Laura Range explores how expectations squeeze the life out of our motherhood, and how to find freedom in relying on God instead of ourselves.
Your husband comes home late from work and forgets to text.
The goals for staying on top of housework must be hiding beneath mounds of laundry.
Your baby doesn't sleep through the night at 3 months (or 9 months in my case, ha!).
The friend that seemed so promising didn't respond to an invitation.
Expectations are sneaky, subtle things that can wreak great havoc in our lives.
They paint intricate pictures in our minds of how our marriage and motherhood should look, how much we should accomplish in a day, and how our kids should behave. Often we don't realize they're even there, quietly lurking beneath the surface, until all of sudden we're left discouraged, disappointed, even despairing when daily life doesn't turn out how we think it should. At the end of the day, we have a nagging feeling that nothing was enough -- the kids weren't good enough, the house wasn't clean enough, our prayer life wasn't devout enough. All because of silent yet powerful expectations we place on ourselves and others.
2020 was the year my expectations died. I gave birth to my third child during the beginning of the pandemic. I had emergency surgery for an unrelated reason when that baby was not even ten days old. And even when those intense days had passed, I still found that raising three kids 4 and under was the most daunting task I'd ever undertaken. Daily I was face to face with the truth that I was not enough. I couldn't tend to every need of my three children immediately. I couldn't keep up with the additional housework. My prayer life was almost constantly interrupted as were any attempts to sleep.
My previous expectations as a wife, mother and homemaker died a swift yet painful death as I realized I couldn't do it all and be everything I wanted to be, all the time, and for everyone. Nor could I expect that from my husband and children.
I began to see my expectations were false illusions of control that inevitably brought guilt and frustration when I (or my family) didn't measure up. As I came to grips with this humbling reality, a larger truth surfaced that brought with it unexpected freedom and peace: It was okay that I wasn't enough because I was never meant to be enough on my own.
Although God called me to this vocation of marriage and motherhood, He didn't mean for me to do it alone. He wants me to remember I have a Father in heaven just waiting for me to call on Him in any moment, a Father who has not just enough but abundant grace to transform my own meager efforts for my family. As my mothers' devotional put it, God is more than ready to take our small loaves and fish and make them into enough just as He did when He fed five thousand. All we have to do is offer what we have to Him. That truth changed me and set me free.
I let my expectations die, and in their place new life was breathed into my motherhood. Instead of expecting more of myself, I could expect more of God. Instead of getting discouraged with my inadequacy, I could accept it with humility and trust God to take care of my family. He was the one who would give the grace and fill in the gaps when I simply focused on being faithful in the moment. Without expecting perfection for myself, I was able to forgive myself -- and others -- more easily when falls happened. I could release the future and my family's sanctification into His Hands instead of acting as if it all rested on my shoulders.
Joy, peace, and freedom began to blossom when I let go of the control I never actually had. It's still a process. Although many of my previous expectations have died and I've enjoyed more "abundant life" (John 10:10) in my motherhood, new expectations continue to creep up on me. Yet by His grace I work to release them as soon as I recognize them, knowing that God wants our hearts, not a crossed-off to-do list. He wants faithfulness and humility, not perfection.
Letting go of expectations doesn't mean giving up on a happy marriage, clean house, and well-behaved kids. But it does mean giving up the belief that we are supposed to achieve those things on our own. We are not called to be the super-moms we often expect ourselves to be, but rather we are called to live faithfully the tasks before us one moment at a time, leaving the results to our Father in heaven.
May each of us accept the grace to let our expectations die and instead embrace a life of freedom by trusting God to mold us into the saints He's called us to be -- one day at a time, in His way and His timing.
Copyright 2021 Laura Range
Image: Pixabay (2011)
About the Author
Laura Range is an RN-turned-SAHM living in rural Ohio. A wife and mother of 3 (plus one in heaven), she is passionate about marriage and family life, redeeming the culture, and cultivating community. She enjoys cooking (and eating) tasty food, crafting and DIY, good books, little moments, and keeping it real. She runs a local miscarriage ministry and blogs at Life is Beautiful.