6 years ago this week, I went skydiving for the very first and very last time. As an mild adrenaline junkie -- meaning, I’m never ever going to be a base jumper or anything too extreme – skydiving was ALWAYS on my bucket list. Plus, I got to share the whole experience with my dad, which was everything!
But skydiving wasn’t exactly what I had hoped it would be. See, I had expected to feel the roller coaster stomach drop sensation during our ONE. MILE. DOWN. freefall. But I didn’t. We were falling so fast that I couldn’t even tell we were falling. All my mind knew was that death was imminent.
So for ONE. WHOLE. MILE. (that’s 5,280 feet that you cover in about 90 seconds), I freaked all the way out. I was so out of my mind that I couldn’t even remember how to close my own mouth, so I just kept taking on air as my cheeks flapped.
What’s the point?
All this reminiscing about a past adventure and a bucket list item checked off got me thinking about why I will never go skydiving again. It’s because it wasn’t what I expected it to be. Had it been what I expected – the thrill and rush of your heart in your throat -- you couldn’t keep me on the ground. I’d be a professional jumper by now, probably performing one of those Guinness Book of World Records where they all hold hands in the air. But it wasn’t, and so I won’t.
A simple case of expectations vs. reality.
Which got me thinking about the biggest case of expectations I’ve ever had blow up in my face. Motherhood.
If we’re being honest, my expectations of motherhood were that, while there would be some challenges along the way, it would come easily to me. So many things in life came easily to me, that it didn’t really occur to me that something I wanted so badly and was created to do, would not.
And the longer I’m a mother and the more kids I have (I only have 2, but sometimes it feels like I’m trying to raise the entire cast of Eight Is Enough), the harder it gets and the less easily it comes to me.
Every single day I question whether or not I’m fit to be a mom. Once a week I wonder if God maybe made a mistake by giving me my kids. Once a month I have a full-out breakdown because I just can’t.
Well-meaning people (read: experienced mothers with older children) encourage me not to wish away these days. They’re right. I constantly fight to stay present, no matter how ill-equipped I feel in each moment. I let myself feel the ups and the downs.
And please don’t get me wrong. There are so so so many wonderful moments filling each day. I love my kids so much I could cry. And sometimes I do. And sometimes they make me cry because they drive me to the absolute edge of my sanity (a quick trip most days!)
Let’s run through some expectations vs. realities, shall we?! And I’ll try to wrap this up in a pretty little hope-filled bow.
(Quick disclaimer: these may not be your reality, but they were and are mine. So just laugh, ok?! And if you can, let me know I’m not alone.)
Expectation: Childbirth is a magical and glorious process where female warriors birth their tiny angel babies. Sure, there’s pain, but you forget about all that as soon as you hold your precious peanut in your arms. You lock eyes with your tiny one. Instant connection. All the feels.
Reality: Childbirth is disgusting. Every possible bodily fluid is involved in one way or the other. Screaming, sweating, shaking, swearing. Exhaustion. Pushing. More exhaustion. Until your sweet bundle tears through you (literally), and the bloody, cottage-cheesy mess gets plopped onto your chest. Oh, and she smells horrific, by the way. So you let the nurse take her away to do all the things. No eye-locking. No instant connection.
GROCERY STORE RUNS
Expectation: My child will never be allowed to throw a fit in the grocery store. Ever. I mean, obviously these moms have no control over their children. My child will ride in the cart like the angel baby she is. She will say please and thank you, and will not beg for cookies or candy or the Minnie Mouse balloons floating at each check-out lane.
Reality: Grocery store runs with the kids are for the birds. Each of my offspring have each taken their turn(s) transitioning from sweet cart-riders to out-of-control, out-of-their-minds hellions with the sole mission of destroying everyone and everything in their paths – including my dignity. Two words: Kroger Clicklist.
Expectation: Bubble baths, dark chocolate, an endless supply of date nights and girls’ nights out. All you really need to do is plan for it, and it will happen seamlessly. With a newborn, you’ll be able to sleep when the baby sleeps. With a toddler, you’ll bask in the glory of the afternoon nap while you paint your nails and catch up on Netflix. With elementary kids, the world is your oyster!
Reality: Self-care is an extraordinary battle to maintain your sanity and identity. Self-care is sacrificial and requires more effort than you think to reap the rewards. Bubble baths are replaced by showers where your kids pound on the door until you let them in. Dark chocolate becomes the 15-second break you get when you hide in the pantry. Still self-care, but not the fill-to-the-brim kind.
Look at this beautiful reminder of God’s faithfulness to us! This is a picture (of a print) of one of the pieces of art that is in the soon-to-be-released What’s True About You Guided Journal. It’s one of 10 glorious pieces of art with messages that answer the questionsWhat’s True About HIM? and What’s True About YOU? All water colored and hand-lettered by the talented Ami Atkocaitis of Wellspring Art Shoppe!
Ready for the pretty little hope-bow? Me too.
The way I see it, we have two choices.
We can lament that motherhood is not what we expected it to be, and become more angry, anxious, or apathetic. OR, we see motherhood for the messy, beautiful, soul-sucking, soul-filling gift that it is and take on each moment for what it is.
While I certainly over-dramatized a few of those expectations vs. reality (not the childbirth one. That is real. Very, very real.), I still bring my kids with me to the grocery store. Of course, they each get a sucker to keep them occupied, and my Josie girl helps me look for moms to give Mother of the Year award stickers to. Man, I’ll tell ya. Nothing like looking for the good in another to help you see the good in yourself.
And I still take bubble baths on occasion. Sometimes, for a real treat, I throw a towel over the rubber duckies and plastic boats. I do prioritize date nights and girls’ nights out. And through some deep digging and very hard work, I’ve discovered so many things in my life that serve as self-care and I chase them down as often as I can.
And as for motherhood? Yeah, I’m in the thick of it. And so are you. No matter where you land on the expectation vs. reality scale, I want you to know that you’re doing a great job. You’re the perfect mom for your kids, even when you’re not perfect. Whether you’re in your mothering sweet spot, or you’re praying that you have a sweet spot at all, you’re not alone. You’re awesome. You’re doing it. And God? Yeah, He’s with us and His mercies are new every. single. morning.
And, as always, you are Mother of the Year!
So tell me, do you have an “expectations vs. reality” story? Pretty please, share!