The truth behind unmet expectations

February 25, 2024

“Motherhood is hard.” This is a phrase i’ve heard hundreds of times. It’s a phrase I’ve said hundreds of times. It’s a phrase that, if you are a mom, it brings you comfort to hear another mom say. There’s never any argument to this phrase. Everyone, mom or not, can agree that motherhood…is….HARD. But why? This is a question I have wrestled with since the day I became a mom. Why is motherhood so hard? I know what you’re thinking. It seems like a no brainer. Of course motherhood is hard. We’re caring for helpless children who literally need us 24/7. It is physically and emotionally exhausting taking care of someone around the clock. But why? Why is it that something us women were created to do has become such an arduous uphill battle? Do you see animals in the wild struggling to do what they were created to do? No. But for humans, the things we were created to do don’t come as easily to us. Why has something that should be so natural to us, seem so foreign at times? Why is putting someone else’s needs before our own so life altering? Why do some of us “lose ourselves” in motherhood? Why does our world turn upside down when a tiny human enters our life? These are all questions I constantly battle with. It is something that has frustrated me as I try to understand the “why” behind these questions.

Now, obviously motherhood is not hard 24/7. All of the hard moments are sprinkled in between all of the sweet, joyful and adorable moments. We often say the reward outweighs the struggles, because most of the time the good moments are more prevalent than the bad moments. This has to be true, because if it was hard all the time I think it’s safe to say we’d have a bunch of soul-less zombies walking around. But when those hard moments do come, whether they are tiny little difficulties sprinkled in throughout our day, or large dramatic events, they have the ability to knock us off our feet. They have the power to tear us down. They carry a weight strong enough to break us. Why?

I’ve recently started this habit of reflecting while i’m in the midst of a hard moment. It is not easy to do, and many times my anger and frustration take over and I’m not able to push my emotions aside and actually THINK. But in the times that I am able to maintain some level of control I ask myself, “why am I mad right now?” Sometimes I’m overcome with an epiphany and my eyes are opened to some new and profound selfish trait. But other times I truly cannot come up with an answer. Which means I’m standing there stressed out and frustrated with no legitimate reason as to why. So let’s dive into this “why?”

Now before I was married, I had a vision for my future family. I assume most people, man or woman, have some sort of picture in their minds of what they envisioned their family to look like. For me, I envisioned myself as a stay at home mom with 3-4 kids. Being a mom is something I held up on a pedestal. It was the end goal. It was the “finish line” on the track of life I was running. Everything lead to motherhood for me. I went to a fancy private college and got a degree in communications, I worked in high rise corporate buildings in NYC, I made great money, I moved around to different cities, and I started a business. But none of that came close to fulfilling me the way I “expected” motherhood to. All the other stuff was a fill in until I made it to motherhood. Then I would finally be in the job I was truly meant for. Something I would excel in. Something that (based on my own analysis of my character traits) would come so easily and naturally to me. But then, I became a mom. And let’s just say, it was nothing I expected or envisioned. Why?

Well, we can think logically and say I didn’t expect to have a child who had a speech delay and didn’t start using any type of words to communicate until he was almost 3. I didn’t expect to have a child who had sensory issues and would throw a fit if my hair wasn’t up in a bun. I didn’t expect to have a child who refused to eat anything I worked so hard to feed to him. There were so many challenges that came with this territory that I had in no way prepared myself for. With that, I learned very quickly that not only did I have a vision of what I would be like as a mom, but I also had a vision of what my child would be like. And clearly my expectations for both visions were WAY off. But here’s the thing. In those times, when I had the strength to pause in the middle of a hard moment and question why I was frustrated. 9 out of 10 times my anger and frustration were with myself. Not my sweet Brooks. From the outside looking in you would assume, logically, that the reason I’m so frustrated is because my child was incredibly difficult. But when you look at it from the inside out, it ends up having absolutely nothing to do with my child and everything to do with me. Why?

This is where the expectations I subconsciously set for myself come into play and cause me to be immersed with guilt in the midst of a hard moment. I usually find myself struggling in the areas I expected to thrive in. I find myself deep into the comparison game. But not a comparison with other moms, a comparison with myself. With the mom I envisioned I would be. I get so frustrated with myself for not being able to measure up to my own expectations. So where do these expectations come from? For me, I think a lot of it comes from my childhood. My mother was a stay at home mom of 5. She was patient, hardworking, and selfless. She was always cooking, cleaning or taking care of one of us. And she did it without complaining or (from what my eyes could see) ever being overwhelmed or frustrated. So I imagine my expectations for myself mirrored what I experienced in a mother from my own childhood. There’s also movies, tv shows, story books, and even other mothers and families that I experienced growing up. They all played a role in molding my vision for motherhood. But for some reason, in my own motherhood journey, I seem to never be able to reach this summit. Now this is where our society comes in and tells us, “show yourself some grace.” We’re told to brush off these expectations because they’re unrealistic. We then go through our mind and justify all the reasons our current situation doesn’t allow for those expectations to be met, so we need to re-create our vision. From the outside in, I could say well my mom didn’t deal with any kids with developmental delays, or none of those moms I see in tv shows had kids who were strangely sensitive to an array of random things. Or my mom had help from family who lived locally, whereas we are completely on our own with no immediate family nearby. Or mothers back in the day didn’t have to worry about taking care of their children while also bringing in an income to help support their family. It’s SO easy when you look at the circumstances to justify why motherhood is so hard. These “expectations” we have then get labeled as utopian ideas that are almost laughable. But what if we look at these expectations from the inside out? What if they shine a light into something so much deeper. What if they are God’s way of revealing an innate longing for something that was once part of us?

Remember in the beginning I mentioned that animals don’t struggle the way we do to live out the roles they were given? Whatever they were created to do, they naturally do it. But here’s the thing. Animals were never created in God’s image. They never experienced a part of them being severed. They are their whole selves, exactly how they were created from the beginning of time. But for humans, a part of us is missing. I think of Eve, the very first mother. I imagine God formed her with every pure and perfect trait needed to naturally and gracefully raise children. He knew every need a child would come with, and He created Eve with every ability to meet those needs. But then something happened. Adam and Eve acted on the free will they were given and ushered sin into the world, severing us from the pure and perfect image we were created in. I imagine this event like a beautiful, intricate puzzle falling to the ground and scattering the pieces all over. Some pieces remained with us and some remained with God. From that moment on, each mom came into this world with different puzzle pieces. But not ALL the puzzle pieces. Is it possible that the expectations we have set for ourselves are actually a projection of the missing puzzle pieces that were once part of us? Is it possible that our expectations weren’t formed based on childhood experiences, movie scenes or story books, but on a deep longing for something that our heart is missing? I think we unknowingly cling to things we experience in life that remind us of the things that once completed us. The problem is, our society has taught us moms to settle. To stop seeking change and to accept the difficulties and hardships of motherhood. We are currently a society of acceptance. If you take a quick scroll through social media you’ll stumble upon hundreds of posts sharing the real, raw moments of motherhood. You’ll see moms crying, kids screaming, piles of dishes in the sink, a messy house, and so much more! All shown to prove a point. Motherhood is hard and we’re not going to hide it anymore. Mothers around the world want everyone to know how hard their job is. This in and of itself is not bad. In fact, it’s a great thing and something I know I have appreciated. When you hear another mother share her struggles and you relate to it, it gives you so much comfort knowing you’re not alone. But, herein lies the problem. When we simply accept the fact that motherhood is hard, without diving into why? We miss the opportunity to seek out the missing puzzle pieces that God is holding in his hands waiting oh so patiently to piece back into our lives. You see, the expectations we set for ourselves, the vision we’ve created in our mind, the moments, movie scenes, and people we cling to throughout our lives as inspiration are God’s way of revealing the desperate longing for the pure and perfect traits he once bestowed on us. We want to be that mom who naturally, joyfully and gracefully raises children. We want to possess the ability to meet every need our child presents to us. What we’re envisioning for ourselves is not an unrealistic “expectation” or a “utopian idea,” but a majestic image that we as women were originally created in. Motherhood is God’s perfectly imperfect way of bringing us back to Him. Without Him, expectations will never be met, hopes and dreams will never be satisfied, and our puzzle will never be complete.

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