One of the blogs I read today is encouraging more writing by using “writing prompts.” Basically a writer puts forth a topic or phrase to write about. Today’s was “Different Than Expected.” I thought I’d give it a shot. If you’re interested in getting “writing prompts” yourself or would like to read more postings of “Different Than Expected,” check out: http://www.ellenstumbo.com/different-than-expected/
Common advice when one heads towards marriage is to explore your expectations about marriage, being a spouse, and having a spouse. Ryan and I did so in premarital counseling and both felt that we had pretty similar expectations back then. We’ve continued to check in with each other re: expectations and knowing what each other expects and having realistic expectations has done a lot for the ongoing health of our marriage.
I was blown away, though, when I became a mother. I hadn’t been as intentional at exploring my expectations around motherhood like I did about marriage. And on top of that, I had an unusual birth, delivery, and first few years of motherhood. There have been ways that motherhood has lived up to and exceeded my expectations, but other ways where reality and my expectations were miles apart. Some of my expectations were unconscious ones, bumped into consciousness by circumstances. I’ve had to identify, adapt, and grieve some of the things I expected about motherhood.
Shakespeare says, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” I’ve been pondering that statement for a few weeks now. It makes it sound like expectations are a bad thing. Are they? Being a counselor, I’ve seen many a person stop hoping because then they couldn’t be disappointed. It was a way they defended their heart so they couldn’t get hurt again. It makes sense, but it’s a sad state to live in. It depresses me to even think about it. I think part of being a passionate, vibrant person of faith is to hope, to dream, to expect, to anticipate. Will all our expectations be fulfilled? No. Is it wrong to have them? No. Is it smart to have our expectations grounded in reality? Definitely. But no one can rightly identify exactly what to expect in life to avoid disappointment. We expect health and get sick. We expect loving, long-lasting relationships, but conflict happens and you can’t force people to remain in your life if they don’t want to. Tragedy, loss, pain is all part of the human condition. Life is hard.
What do I want to teach my children about expectations?
I want them to know that the most important thing is not whether we have them or not, but how we handle it when our expectations aren’t met. Are we okay with facing and grieving what we feel we’ve “lost”? Are we willing to adjust our expectations? Will we stop hoping and dreaming and grow bitter, or will we embrace the journey that has been given to us…the peaks and the valleys.
I don’t regret my past expectations even if they have caused some heartache and I refuse to temper my current expectations. I want to live big. I want to love fully. I want to expect great things. And despite the above expectations not coming to fruition, being a mother has still exceeded my wildest dreams!