Motherhood 101 Dropping The High Expectations

... And now a word to you parents.  Don't keep on scolding and nagging your children, making them angry and resentful.  Rather, bring them up with the loving discipline the Lord himself approves, with suggestions and godly advice.  Ephesians 6:4 TLB

This verse has been seared in my heart as I have gone about my days over the past few weeks.  With the addition of another little baby, sleep deprivation has become the norm for me. There are days where I can handle life fine but there are those days when weariness creeps up on me and that is when everyone ducks for cover.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that without sleep I am irritable at best and tend to speak without thinking. About 4 weeks after our newest addition arrived I was starting to loose my grasp on reality due to my foggy headed state.  There were days when my tone with the children was not loving and everything seemed like a crisis.  For example: I cried when I could not open a sippy cup to refill it and I was talking out loud to God saying "Why can't you just help me open this cup, I really need to fill it with water and this stupid cup is stuck.  Waaaaaaa.". Yes folks, I was THAT pathetic.  It was in that moment that I realized just how unrealistic I was being.

I have discovered that when I am stressed I place unrealistic/high expectations on myself and those around me, especially my children.

 Some examples from real life of misplaced expectations:

The chore list by demandaj, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic Licenseby  demandaj 

 I have expected my children to act perfectly on days where I've been over tired and irritated.

I have expected myself to accomplish an extensive to-do list including errands, teaching school,  making a three course meal while functioning on three hours of sleep, tending to four children, and still have a smile on my face when my husband enters the house at 6:30pm.

I have expected the kids to make it through the grocery store without whining/complaining when they are tired.  It is not until after our grocery store trip that I realize how grueling it must have been for them as their little eyes grow heavy with sleep on the car ride home and how unreasonable I was to have pushed them so hard.

I have expected my husband to arrive home after a long, grueling day at work and  sit and listen to me blab on and on about my day and the many insignificant things that are flitting about in my mind and expect him not only to be interested in what I have had to say (isn't a laundry list of the chores I completed stimulating conversation?) but to remember everything that leaked out of my mouth even though he left for work early and was home late. (oh my, I cringe just typing this and confessing it to all of you out there.)

I have expected the older boys to maintain their chores even though I am asking more of them now that the baby has arrived.

High expectations not only place undue stress on me but it places it on the one whom I am putting the expectations on... mainly, my family.  This is NOT what I want our home to be like.  Therefore, the Ephesians verse from above has been my motto for change during these days of transition.

I think we can all agree that life includes sources of tension, pressure and change.  It is our perception of these things that can turn into stress in our mind, it all depends on how we interpret what is happening to us.  Remember my sippy  cup example from above.  I perceived the sippy cup as a threat to my well being, silly as it may sound.  I was taking it personal that yet another thing in my day was preventing me from smooth sailing....  I wanted the ocean of my life to be calm and serene and this dumb sippy cup was getting in my way of calm waters.  What I needed to do was take a deep breath and focus on what was really important, I needed to get my priorities straight instead of having a one sided argument with an inanimate object.

Some changes I am making so our home will be more peaceful:
1. Get more rest.
 I may not always be able to get adequate sleep at night but I can take time during the day to rest.  It may be napping if that is possible or just sitting and reading with the kids, or doing something relaxing.

2. Speaking softly to the children even when I am a ticking time bomb inside.
I am usually one who speaks softly but when weariness overcomes me, the children are fighting, and chaos is taking place around me I can easily reach the point where I am on the verge of yelling.  I have found in my home that raising my voice does NOT help... it only frightens the children as well as myself.  So when I speak kindly and I get down to their level and look them in the eye, it really helps diffuse the situation.  They feel respected and listened to and in turn they respect and listen to me.

  "No mother ever stood so tall who stooped to really talk to her child."

3. Be consistent.
It is easy to be lax when I am tired because I just don't want to deal with it, whatever "it" may be.  However, if I don't deal with whatever the situation is then it only leads to... more stress.  So I am trying to deal with things immediately.

4. I am realizing that my most precious resource is my energy but that my energy is limited.  (yikes, did I just admit that out loud).  I have to stop thinking that I have an unending well of energy because life has reminded me that my well is only so deep and when it runs dry, I have nothing left to pour out thus I become burnt out.

5. Life can be an enjoyable challenge or a stressful drag, it depends on me and how I am perceiving the world around me.  Life will have its stresses (both good and bad) but it is how I handle it that will make the difference.

6. I am not responsible for the happiness of everyone in my family/ or everyone I know for that matter.
I am the classic people pleaser who feels responsible for things over which I have no control which in turn, stresses me out.  So my goal is to try not to please everybody and to realize that everyone on earth does not have to like me (gulp).

To Do List or Wish List? by venspired, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  venspired 

7. Make sure there are times of fun in our days.
I tend to overbook and have long to-do lists however I have learned my limits in the last year or so.  I am making sure to schedule time each day to rest and time to have fun with my kids whether it is a nature walk, going to the library, playing at the park, or just snuggling up to watch a movie with our favorite popcorn.

8. Realizing I am imperfect and so are others... that's why we need a Savior.

9. Giving hubby breathing room when he comes home and make sure I ask about his day.

10.  Be honest w/ myself and others.
Example: If someone stops by unexpectedly to visit and I was planning on a much needed nap then I need to be honest when they ask "Is this a bad time?"

So Momma, how are you doing these days?  Is the stress of life bogging you down in it's miry swamp, are you placing expectations on others that are impossible to meet, or maybe you have some stress busting tips that you can share with me in the comment section below.  Whoever you are, whatever you are battling or if you have encouraging advice, I would love to hear from you and please do know, I pray for you my dear readers.

By God's abundant Grace and Mercy,