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Sunday, 22 January 2012

Reforming a Type-A Gal: The Zen of Lowered Expectations

I tend to be an "all or nothing" kind of gal. If I'm going to do something new, make a change in my life or take on a responsibility I like to give it my best. And before kids, if life got bumpy I could still make it all happen by knuckling down to a task, burning the midnight oil or "just doing it."

But since having kids, I find that all my "git 'er done" energy is fully spent by midday in solving major juice crises or mediating toy sharing between belligerent parties. 

So how's a type-A, formerly-relentless super-achiever supposed to adapt to a life full of never-finished to-do lists, half-completed projects and habitually below-par personal hygiene? The answer for me has boiled down to one thing: Lowered Expectations.

The detritus of life... it always seems to land in my dining room.
Indeed, "Lowered Expectations" has become my mantra. I need it when I'm trying to get a few critical things done and everything goes wrong, no one cooperates, and I see the minutes ticking by. Angry outburst threatens!

That's when Lowered Expectations prompts me to ask, "What if task X doesn't get done right now? What are the real non-negotiables?" Even more importantly, "What state do I want my family and myself to be in at the end of this? Frazzled, harried and stressed? Or calm, confident and open?"

Over the past four years, I have found that calm, confident and open is the more desirable state for pretty much any context (a party, errand running, etc.). When I practice this, I enjoy the time with my kids, and they enjoy me (wouldn't you choose zen-mama over the angry she-beast?).

The trade-off for calm, confident and open is that I have to accept the realities of Lowered Expectations. I have to accept welcoming guests into a very messy and often not-too-clean home. I often let my to-do list languish so that I can have positive interactions with my kids. And I have to hold my head high when I venture out in public with no make-up on and somewhat unfashionable or unflattering attire.

Do I make good choices every time? No. Do I still sometimes yell at my kids? Yes (and with great passion too, I might add). But I find that the more I use my mantra of Lowered Expectations, the more natural it becomes, and then the more I use it... And then I find that I'm acting more like the mother I want to be for my kids....

So, there's one of my survival tactics. How about you? How do you negotiate that compromise between your parenting ideals and the pressure of, well, all that other stuff?

1 comment:

  1. Aija, one of my go-to mom advice things is from you one mom's group Wednesday...One of us was lamenting having yelled at their kid, and you asked how old they were. I don't remember the answer, but I totally remember you saying, "oh, that's the *perfect* age for yelling!" It was such an off-handed thing to say, but I can't tell you how many times I go back to it -- I try to keep my temper, but when I do lose it, I just think, "even Aija yells at the kids sometimes!" Thanks for always being the best example of a real mom :-)


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