The Double-edged Sword of Expectations


Now that I have quit my job, I find myself at loose ends. I wake up in the morning, and there is nothing before me except an endless list of household chores and errands on repeat. Often, there is school work–reading and writing–but school isn’t a forty hour a week affair. There’s more than enough time to get the laundry done, and answer today’s emergency text from my child requesting I pick up drug-store items “Immediately!” because, “I’m completely out!” Never mind that I spent my afternoon yesterday at Rite Aid debating the efficacy of one face wash over another for another child having skin-related anxiety–again requiring an immediate remedy. I’m simply pleased the request didn’t come three minutes before my bedtime.

As you, dear reader, can imagine, this kind of behavior has caused some tension in the re-entry process. My decision has been a double-edged sword of relief and regret. The people in my life believe I’m on call 24-7 for crisis management, if one considers the lack of one’s favorite cereal in the cupboard a crisis. I actually had one perplexed individual come to me this morning, after discovering the coffee machine empty and the milk un-frothed, “Umm, did you just forget to make my coffee?” Umm, no, individual with two working arms and legs, I didn’t.

I’ll spare you my inner response, as I did with said person. Let’s just say, it’s a good thing I had spent the previous five minutes communing with Jesus. Giving up yelling for Lent two years ago, made a surprise comeback this morning.

Double-edged sword, thy name is Expectations. Apparently, my people have them. Suddenly, everything must be done NOW, because there is this pervasive belief I have nothing better to do. Most disturbing of all? This is, in fact, true. Besides due dates for my school work, nothing is pressing. My expectations and their expectations find themselves on the same track, in danger of a head on collision.

I (foolishly) didn’t anticipate that having four homegrown “bosses” all over again, might make things messy. I didn’t anticipate that the loss of my own salary would sting a little, that I’d miss having the autonomy of leaving the house in the morning, and not having to account to my family for my productivity that day. I certainly didn’t think I’d feel a flood of anxiety over what message this sends my daughters. I didn’t anticipate the inner battle created by this subtle shift of power out of my hands, and back into the hands of my people. Frankly, I don’t care for it. It feels as if I don’t own anything.

I told a friend recently that I don’t write about my children in detail very often, I prefer generalities, because I want them to own their stories. They don’t own their lives fully yet, but the older they get, the more they need to live those stories and own the outcome of them. They will decide if and when and with whom they will share them.

I find myself on these quiet days at home with the washing machine humming in the background and the un-frothed milk sitting cold in the fridge, wanting to give myself the same freedom–to own my life and its stories. I have a husband and three children that I wouldn’t trade for any amount of power or prestige or creative longings. I choose this life every single day. However, they are not the whole of my story. Dear Lord, if I reach the end of my days and only have trips to Target and Rite Aid to show for it, I will be sorely disappointed.

I don’t know how to grasp the double-edged sword of these expectations of my life as a woman and as a mother and wield it well. I want it to cut through the unrealistic expectations, and the divisions telling me I can only be one thing or another. I want this life of mine to tell a better story, one that isn’t filled with frustration and unmet expectations, but with lavish love and good work and a healthy home and creative fulfillment.

Thanks for being here, friends. For being a safe place where I can work through the conflict in my life story. Are you stuck in a place of unmet expectations too? Either yours or others’ expectations of you? Solidarity, sisters. I’m limping right along with you.