or not it is legitimate and where it originated. For example, does this expectation come from a cultural expectation that is far from realistic, like waltzing through Babies R’ Us in total bliss and scanning adorable baby items for hours?  Then as God speaks to my heart, I allow him to loosen my grip on the expectation so that I can be free from it. The root of the baby registry fantasy is really the idea that without properly preparing with stuff, thoughtfully scanning each item we need, we will fail as parents to care for our daughter. The dangerous root is that if my husband can’t spend hours with me shopping for baby items that he doesn’t care about our daughter. This is a fat lie that if not identified could create a big root of bitterness later.  As I allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten my heart, my heart and my relationship are freed from discontent and unnecessary resentment and allows reasonable expectations to become the focus.
2. Communicating our expectations to one another is the most important thing.
Once I determine what my expectation is and pray through it, it is important for me to communicate my struggle with the expectation with my husband. This allows Chad to shed truth on a situation and know my heart. So often the expectation I have can be completely mitigated as soon as I invite him into the struggle. For example, he is able to remind me that being a good parent is not rooted in material possessions or time spent in a baby store. In this season, loving our daughter looks like preparing for our future in school. The hours he takes to thoughtfully code is his way of loving her. He wants to provide the very best for his girls. He also can gently remind me if I haven’t already navigated the root of the expectation, where it possibly originated. Most of all, it cultivates intimacy. The beautiful thing about having a conversation about expectation is that occasionally it is a reasonable expectation that the other person now knows about. He can meet the need if he knows. So sometimes Chad says to me, I want to meet this expectation because I can tell it really matters to you and I love you. He couldn’t do that if I never vocalized it. This takes humility and trust with one another and an enormous measure of grace to gently approach an expectation together. I cannot expect that just because Chad knows about my expectation that he will run to meet it. It could be the furthest thing from reasonable or even possible. But getting it out on the table avoids the root of resentment from springing up and makes it possible to work through.
3. Flexibility and allowing unreasonable expectations to die is a necessity.
Finally, I have to have a flexible malleable heart that the Holy Spirit can root out expectations. I have to be willing to lay down expectations that are not helpful for my heart or marriage. It is never helpful if I set my heart on an expectation and am then unwilling to compromise or evaluate it’s validity. I do not want to hold expectations over Chad’s head and imprison him. This is manipulative. Not only does this harm him, it harms me. My heart hardens as I set my hope on the expectation and ultimately Chad instead of Jesus and the hope I have in Him. By being flexible, I allow the space for necessary pruning of expectations so that I can be free in Christ. This also frees my heart to enjoy my marriage and the ways my husband is loving me. So often unmet expectations block our ability to see the blessings in our relationship. If I am so fixated on an area where something is unmet, I am not able to see and be thankful for the ways that my husband is loving me. I’d much rather be flexible and willing to allow things that cause death in relationship to die so that I can truly enjoy the gift God gave me in a husband.
This is a huge work in progress for me. It’s a weekly battle as I am constantly bombarded by new unrealized expectations rooted in my heart around becoming a mother. This week it’s around birth classes. Chad and I are going to take a class this weekend! But I am constantly battling the tension of expecting to be really prepared through these classes and the reality that if she comes early I have no clue what I am doing. This particular expectation is one I have with myself. I have to remind myself that I am not a bad mother, nor will my daughter’s birth be a disaster because I didn’t make it to a birthing class. Many women do this every day around the world with minimal resources comparatively. And so I remind myself to be gracious and gentle and do a little expectation management.

When God Surprises You

Early on in my pregnancy, I was grieving over not having a traditional nursery for our daughter to come home to. My parents basement is a huge blessing, but doesn’t have a second bedroom to turn into a nursery. She will be sleeping in our room in some sort of bed for the duration that we live with them. Even though I know she won’t know the difference, I was struggling with this cultural expectation as desire that was going to be unmet. This was directly connected to being in a season where things were not going according to plan and that I had always dreamed that we would have a place of our own when we would reach the milestone of adding to our family. Somewhere along the way I had adapted the cultural idea that the correct progression of life stages went along the lines of graduating college, going to graduate school, getting married, having an awesome career, buying a house and then starting a family. Let’s just say that this “model” of living was shattered and I came face to face with the reality that life is a lot more complex. Life actually doesn’t look like Pinterest, and doesn’t have to in order to be beautiful. Also, God doesn’t really work in models. He is creative and committed to cultivating character in us that often comes through enduring seasons that are far from our expectation.
I allowed myself to grieve this, however, because I knew that without stepping into the reality that things were not what I wanted or expected, bitterness could grow towards my Heavenly Father who knows best.
For a while, my grieving looked like avoiding stores where baby bedding, cribs and adorable nursery decor was sold. I didn’t participate in pregnancy forums where they were discussing how their nursery was coming together. Instead I researched pack n’ plays and looked into alternative bed options.
One day in one of my therapeutic mall wanderings (where I go to the mall alone and just look at things and enjoy a simple cup of coffee and check out the latest fashion and things but buy nothing), I ventured into Pottery Barn Kids. The expensive mecca of children’s nursery goods was filled with the latest things to beautify a space and I just let myself dream. I found this adorable set that I let myself love for a moment, and pondered what it would look like in a space my husband and I created. I decided that when we had our own place I would come back and pick cute things out for her, no matter how old she was. I would give her a nursery in his timing. Even if it was a year after she was born or longer. My heart whispered to God, I love this, but it’s not important for me to have for her arrival or even ever. But I do love it. I told him and then walked out before the tears started to flow. I cried on my way home letting the grief flow out that I couldn’t give her a room, but I could give her arms that would hold her and promised to love her no matter how many things we had.
I never told anyone about this set. Not even my husband. It seemed frivolous and inconsequential given our circumstances. Truthfully, I let it go and set about preparing for her to come in other ways. The occasional times I found myself in the mall again I would venture in and look at it and dream and then walk out and let it go again.
One day, my sister texted me a craigslist find. I call her the craigslist queen because the girl can find a deal like no one else. I am not particularly good at bargain hunting, something I could really learn from her. I haven’t cultivated the patience of combing through pages of used things that people are selling to find a treasure. My sister had been looking for a pack n’ play for me but recently had planted the idea of putting a crib in our room. She found a $75 crib on craigslist that was adorable. It needed to be refinished but really was in fairly good condition. I hadn’t pulled the trigger because I couldn’t wrap my brain around buying bedding for it. I opened the link she had sent me and discovered it was the very set that I had fallen in love with at Pottery Barn Kids. The entire set (normally around $300) for $40. It looked like it was in good condition, and had everything except for a bed skirt. I couldn’t believe it. I told her to see if it was still available and when she said it was, I cried.
We could afford it and it was my hearts desire and no one knew expect God. He had made it happen unbeknownst to the person selling it, and my sister finding it and picking it up. She picked up the crib for us as well and in a matter of three days we had a complete bed set with the bedding my heart had longed for.He surprised me with something that I had deemed impossible because he knew it would delight me.
Recently, my mom refinished the crib and helped me set it up in our room. We have an alcove that was meant to be a closet and the crib fits perfectly inside. I am delighted. I look at it still marveling at his provision. We turned half of our room into a nursery space, while the other half remains ours.
Baby Girl's Crib
I am completely in awe of how God took something that seemed impossible and honestly unnecessary and made it happen. It’s just a testimony of his goodness, his kindness and his love. He sees us. Even the desires we think are worth overlooking.
He really is the God Who Sees.
I’d love to hear your story of how God has surprised you recently.