Next week my youngest daughter will be turning seven. My baby is not a baby, and she’s a school age child. Closer to ten, headed to the tipping point of being a big kid before earning the title of a tween. As the youngest of four, she is the ‘baby’ of the family with three older sisters who are so patient and understanding with her, often letting her get away with things because of her cuteness, spryness and being the ‘baby.’
With her birthday approaching and the school year ending, and each daughter on the threshold of moving up an academic grade, means all my girls are progressing and growing in ways I am forced to pay attention to, magnified with all of these milestones. Perhaps that’s a long way of saying, I’m pretty nostalgic these days.
Years ago when I became a mother, I had no idea how my life was going to change. Conceptually, I thought I was ready. I had checklists of baby items, equipment, clothing, and diapers in possession reassuring me I was ready to care for infants. I planned to nurse my twins with an open mindset of the challenges of nursing twins and intended to supplement or formula feed, depending on how things were going. And when I delivered my babies six weeks early in an emergency C-section, I learned very quickly, and early in motherhood, how our great expectations of motherhood, can change in an instant.
I would love to say my great expectations of motherhood was solely related to the pregnancy and birth of each of my daughters, wondering who this little being was going to be, what she was going to look like, how her personality and interests were going to develop and unfold.
But that would be very untrue.
Motherhood has been full of expectations.
And I know I am not alone.
Many mothers have great expectations: times when we expect our efforts to give us the outcomes we work hard to control or the beliefs we hold about who are children are, or how our children ‘should’ act or treat us or show up in the world.
And almost fifteen years later, I have learned: expectations in motherhood are highly overrated, wildly unpredictable, and a setup for frustration. When I’m too attached to an outcome or have an expectation of how things ‘should’ be, I place myself on the fast track for disappointment.
And I don’t know about you, but disappointment is tough in motherhood. It takes us away from the moment and creates a mindset of preoccupation focused on wishing, wondering and hoping for a different outcome.
If I could go back and talk to my new mom self, here is the advice I’d give her about disappointment and expectation:
- Be connected and attached to your child, but not to how things should go.
- Your role as a mother encompasses so many things: nurturer, protector, caregiver, guide, but most of all steward of your child’s care and development.
- You will influence and guide your child, but she/he is onto themselves an individual, with hopes, dreams, and abilities and it is your job to help facilitate the unfolding and discovery.
- When you let go of how your child should be, you open yourself up to seeing how your child truly is.
- Create an environment encouraging your child to have dreams, goals, and interests, without the expectation of pleasing you, or living for you, and most importantly, fulfilling one of your unfilled dreams.
And finally, Mama, continue to dream, discover and allow yourself to unfold because as your child grows, so do you.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017