During the devotion at my first baby shower, I was told that parenting would bring out my own selfishness. It made sense to me, but I had no idea the extent to which that is true. Lately, for me this selfishness is playing out in how I am handling my unmet expectations as a mom and God is teaching me a lot through them.
Seven years ago, I expected that in 2016 my husband and I would have children and that he’d be doing well in his full-time teaching role as we make joyful memories with our family on our rural and peaceful property. My reality is that we do have three precious children, but my husband is going to school full-time for a new career, we moved to a home one third of the size of what was supposed to be our Forever Home, and my husband and I rarely have more than five minutes to have a conversation sans kids.
When he has several hours free between school and work, there is usually some project in the house that needs his attention. In my head I begin forming the expectation that the work will get done quickly and leave time for family fun where everyone gets along, bed time goes smoothly, my husband and I can spend an hour or two talking like we did before our sweet children (whom we prayed for fervently) came into our lives, and then we can still get a full night’s sleep (because of course the children will sleep all night!).
I expected that having daughters 21 months apart meant that they would grow up as close friends and treat each other well. My girls may be friends, but treating each other well is a work in progress. Somehow I still expect that it is going to be easier than it actually is, that after only one consequence they will choose to do what is right from then on. As an adult, I still manage to be a repeat offender against the perfect Father’s will, and yet I can still think my four year old might get it after one disciplining interaction with her imperfect mom.
Many days I feel like I’m barely treading water with the housekeeping: the kids’ school papers are in unorganized cluttered piles, the floor needed to be mopped three days ago, and I forgot to start soaking the beans last night for tonight’s dinner. I expected to have all of these things in control way better than I have them.
When any of those above things don’t happen the way I expect, I can start to get cranky. This is not the example I want to give my kids of how to behave when expectations aren’t satisfied! And my expectation of the great example of grace under pressure I would be to my kids has gone unmet. Then Satan’s lies start trickling in that I am messing up my kids and I am not a good enough mom.
God has shown me recently that my bad attitude is because of unmet expectations. That realization is helping me to be more aware of what my expectations are and to be able to be better prepared to handle things when they go differently because I do not want to live as if dirty floors and worn out houses get to determine my happiness.
God has also enlightened me that He doesn’t expect me to have this parenting thing figured out perfectly, so I shouldn’t expect to immediately know how to handle every situation that arises. I’ve never been a parent of three children before. I’ve never been a parent to one under such heavy influence of the world before. I am expecting new parenting challenges to occur in the new future as my oldest has entered kindergarten in the public school. There is grace as I learn and lean on Jesus to help me through shepherding these little ones.
I’m learning that it is not in my job to make sure my kids turn out right. It is my desire but not my job. In Genesis, there was a perfect parent (God) with two perfect children (Adam and Eve) and one very clear rule, and those two children still sinned. It is not reasonable for me to expect that my children will not require years of instruction and discipline and shepherding and grace and repetition. It is also unreasonable for me expect to do it alone. Isaiah 40:11 says, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”
From the words of a blogger I recently read, “I can’t master it all. The day will close, the week will end and there will probably still be laundry piles. I may very well have years and years of laundry piles. But if I cannot find goodness in this place, if I cannot find peace and rest when the mudroom is a mess then I might as well quit because this right here, is life.” I don’t want my kids to inherit the grumpy part of me. I want them to inherit the rest and grace part, to know a mom who strives for peace and trusts in the love and strength of Jesus Christ, especially when life is messy.