Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘expectations’

For Better or Worse

Warning: Abrasive tone and dark sarcasm ahead.

Allt hat you are is all that I'll ever need - Ed Sheeran

Umm … no pressure. I’m not even all that I need.

Your role, should you choose to accept it, is to spend the rest of your life in service to Mr X. You will ensure that, at the very least, your dishes and laundry are always done. Wherever possible, you will do his as well. You may not leave any laundry or dishes lying around the house – EVER. And you must clear away yours and his whenever you notice them. Be vigilant!

You will plan and prepare all meals – and don’t forget that you’ll need to do the shopping, too. Oh, and of course, you’ll have to earn the money for that shopping … you ARE and independent woman after all, aren’t you?

You’ll have to do “your share” when it comes to raising the kids – and it’s very important that you always agree on every aspect of parenting. This means that getting them dressed, clean, fed, educated, loved, cared for, and played with rests every bit as firmly on your shoulders as it does on his. And so does discipline. This is all about equality, after all – so you both get to do everything. All. The. Time.

But wait – there’s more! You need to listen to him: his plans, and hopes, and dreams – and don’t you dare dash a single one! Just listen. You need to listen to his fears, and irritations, and the things that make him MAD. And remember: he’s just venting. None of this is aimed at you. No matter how angry and hurtful it all sounds, just listen. All he wants is to get it out. He will want to ponder the big questions of life with you, so mae sure your philosophy is up to date. And he’ll have some pretty serious emotional damage (who doesn’t?!), so better brush off that psychology degree. Sometimes you’ll drive him crazy – for no good reason. When that happens, he’ll need to talk to you about it, so be calm and compassionate. Listen patiently, and try to see how you were wrong, and how you can improve and do better next time.

He needs a buddy: go bowling with him. Or watch the sport he loves. Or play that video game that keeps him up all weekend. He needs companionship, and that’s what marriage is all about. Make sure you go fishing with him, and takes those long walks he loves. Never mind your allergies or your bad back – this is for the greater good. It’s important. Oh – and so is your “Me Time” – so don’t neglect yourself. Be sure to fit in some self-care time. Shave. Exercise. Stay in shape … you don’t want to turn him off with the way you’ve let yourself go, do you?

Since you’ll be sharing the cooking duties, you need to be sure your skills are current. Be a good chef! And remember to put all the dishes away WHERE THEY GO when you wash up every day. After all, that’s what he would do.

You’ll need to make the bed if you’re the last one to leave it. And take out the trash, of course. Really, that’s all anyone’s asking of you – surely that’s not so hard, is it? Oh wait – and you need to keep your car serviced and running properly. His too, come to that.

Now that he’s married you, he really doesn’t need anyone else. You’re there for him. You listen. You’re his confidante and his sounding board. You GET him. That’s what you’re there for, after all. Right? So make sure you’re objective and can see all the sides of the situation all the time (no matter the day or week or month you’ve had). But also don’t forget to be on his side all the time. He needs your complete support, trust, and understanding. No matter how crazy or hormonal or emotional or irrational he sounds.

After all, without getting absolutely everything he needs from you, he can never – EVER – be truly happy. And you just don’t have the right to take his happiness from him. That’s very selfish.

I know this is had, but it’s meant to be tongue in cheek. Over the last two years, I’ve been working on my perspective of the things that frustrate me in my life, trying to see how I can see things more clearly and thus become more content with the way they are. It’s been my experience that we lie to ourselves and make our lives seem worse than they are, and then allow those beliefs to sap all our joy and happiness from our lives.

This piece, then, is actually the expectations we (or at least me) tend to place on our menfolk. I’ve written it as if they expect this from us, just to show how very extreme our demands are. No self-respecting woman would ever accept a job like this, no matter how much we loved someone. And we’d probably also never admit – to ourselves or anyone else – that we expected this much from anyone, let alone our one true love.

And yet, when I chat to my girlfriends, and even more when I consider my own frustrations, all of these things have come up. We do expect the men we marry to work and provide, and of course maintain cars and home. But we also expect them to do at least as much inside the home as we do … and then we trivialise what they do, and pick on them for not doing it our way (the right way, obviously!).

And on top of all of that, we expect them to meet every emotional, psychological, physical, social, and ambitious need we have. All the time. We call it “being there for me”. But really it’s more like we’re some kind of giant emotional parasite sapping an already depleted source.

Years ago, when villages were strong and families and friends all lived in close proximity, sharing chores and labour and child-rearing between them all, these expectations were less common. We had mothers and sisters and friends and daughters and fathers and uncles and village elders and mystics and cousins and grandparents and pastors and priests to guide us. We had midwives and farm managers with decades of life under the belt, to answer our questions.

We had companions on every hand – people to help with the cooking and the cleaning and the kids, people to share jokes with and discuss ideas with and get advice from. And they weren’t all one poor, hapless soul who had the misfortune to fall in love with us.

I’ve just started reading Liz Gilbert’s book, Committed. In the early pages she talks about the Hmong tribe in Vietnam, and their very ancient, village-like living arrangements. Lots of people living together in small spaces; women doing women’s work while me do men’s work. Your friends were the women folk who shared your daily chores. Your advisors were the elders of the village. Your husband was a protector and a provider and a progenitor … and yes, maybe even a friend. But not necessarily a confidante and counsellor and business partner.

And I really don’t think that was ever the plan. Surely that’s too much to ask of one person!

I know I wouldn’t be okay with it.

Just some food for thought.


When things don’t go according to plan

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to stumble across this post on Proverbs31.org, talking about being a bad mama, and how we judge ourselves so harshly for what really is, at the heart of it, a universal condition.

In the related resources section there’s a link to a book titled, “I need some help here: when things don’t go according to plan”.

It resonated with me this week.

Just two days ago I was doing a quick life review, and smiling wryly to myself about the “old days”, back when we thought Cystic Fibrosis was the only glitch on our radar, and everything else would be plain sailing if we could avoid that obstacle.

Thank God, we did.

I am grateful every single day that the spectre of CF doesn’t loom large over our lives, and every time either of the girls runs the slightest fever, battles to take a breath, is constipated for more than a day or a kiss on a sweaty forehead leaves a trace of salt on my lips, my blood pressure rises, my heart races, and in seconds flat I’m back in the darkness of that “worst case”. And as I talk myself down from the edge of the cliff and remind myself we’re not riding the thermals above that particular abyss, a fresh wave of gratitude washes over me and I am so very thankful for the health challenges we don’t face.

But things have not gone according to plan.

I look back and laugh at the young and innocent me, with her high hopes and crazy ideals. At what I thought would be my life. That audacious young woman for whom no task was too hard. That lady who was part of a team, a partnership against the trials of this world, characterised by open, honest communication and bucket-loads of laughter. That disciplined adult who saved and invested and lived within her means, always providing for her family’s needs. That tiger mama with her bold cubs and their infinite resourcefulness. Those irrepressible learners I knew I’d breed, who loved reading and maths and acquiring knowledge, and who could instinctively see how all the bits fit together and why it matters.

Sometimes I miss that silly, bright-eyed girl.

(In fact, to my surprise, I saw her again the other  day. I glanced into her eyes and couldn’t place her at all. She was in the mirror, grinning at me with a kind mischief all over her wrinkle-free face. I have no idea how she got there, and it took me a few minutes to remember who she was).

But mostly, I’m too busy with the task at hand to think much about the fun I thought I’d be having. When we imagined CF in our future, we had no compassion for challenged learners. ADD didn’t frighten me. I knew my kids would never have it, and if they did I’d be ready to guide them through it. Dyslexia? Nah. Autism spectrum? No chance. Our problems were potentially much bigger, I reasoned. Or non-existent. There was no middle ground.

I guess motherhood is a great leveller and a teacher of compassion and perspective. And for that, I am grateful.

I now know how even a mild sniffle, if it arrives on the wrong day, can be a burden you hardly feel able to bear. I also know that, surprisingly, you can bear it. It’s possible to survive and even thrive in the midst of the trails – maybe even because of them.

Yes, definitely because of them.

Those hard times that we all face (and we all do) lend an ethereal beauty to even the most mundane aspects of every day, and make our lives precious and beautiful things indeed.

I am so infinitely grateful.


Lesson #15: Expectations vs expectancy

When we live a life filled with expectations, we create a pressure cookie for disappointment.

I know that this statement is a broad generalisation and not always true. For instance, if we expect nothing from ourselves, we’ll achieve it. Not great. We need to set reasonable expectations for ourselves. Furthermore, if we expect nothing from those that matter to us, we can make them feel worthless and insignificant – the last thing we ever want!

My problem was (and still is, to some extent), expecting too much. I expect myself to achieve too much, and fail hopelessly every time. This disappoints me and leads me to feel that, since every effort is an inevitable failure, I shouldn’t try at all.

I expect myself to not have to do as much as I do have to do. I feel that I should only have to do half of everything that needs to be done, and that I should be able to have some “me” time. Since that’s not really practical or reasonable right now, I get frustrated and start to “steal” time from other place. I spend a few more minutes on Facebook than I can reasonably justify for work. I spend a few more minutes cloistered in the bathroom, reading my book. I take longer in the bath and put off doing the dishes. After a week of this, I have a heap of dishes, a laundry FULL of dirty clothes, and the screaming, wooshing sound of deadlines flying by. I also have a pair of grumpy, understimulated children and a bewildered husband.

I expect my husband to love me the way that I love him. I’ve spoken in the past about Love Languages, and while I know that the way he receives and shows love is not the same as mine, I expect it to be. I expect him to process stress the way that I do (find the problem and fix it at any cost), not the way he does (go to bed till the fit passes). I become disappointed in what I see as his lack of delivery, and frustrated by his lack of action.

I expect my children to magically achieve their potential now that I a) home educate and, b) have overhauled their diets. They should instantly be free of head aches, mood swings, concentration challenges and sore tummies. Somehow all of this should also address their low muscle tone and make them strong. When they aren’t instantly perfect, or when they have one of those days – you know the ones, where a single English worksheet takes four hours! – I become despondent and doubt my decision to home educate. In fact, I doubt all my life choices and dissolve into an unproductive puddle.

It is true that I’m an extremist, and that should be borne in mind.

However, the gift of expectancy breathes life into our family.

When I face the new day with expectancy, excited about the possibility of achieving my Three Important Tasks for the day, eagerly anticipating my morning run or pilates session, I can’t be disappointed. The anticipation adds to the joy of the action itself, and makes the day a landscape punctuated by eager expectation and fulfilled goals. In a nutshell: satisfaction.

When I enjoy Papa Bear’s differentness and realise that I can learn so much from his view of life and approach to challenges, each day becomes a classroom, or better yet, an adventure, a mystery waiting to be uncovered. What will I learn today? What will I become? How will my perspective change and grow, making me a better person? It becomes almost impossible to stay in bed when faced with a whole day where I can meet my beloved’s needs, help him to achieve his potential, and learn about him and from him along the way.

When I see each moment with my children as a moment for all of us to learn, when I realise that whatever I say is absorbed into their growing self awareness like water into a sponge, when I understand that English and Maths serve a limited purpose and are not the final point of lifelong learning, I can seize each opportunity, each window into my children’s souls, capitalise on it, and help them become the best that they can be. I can teach them balance, self-discipline, acceptance, generosity, hard work, sensitivity, strength and so much more. I can comfort them when the work is hard, and rejoice with them when they master it. It’s a journey, with maturity as the end product, not a university degree.

This lesson is far from over, but writing it down helps to remind me of these truths and fills me with awe at God’s grace and mercy that He would take the time to teach these truths to a hard heart like mine. I wondered how a Christian could truly know the joy of the Lord, and here I see it so clearly. Stop expecting things to be different and start anticipating the joy of what already is.

Hebrews 13:5 “Be content with such things as you have.”

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