I’ve always considered myself an ambitious person. I skipped a grade when I was in elementary school, only to be put back in the regular (where I’m supposed to be) grade when I came to America. My thoughts have always been on the academic side – how to succeed in life with an education, to be the best that I can be. My expectations of myself have always been high. Heck, once upon a time I even thought that I could be a big shot executive at a large business corporation. Those thoughts are now gone, and replaced with “How many poops did my son do today?” and “How long will it take me to advance to a certain skill level in XYZ at my job?”
Ever since I became a mother, I’ve crossed into a different territory, and that is the Expectations Territory. When you’re not a parent you have certain expectations of yourself – things that you can and cannot do. You know your abilities and your desires. You have goals that you want to achieve. Then you become a parent, and you still have goals, but as time goes by, you realize that perhaps those goals need to be taken down a notch, because there is absolutely no way in hell you’re going to be able to go out and have fun every night without a good babysitter (and a good babysitter costs a lot, so that’s why a lot of parents prefer to just stay at home and drink a glass of wine instead – not that I would know…I just sit there and play with my phone), or drink alcohol and not be impaired while taking care of your kids, or finish writing that 100 page thesis in three months.
And hobbies – what hobbies? Let’s talk about achieving the every day tasks, shall we?
For example: it took me approximately an hour today to eat lunch. Not because I’m such a slow eater (which I am, sort of), but because during that hour, I made lunch for my daughter, and while I waited for her to eat, I fed my son a bottle, and then prepped my own lunch. Sounds simple, right? It should just be as easy as sitting down and enjoying a lunch. Not so much in the world of parenting. I took both of my kids to Lily’s room and told Lily to play with her brother so I can eat…because “Mommy is very hungry.” She seemed to understand, but only for a short period of time, because less than 5 minutes later, they BOTH came out of the room, one babbling away about something, and the other one trumpeting along and crying. By that time, my stomach was growling and I was getting grumpy. My patience were wearing thin. Even as I sat and ate my lunch, I still had the sad, eager eyes of my son looking up at me and whining, “Mama, mama”, as if he’s saying, “Please mom, don’t eat. Please mom, I want some more.” Sigh.
It made me wonder how much simple tasks that all of us adults do on a regular basis are taken for granted by those who are not (yet) parents. Eating in peace is one of them. So yes, I decided to eat with some “background noise” (jazz music would’ve been more preferable) and another little human being grumpy at me because I asked her to do something and she didn’t feel like doing it.
This is an example of how much of a pleasure it is to be able to do simple tasks (like pooping, getting dressed, writing, brushing teeth, eating, laundry, etc) without interruption can be. The expectation that one should be able to sit down after preparing their meal and eat and actually be able to enjoy their meal is something almost foreign to me. I told my husband about this dilemma and he looked at me like I was insane. His face conveyed the thought, “You think you can actually SIT DOWN AND EAT in front of them?!?! You’re crazy woman!”
I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing – no, not at all. If anything, having kids brings you back to reality, because as some of us might expect, we tend to live in a distorted reality where we are on top of our game and we get things DONE. This is especially important for ambitious high achievers and planners. But then you have kids, and they throw you a curve ball, so you have to learn new skills like drowning out the noise of a crying baby while eating a meal. Adaptability is key. It is a skill that I honestly don’t think I developed until I became a mother.
With that said, as soon as you lower your expectations, you realize that it’s actually not that terrible after all. It’s not so terrible to be woken up in the middle of the night several times a week (well, actually it is) because it happens to other parents too. It’s not so terrible to be constantly busy, to always have laundry and dishes to do. And it’s not so terrible to have someone who needs you and calls you all the time. When it’s all said and done, you have an audience who knows absolutely nothing about you before you became a parent, so you can be anyone you want to be!
Heck, I hope that when my kids are adults they’ll let me in on their lives and keep me busy with whatever is going on with them and allow me to be part of their world. Except for the sleeping part – I’d prefer that they allow me to sleep more than 4 hours a night every night.