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  • Writer's pictureThe Farmer's Wife

*Unpopular* quarantine question: What IF we didn’t go back?

Typically, Americans are really busy. If it’s not sports (we could just stop there), it’s dance class, or Drama Club, or FFA, or PTA, or 4H, or band, or Robotics Club, or Speech team, or volunteering, or church or friends, and work, or (insert the 178 activities you chauffeur). It’s virtually incontestable - we’re busy.

So here’s my *unpopular* question: What IF we didn’t go back? Could we pause the "DO"? - HOLD ON- Before you shun me - Let me explain.

Pre-quarantine, I had been trying to put my finger on some deep overwhelm. This launched me on a twisty ride of the female braincoaster as I dumped my expectations on to a page. Suddenly, there it was, staring back at me with big eyes; the source of my overwhelm: 61 expectations I hold for myself every. single. day.

Productivity books encourage you to choose 3 things to do per day. That’s great… but I’m pretty sure they aren’t moms. It’s actually funny thinking about what would slide if moms picked 3:

“Sorry kids, you have to choose between being clothed and fed today”....

Trouble is, I think productivity books are actually valuable. Because, let’s just be honest, if I’m “focusing” on 1,400 things a day (or 61), unmet expectations are inescapable. It’s like a terrible juggling act. Unfortunately, I can’t juggle. When I ‘juggle’, I spend more time picking things off the ground than throwing them in the air. But this --is life-- with 61 daily expectations. I can’t even devote 60 seconds per hour to each expectation before the next hour comes around to take me for a ride.

During this quarantine, we’ve been starting seedlings inside. As a professional plant killer, this is a *significant* accomplishment for me because my plants are actually ALIVE!!! I set out attempting to teach my kids a few things about botany, but I think the lesson was for me. Not about plants - but about life: and more importantly, about expectations.

You can’t escape the *slow* process of growth when you’re a plant.

I can’t expect squash from a seed before it is good and ready to give me squash. I have to EXPECT the process.

My kids are helping me not only expect the process but ENJOY it. Countless times in the last few weeks, I’ve come running to the screams of my girls, expecting disaster, only to realize they were excited screams about the next phase of the process. MOOOMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!! IT’S A LEAFFFFFFFFFF!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why can’t we do this in real life? Not scream for every part of the process - although that would make life more interesting - but why can’t we expect the process. The SLOW process of life. Why do we have to do all the activities at once, with a sport for every season, while juggling the house and the relationships and the fitness and the academics and the social outings and the…. And the…. And the…...

It’s like forcing a squash to come from a seed… and it isn’t going to work. But that’s how we live in this microwave world.

It’s similar to budgeting. If I have $20 for a new shirt and I spend $150 instead, I’d be over budget - right? So why do I do that with life? I have 24 hours in a day, and I over spend them all the time. I’m sure you’ve been there too. I've talked to several moms who are feeling this exact same thing but they're so over committed that they don't know how to voice the choice to NOT go back.

We can’t have a family meal because we’ve got play practice. We can’t do Wednesday night church because we’ve got early conditioning for sports. We don’t have time to slow down and know the heart of our kids because - why isn’t your homework done??! Go do your homework!

Here’s the trouble:

If our expectations for life exceed our capacity, we wake up a failure.

If we’re over budget, something will suffer.

I do this all the time. I put Mt. Everest on my to-do list, attempting to ‘make the most’ out of life, and then I turn around and realize I have three little people coming along for the trek.

But that’s just it. In my "making the most” out of life, I can miss it altogether.

I miss the real life on the slopes of Everest. I miss the life in the brown eyed baby whose favorite spot is my shoulder. I miss the life on the pages my kids ask me to read but I’ll get to it later. I miss the life in the smile I should give to my husband but I’m so crushed and crazy with expectations that I’m a tangled mess.

The WORST part is, I use these expectations to measure my worth. Do you?

When I don't meet my own expectations, the mirror taunts me in a voice remarkably like my own.

A “good” wife would do________________.

A “good” friend would text often.

A “good” mom looks like __________________.

A “fit” mom looks like someone else.

A “good” neighbor does ______________.

Sound familiar? Maybe it’s just me, but maybe you’ve got mirrors too.

Recently, I chatted with my mom regarding the whole Covid thing. One of her comments rang in my ears all night - even waking me up - “Fear isn’t a fruit of the Spirit, you know”, she said. Of course the context with Covid is understood, but isn’t this the rhyme and verse of our every day?

When my failed expectations make me fear not being “good enough”, I’m not clothed in love, joy, or peace. There is little patience or kindness on the mommy-coaster. There is no goodness in focusing on my failings. Somehow gentleness is immediately lost when I’m not measuring up to my own ridiculous standards.

And all at once, I’m not who I want to be.

But who says my expectations define me? Who calls me a failure when I fall short of what I expect? I do. No one else. It’s me. In my head. Between my ears, making worry a nice cozy spot so it can wake up tomorrow and tell me I’m failing.

But worry doesn’t add to my days, it steals them. It makes my mind FEEL productive while leeching everything that means something from me.

EXIT STAGE LEFT PLEASE - What if we got off this crazy train? What if the world stopped and suddenly we could focus better… oh wait… it did stop :). And I have found such JOY in the focusing.

Sure I miss people - and stores, and church, and a need a hair cut… but I’m not missing Everest.

I know people who will lash out against this.

I can hear them right now. “Well - I have a better relationship with my kids when we spend LESS time together and I’m not their teacher.” Ok - why is that? Are we expecting the right things or trading relationship for “accomplishment?”

I was recently shaken by a sermon I listened to regarding parenting. You may not be a person of faith, but the concept is still remarkably applicable to anyone.

The speaker was talking about Matthew 16:26, questioning parental priorities.

Think about it -

If we gain the whole world of kids sports;

If we gain the whole world of extra curricular activities,

If we gain the whole world of a clean house;

If we gain the whole world of a perfect body;

If we gain the whole world of straight “A” kids;

If we gain the world of Instagram perfection; and a busy schedule; and money......And. Yet. Lose. Our. Souls, What good is it?

If we exchange meal time for practice, conversation for hurry, and relationship for grades, we’ll have just that: practice, hurry, and grades. But in doing that, we’ll miss the meal time, conversation, and relationship.

…. And that’s a check I don’t want to cash. I don’t want to miss the meal time, conversation and relationship. I don’t want to “gain” the whole world for my kids and yet lose their souls.

So what are we supposed to do?

Have you ever stopped to articulate what you expect of yourself and your family? Seriously - dump every single expectation on to a page. Like the social expectations. And the washing windows expectations. The working out one, And the clean house one. And meeting your spouses’ needs one. And paying the bills one. And the volunteering one. And the extra activities one. And, and, and.....

Then let's ask ourselves: are we setting ourselves up for success or failure?

Let’s just PRETEND we didn’t go back. What if we just dropped ONE "to-do"? What if this was our reset button for things that mattered most? What would that be for you?

More time with your husband?

Better conversations with your kids?

Slower time to enjoy the porch swing? Camp fire?

What part of the process are you trying to microwave?

Let’s get off crazy-train and start expecting the slow process of growth. We don’t have to do it all. Our kids don’t have to do it all.

Let’s choose what we go back to instead of it choosing us.


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