All I asked for was some help planting summer flowers in the pots and flower beds in our yard, I ruminated. This was my honest answer to their question about what I wanted for Mother's Day. It seemed simple enough, didn't cost them a dime and could have been great family fun.
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Why then wasn't the day turning out the way I imagined it would? When I asked the family to pull together and do something, why did it feel like I was herding cats? The more I asked myself these questions, the more I came face to face with my unrealistic hopes for the "perfect" Mother's Day.
Somebody once told me that expectations can become preconceived resentments. Indeed, my expectations were building into resentment, and I needed to do something about it. As I explored what was going on in my heart, I found I was harboring three kinds of expectations:
The unknown. Presumptions often come from our family of origin and include the traditions, routines and habits that feel "normal" to each of us. Because we usually spend about 18 years doing things a certain way, we don't give much thought to the fact that there might be other ways to celebrate special occasions.
The unspoken. These are the things we feel we shouldn't need to tell our spouse or our children because it's a certainty in our mind. For instance, if I expect not to cook or do dishes on Mother's Day, but I don't let my family know that's my desire, then I've created an unspoken expectation.
The unrealistic. These hopes are often idealistic. Let's be honest, it's unrealistic of me to think that five kids of varying ages and personalities can come together perfectly to help with planting flowers.
As I sorted through my unmet expectations, I realized that I was the one fueling my own disappointment nearly every Mother's Day.
Addressing my expectations
Speak up. If your idea of a perfect day is to spend it alone, then let your family know you love them very much but you'd appreciate a little bit of personal time. If you don't want to make meals on your day, share that desire with your spouse and talk about practical ways to make that happen. My husband, Mark, always wanted to take the family out to eat on Mother's Day, but taking five children to a restaurant did not feel like fun to me. As a compromise, we agreed on takeout food for lunch and pizza for dinner.
Practice gratefulness. Instead of seeing what isn't happening, pay attention to what is happening. While my whole family wasn't helping with planting flowers like I had hoped they would, I did have 15 minutes of one-on-one conversation with my teenage son, and later, I had some girl time when my two daughters slipped on garden gloves and joined me. A grateful heart made it easier to see the blessings of the day.
Give grace. It's entirely possible your family will do very little to make your day special. It's also possible they won't respond even if you make your desires known. And sometimes they will make an effort, but it won't look like you thought it would. This is where you have to respond with grace. Mark and I use the term "grace space" to describe the effort we make to allow our family members to be imperfect. Grace allows others to be human and make mistakes; it allows for different personalities and priorities.
Change your expectations. You may need to adjust your wishes to better match reality. No Mother's Day will look like a Hallmark commercial, and there's nothing magical about setting aside one day to honor one person. If you're loved every other day of the year, you're certainly loved on the second Sunday in May.
This year I'm giving myself four gifts for Mother's Day. I'm going to speak up, practice gratefulness, give grace and change my expectations. Wanna join me?Jill Savage is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, a ministry for moms. Jill's 11 books include No More Perfect Moms and her most recent release, No More Perfect Marriages.