I think we all go into everything we do with some degree of expectation. We leave the house expecting to conquer whatever errand we have written on our tidy little list with full intention of putting a neat check mark next to it when we return. But then, the grocery store parking lot is full, you forget your reusable bags on the counter at home (next to your tidy little list), and realize that that simple errand is no longer going to be checked off—at least not neatly and not in the way you had intended it to be.
You can either choose to chalk up the lack of parking to today’s cardio and park across the street, spend $20 on new reusable bags, or drive around town aimlessly, sipping your full fat latte until you feel worldly enough to return home with your now napping toddler in the backseat (hey, the outing wasn’t a complete waste, right?) and an endless supply of laundry awaiting you.
These are usually how my experiences go. From a small errand to a life goal. There is truly no journey complete without an ever-present detour. But, hey, that’s where the humor lies, right? The “good stuff”? How boring and generic would our lives be without the constant surprise that reality provides? It’s a real practical joker, that one.
In my first year of motherhood, reality seemed to truly be a dark omen plaguing all of my pre-planned, picturesque days.
Uh, excuse me, Reality, why am I having a foot long needle driven into my spine right now? I am going all natural. When I get out of here, I am going to fist pump and cry, “I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!” with all of my fellow women who are also all natural, either by choice or misfortune.
Um, Reality, me again. Why isn’t this baby sleeping in her $300 bassinet? It sings, it vibrates, it swivels, it is LITERALLY two inches from my arms, and yet it is not good enough. WHY? Tell me quickly, before I fall asleep.
Yes, reality and I often have these one-sided arguments. I shake my fist at her, she sticks her tongue out and sneers at me. Meanwhile, my beloved, Expectation, flirtingly waves at me from the corner and says, “Come here, super amazing, perfectionist. Let’s talk about the future.” Expectation is always there to coddle me and stroke my quivering imagination back to its former glory, and so the beautiful and idyllic revolving door is pushed in its circle again and again.
The day I gave birth to my sweet daughter? Oh, I lived that highly anticipated day easily 200 beautifully, serene ways during my nine months as an incubator. Man, was Reality brutal on that one. I think that was the day that was supposed to shake me so hard that my head consequently toppled out of the clouds and back down to Earth. But no, I am not so easily swayed. Even after all this time, I am still the pre-planner of my life, a what-if-er to the highest power, and almost always chopped off at the knees at the visual of what is ACTUALLY occurring in front of me. Not that Reality is awful, quite the opposite. I love my sweet and sassy girl, my kind, ALWAYS-on-the-go husband, but the sting of having the highly anticipated, movie screen worthy version of my life ripped away suddenly does sting a bit.
Yes, my birth story is far from picturesque or what expectation had led me to believe, but it brought me my baby, and that’s all it was intended to do anyway. Not to inspire a Hallmark card, right?
No, my days at home with my child are not always filled with Baby Einstein moments and me happily floating into every tidy room balancing a smile and a laundry basket. Some days, the living room floor is less identifiable than a UFO, and some days sleep deprivation and lack of real, live adult conversation prevent me from being the Baby Einstein mom that can make a song and a learning moment out of every moment of every day.
And despite knowing this, my expectations surge on, taking new forms and new life with every new circumstance and challenge. They seem to be tied intrinsically to who I am, and my constant need to try and control the outcome of life, which of course cannot and will not be done. But because of something else intrinsically tied to who I am—my stubbornness—I cannot seem to stop. So, for humor, for reflection, and to serve as a sort of coping mechanism, I am going to write it all down here.
For those just like me, for those who just can’t seem to turn away from the sight of a car crash, and for myself.
Welcome to Expectation vs. Reality, Mom Edition.