By LAUREN DOVE WILLIAMS
My parents recently received a quote for some minor repairs and improvements around their house. My dad commented that the quote was about three times higher than what he expected, but he realized this was likely due to his bad expectations and not due to the actual estimate being unfair.
As I scurried throughout the rest of my workday and packed up my laptop to go pick up my kids from school, God nudged this perspective back to the forefront of my mind.
As a working mom, and honestly probably just as a mom in general, it’s easy to fall into the trap of placing unrealistic expectations on myself. In the back of my mind, there is an unwritten description of what life “should” look like at all times.
You know this list, mama. The one that says you should be able to do it all, all the time. Somehow we’ve come to think our houses are supposed to be cleaned and picked up and look like an Instagram photo at all times. We should cook dinner and eat around the table as a family four to five nights a week, go on date nights with our husbands to fancy steakhouses monthly, be room moms, join civic organizations, and play in a tennis league of our own, all while driving our kids all over town to soccer, baseball and gymnastics.
It’s the imaginary pressure to track our macros on an app when we eat, work out three to five days a week, take a girls’ trip with our friends, go to the beach in the summer, go skiing in the winter, and squeeze in a Disney trip somewhere in between. We even feel the need to apologize if our hair, nails or brows are not perfectly manicured at all times. Throw in a weekly Bible study, daily quiet time, a full-time job outside the home, laundry, side hustles, and travel baseball … and it’s enough to make a girl’s head spin.
My head was spinning the day God nudged my dad’s perspective about his home repair quotes back to the front of my thoughts. What if, when we encounter unmet expectations, we stopped to consider that it might be the expectation that needed to change, and not the circumstances? How much guilt, frustration and disappointment do I juggle due to misplaced expectations? In 2 Corinthians 10:5, Paul says, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” If your list of “shoulds” and expectations only align with the world and not scripture, then it’s time to take those thoughts captive.
Early in my marriage, I was having lunch with a mentor and was confessing my guilt of not going on enough dates with my husband like we were “supposed” to be doing. Now mind you, at the time of this lunch, it was the middle of football season (my husband is a coach), and we had two kids under 2. I was expecting her response to be something along the lines of reminding me that my marriage is the most important thing, and that I needed to just do whatever it took to make those things happen. She smiled, laughed, and kindly but directly reset my expectations.
There is a season for everything, she said, and for that season of our life, date nights didn’t have to look like getting a babysitter and going to a restaurant. She gave me permission to put the kids to bed and just sit on the back porch for 30 minutes of intentional conversation with my husband and call it a date night. I know this might sound trivial and simple, but to an exhausted new wife and mother, it was the most freeing advice I had ever been given. It’s okay to change your expectations instead of forcing your circumstances to meet them.
So if you’ve been needing to re-evaluate a certain thing on your list of what life is “supposed” to look like, then this is me giving you permission to shift your expectations if you need to — from the girl in the normal house that’s not photo-ready, whose kids eat fast food and from concession stands more than I like to admit in writing, who works out sporadically, and whose date nights are often on my own porch.
Lauren Dove Williams was raised in Madison and now lives there with her husband, Kenny, a football coach at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and two kids, Elise (5) and Grant (4). They are active members of Broadmoor Baptist Church, their school, and their community. When not at MRA sporting events or chasing kids, Lauren works as a project manager for Superior Foundation Services and co-hosts a podcast, “The Home and The Hustle,” helping Christian working moms find balance in both.