Updated: Apr 1, 2021
I'm breastfeeding my newborn in the backseat of the car when my toddler cries out "I need to poop! It's coming out fast!"
Of course I'm in a parking lot at 9pm while my husband buys paper towels inside and toddler #2 is asleep next to me...
What's worse is the child-lock is enabled on the rear doors so I must haul my postpartum body over the console into the front seat with a nursing baby latched to the boob - or I guess I could plop him down in his carseat & let him scream whilst I attempt to wedge my hips between the two front seats.
Then unbuckle a sleeping kid, a pooping kid, and a screaming baby as we all three hobble indoors to the disgusting public toilets that await us...What the heck was I going to do?!?!
Neither option sounded very appealing, so I searched the car for a giant diaper to put on my 4 year old while I eagerly waited for my husband to return. (QUICKLY please.)
Thank heavens my husband returned moments before eruption.
Him: "Dang those paper towels are expensive!"
Me: "Honey, Liam needs to poop & 'It's coming out fast!' "
Him: "Okay!!!" (Runs to store with an almost pooping child in arms...)
Don't worry, I didn't need to use those pricey paper towels to clean up. Disaster averted.
But let's talk about setting expectations that are appropriate for the season we're in.
See, my husband thought that the paper towels were expensive because he EXPECTED them to be cheaper. If he were expecting them to be $15 and they were on sale for $5 then he'd have had a totally different experience. Same situation, different expectation.
Y'all! We do the same thing in motherhood! We have to learn to adjust our expectations for the season we're in in order to be appropriate for that season.
I can't expect my kids who are new to potty training to not have to poop at a moment's notice. (Moment of Truth: This is my most current challenge.) It's unrealistic. But I'll be honest, I still get mad sometimes when they pee because I forgot that I'm still in charge of managing their bladder control.
I don't want to be! I WANT them to not need me for that bodily function any longer, and when I EXPECT them to be able to manage that on their own, then I get mad/frustrated/upset (whatever you want to call it) not because they didn't do something right but because I didn't adjust my expectation to be more realistic for the phase they are in.
Does that make sense?
We all do this, but it's not too late to change.
Any time we're entering a new season: Life with a Newborn, Back to School, Back to Work, Transitioning from Working Mom to Stay at Home Mom - whatever it may be, the principles are the same.
5 Secrets to Setting Healthy Expectations
Take some time to acknowledge that your season is changing. If you're in the whirlwind and are realizing "Oh crap! I'm in the middle of this and didn't see this coming." Then that's okay too.
It's never too late to slow down your mind, try to disengage emotionally from all the adjustment, and acknowledge that it's a new season.
Every new season is like you're first day on the job. It's awkward. It's uncomfortable, and it's going to present challenges to you that you may not have seen coming- challenges you may often feel unsure about whether you can handle. This is normal, and we all face this. Embracing the season the vulnerability of this new season will help you transition even better.
2. Ask. Ask yourself these two questions: 1) "Am I expecting myself to do everything I was capable of in my last season?" 2) "How do I need to adjust to in order to embrace my current season?"
If you're adding a new addition into the family, instead of expecting that you'll keep up with housework like before, play 100% engaged with your other kids, feel like a rockstar at 3 weeks postpartum- whoa, hold up Mama!
It's easy to think "I can do more" without realizing I need to say 'No' to something in order to say 'Yes' to something else.
3. Trim Down.
When I was pregnant with our 3rd baby, we bought a fixer upper.
We tore it apart and rebuilt everything except some walls and original flooring.
It was brutal.
We hired people to do the work obviously, but the process of showing & selling our old home while being pregnant and managing two toddlers whose sole delight was destroying every attempt I made at keeping our house presentable for potential buyers was a nightmare.
I cannot fairly communicate the level of anxiety I battled for those months until our home closed. To move out the week before Christmas, live between Air BnBs + family for over a month until our new place was finally inhabitable...wow!
It was rough. But, let's talk about that another time...maybe in a post titled "How to keep your sanity when your toddlers draw with crayons all over a strangers coffee table & break their things..."
Why do I share that? Because it was a crazy season.
A season where I needed to majorly trim down my expectations. Our time was completely strapped and our kids were stressed. I needed to scale back my commitments, say no to hanging with many friends, and prioritize our physical and mental health (because we also took 3 ER trips in a single month during that phase, bleh).
It was a season that taught me that each new season is TEMPORARY even when it seems never ending. It was a season that taught me when you say "Yes" to something then you must also say "No" to something else.
So don't forget to trim down commitments when heading into a new season.
4. Decide! Decide what needs to change.
If you're a new mom, maybe it's realizing that your house is going to be messier right now.
Maybe it's giving yourself permission to NOT CLEAN THE DISHES because your body needs to recover, and rest is more important.
Or maybe you need to adjust your routine to have Dad be in charge of dishes, hire someone to help, say yes to friends who ask if they can come over and have them do the dishes.
Maybe instead of being on the floor playing with your kids like you did before or planning fun adventures and meet ups all the time, quality time looks like snuggling on the couch watching more shows together than usual.
Maybe it's acknowledging school is starting and that you're going to need a few weeks to start feeling comfortable in your new routine, or a few weeks to even figure out your routine! (That's this mama over here - first year of preschool and I have no idea what this is going to look like!)
5. Get Support.
You will need help.
You will need support, and that is good and healthy and normal. It doesn't mean you are weak. It means that you are valuable as a person.
You are a mom juggling a bazillion things, and YOU remain important. Don't let the busyness or demands of any season crowd out your own need to feel, be heard, and receive support.
Without saying "yes" to your needs, you will not have anything left to give.
So, the real last thing, is to ask yourself...
"What do I need in this new season?"
Remember, this is a season, one that changes and passes. No season is permanent but we can navigate them successfully if we are intentional to adjust our expectations.