Lowering my expectations.

October 3, 2017


I don’t know how you do it. It’s a comment I receive often when all 5 tots are in tow. It’s usually said with wondering eyes and genuine sincerity. So I have to ask myself, how do I? How do I survive raising 5 energetic little ones and still hold onto my own sanity? Well one way? I’ve lowered my expectations. This might sound like a terrible thing….to lower one’s expectations, but I am talking about expectations that are meant to be confronted and adjusted. There are expectations we naturally build within ourselves for all things… how our relationships will be, what our marriage should look like, how our lives will play out, and even what our children should be.





These expectations can often set us up for disappointment, frustration, and anger when they aren’t met, or when things don’t play out like we envisioned. This happens to me on a regular basis in motherhood. Yes, I had visions to have a bunch of children with Gabe, but I didn’t realize how fast it would all seem to happen, and how unequipped I would feel. Granted, no one really fully understands how those terrible twos and stubborn threes, and curious fours can challenge you! However, now that I have a growing wide range of personalities and temperaments in these little people we are raising, I had to come to a point of surrender.

I have had several moments of raising the white flag in motherhood. It’s when I feel like giving up, and I humbly realize my expectations are yet again too high. I am expecting too much of the little people looking to me to care for them. I seem to forget that children are these wonderfully new and wonderfully unique people completely different from anyone who has ever come before them or who will come after them. They are learning to understand right and wrong, how to process feelings and emotions, what to say when things don’t go there way, how to show love to others, how to handle disappointments, and how to find their place in a big unknown world.

I realized that too often, I expect fast results and perfect behavior. I want my children to co-exist in perfect harmony, and not make the same mistakes. I was expecting clean rooms, and perfectly made beds, and dare I ask for only one dirty diaper a day? Why yes. Yes it is. It’s too much in fact, to expect any of these things from children, because they are very real human beings. It is good to challenge them, yes. But they are far from robotic re-creations we often expect them to be. They aren’t meant to be these perfect mini-molds of ourselves, and thank goodness they aren’t. They are born with a wild spirit and pure hearts. They have a character that needs to be guided, but they will become someone greater than ourselves if we do it right. This has become my adjusted expectation: To encourage their strengths, help them conquer their fears, and direct them towards a God who loves them in a greater capacity than I will ever be able to as a human being with limitations.

After I change my expectations to a mindset willing to receive what the day brings, I have noticed that I have a greater patience to juggle life with. It makes room for mistakes, unswept floors, and bad days. It allows for greater forgiveness of yourself and your little family when there are disappointments. It makes room for growth, renewal, and change. I love what my children have done to me. They have wrecked my ridiculous expectation of a perfect life, and helped me re-build a perspective more united with God’s. Our lives are meant to be a beautiful mess. We are ever-evolving, always reaching, and hopefully growing our capacity to love.

*Girls dresses: Shop Plain Jane, Azelie’s Bonnet: Petite Soul Shop,Rocco’s beanie: Jacqueline and Jac

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  • Oh gosh, this is good. Your adjusted expectation: “To encourage…help them…direct them…” is just beautiful. Thanks for sharing this.

    A wise priest told me “there is a difference between expectation and desire. Expectation closes in [on one specific result]. Desire opens up: to relationship, to communion, for life to grow.”

    I found this to be both clarifying and relieving. To not just lower, but to *drop!* expectations, and instead increase desire. Desire makes room for the other person, and this seems way more fitting to a relationship.

    Also, this made me think of Spe Salvi (#33), regarding increasing our desires. I especially love the last line 🙂

    Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched. “By delaying his gift, God strengthens our desire; through desire he enlarges our soul and by expanding it he increases its capacity for receiving him”.

    • Katy, wow this hit me so hard. Such a good reflection. To change our expectations to desires…this is what I want! That last quote feels like what the last few years in motherhood have been for me. Thank you so much. x

  • Thank you for sharing this! It seems like you have a great new approach. 🙂
    Also, really adorable photos!

  • This is so beautifully written and something I needed to hear today! Thanks for sharing friend!

  • Amen! Amen! I also have 5, maybe a little more spaced than you–our oldest will be 9 in Feb and youngest (that I know of!) is 15 months old. I am both gifted and cursed by a relaxed attitude about expectations, so I am very flexible and go with the flow…but my organization reflects this! Frequently I have to flip these expectations into reality for myself. I am pretty good at realizing “this is really good for 8, or 6, or 4, or 3, or 1…” but less so for my 33 year old self! I cannot even count how often I have to remind myself that NO ONE has it ALL together. Everyone has their unique strengths and weaknesses. Even us adults are unique and unrepeatable and still learning. I might still scurry to capture clutter before people come over, or forget to set out napkins for dinner every night into my 90s, But I will be just as likely to stop & color with a grandchild as I am now with my little people, or just as likely to say, “showers can happen in the morning, let’s hang out a little bit longer.” How do we do it? As best we can for the people that we are. Thanks so much for posting this!

    • Colleen, you are so right! I was thinking about how we as adults are often harder to learn lessons than our little ones, and yet we expect them to catch on right away! I am so thankful my children are forgiving and always willing to love me despite my mistakes! It’s humbling.

  • This is beautiful (and exactly why it tends to feel easier the more numerous the kids, I think)

    • Thank you Jenny! Yes absolutely. ha! I was thinking about that. I don’t think it’s easier necessarily, but the perspective shift makes it seem so!

  • Thank you for posting this. I have had to adjust to raising a boy who just entered a more wild and curious phase, after having a very calm girl, and this is good advice.

  • Such a beautiful post!!! Thank you, for this!!

  • Oh yes! They are the best at wrecking not only our ridiculous expectation of a perfect life but also of a perfect soul on this earth! I’ve never known my own need for my Savior as much as I have since having my babies 🙂 Beautifully said as always my friend!

  • So well written and such a great reminder in starting my day today with my three ring circus! Thanks, Anna!

  • Wow! I’m a mommy to 6. Four biological, 2 adopted and I often feel the weight of what defines a perfect household. It’s good to be reminded that God doesn’t look for perfect. It’s in the everyday “mess” that we seek him. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • How beautiful Lakiesha! I feel that weight too. It’s been humbling to realize how I tried to chase perfection in the wrong ways. Grateful for these children of mine who, just like God, have showed me that their love doesn’t include a list of musts and dos. It is freely given even when I mess up:)

  • Wow, Anna, what an out-of-the-ballpark post for me. I read it last night after a particularly challenging day with my little ones, and today have just read it again after a new-start day. It seems like I’m slow on the learning curve with flexibility and surrender in motherhood, and that gets me in trouble often. But, today I was reminded of new mercies every morning and tangible grace that the Lord provides for each moment. What a blessing that our children show us there’s no way to heaven except through surrender! Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    • Rebekah! It was such an uplift to hear from you! Wow, yes. Day by day, moment by moment. It has taken me so long to let go of my need to control my day, and it’s probably something I will always battle! I find that I can see God so much clearer though when I shift my perspective. Much love to you!

  • We just had our fourth a couple weeks ago and it has been a wonderful, yet slightly exhausting adventure ? I too, continuously struggle with having unrealistic expectations. I forget that they are still so little and they need grace from me in the same way that I need God’s grace on a daily/moment by moment basis. Thank you for this timely reminder, I needed it today!

  • Thank you, Anna, for sharing your experiences in motherhood with us. I, too, am guilty of setting expectations too high for my kids and am continually reminding myself to simply guide and not control. Thanks for the encouraging post. You’re an inspiration!

  • Hi! We love, love, love following along with you! I did send a message/question a month or more ago and wonder if it got liat in the suffle? A bit ago you did a post on your favorite apps for editing photos and videos. It was wonderful. I wondered if you would share what apps you use for little video clips or video montages with music please? Best, Brenda xo

  • Nina Victor

    Geez. This is amazing advice. I just brought a newborn home less than two weeks ago and have a toddler who is used to all the attention and I am having such a hard time. I can’t find balance. I’m exhausted. He’s throwing tantrums. I don’t know how it will work out but praying desperately it does. Thank you.

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