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Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations and Reclaim Your Happiness
Life is so constructed that an event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.
Becoming a mother, for me, was not a simple transition. I went from being a successful corporate professional juggling 10-15 multi-million dollar projects at any one time to being at home with a baby who became hysterical while breastfeeding, failed to thrive, and who had severe sleep regression for 16 weeks straight.
The pregnancy that produced my daughter Ava was unplanned in every way. She was very wanted and is very loved, but it turned my life upside down. Suddenly nothing was really in my control anymore.
I found myself at home, a week after Ava was born, alone (mostly) and my life from that point on was the exact opposite of how I designed it to be – uncontrolled and unplanned. I read every baby sleep book under the sun convinced there was something I was doing wrong. I was driving myself crazy trying to figure out what that thing was.
When my daughter was 18 months old I went to a sleep psychologist still convinced that ‘something could be done’ about the fact that she wouldn’t sit up on her own, that every mealtime was a battleground and that we were with her for hours. in the middle of the night. Interestingly at my first appointment the psychologist quickly realized that it wasn’t actually Ava who needed help, but me, her stressed, anxious, sleepy mother who had lost her own identity.
For several weeks I worked with this psychologist to realize that my expectations of a “normal baby” were completely unrealistic, for example that at 12 months only 38% of babies sleep through the night and 49% of babies between 1-2 years old. wake up at least once a night. I had similarly unrealistic expectations about how well my daughter should eat based on what I saw from a handful of friends’ children.
So learning this I made a few choices:
- I chose to let go of unrealistic expectations of my daughter and stop comparing her, and myself, to others;
- I chose to let her eat 6 month pure if that’s what she wanted;
- I chose to accept that she was not on her own and sit with her reading a book until she fell asleep;
- I chose to be much calmer and let it take everything to be planned and organized; and
Interestingly, since I made these choices, my relationship with my husband is the best it’s ever been, my daughter is independent and sleeps well and eats a variety of foods and I’ve achieved my dream and established life and career coaching for working moms. I have never been happier and am no longer plagued by stress and anxiety.
So how do you let go of unhelpful expectations?
- Accept that everyone in your life has different strengths and qualities to bring to the relationship and allow them to express that in different ways. Some people can be exceptionally supportive in a crisis, others wonderful fun to fly with and others give great advice;
- Understand that yours is only one version of reality shaped by your experiences and core values. Communicate your needs and expectations but also seek to understand theirs and find a middle ground;
- As for your children remind yourself that the “normal” range for developmental milestones is wide and that they are small people with small personalities. Allow them to express themselves and celebrate their uniqueness rather than comparing them to other children;
- Be kind to yourself, set goals and work towards them, but equally be flexible and allow yourself to relax and have fun. The worst expectations are the ones we place on ourselves.
- Choose let go of those unhelpful & unrealistic expectations. Ask yourself what if I didn’t expect this from me/my partner/my friend – how would my life be different?
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