Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Great Expectations

By Kelly

If you want to know what kind of day I’m having, you need ask only one simple question: Has the baby napped?

If yes, then I’m having a glorious day, abounding in productivity and sprinkled with  sunshine and rainbows.

If no, then I’m having a frustrating day, thick with clouds and whining. Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not getting anything done with a cranky toddler grasping my knees, so you might as well expect leftovers for dinner, because who can cook with Her High Grumpiness at the helm?

At least, that’s how it used to be. But after months of living at the whim of a baby, I decided to take back control.

I acknowledged I couldn’t control Teyla’s sleep – but I could control my attitude. I decided to make peace with my inefficient life and forget about having a chunk of “me” time each afternoon. I downsized my To Do list. I slowly learned to expect less from my day and much, much less from myself. And with my attitude thusly adjusted, I found life to be joyful again. When the baby woke up after another 20-minute nap, I would sigh, shelve the frustration and resolve to enjoy the baby.

Behold, the power of expectations.

When Corey and I were newly married, most of our fights would end on the battlefield of expectations. Seems I had them for our relationship, and I held him responsible for meeting them. Problem was, I never communicated them. Or so he claimed. My response tended to be: How can I communicate something that is so ingrained I don’t even know it’s there? My expectations only materialize to me when they aren’t met.

Still, it’s not a fair thing to do to another person, expect them to meet an expectation you can’t even verbalize. Ever since, I’ve tried to do a lot of introspection when I get frustrated or hurt or angry. Is it truly someone else? Or are my expectations slightly out of whack?

Thankfully, I had a few years to practice this before we had kids. It’s proven invaluable in parenting. Thus, when the baby makes it a practice to avoid taking naps, I try to adjust my expectations and hopefully, reap a happier mental state.

But darn it if those initial expectations don’t just keep coming back. Which is why I was annoyed this weekend when Teyla didn’t nap, even though she’d only been consistently taking real naps – which are defined by baby sleep experts as naps that are at least an hour in length; any less, and the baby’s brain doesn’t have time to reboot and renew – for a week. A week! And already my expectations about what my life should look like have reformed.

This parenting stuff. It’s hard work. Especially when the baby doesn’t nap.

I’d love to write more, but my husband’s home, and he expects dinner.

Kelly always expects to blog daily at her personal blog Love Well. But if the baby doens't nap, she expects to put the writing off for a day or two.


  1. Very insightful post. I appreciate the "I can't control the nap....but I can control my attitude." A good reminder to me not to fall into the trap of blaming the kids' moods, the circumstances, the lack of down time for my bad attitude. Time for me to listen to my own advice (often dispensed to my 4 yr old), "Don't you worry about what SHE's doing....you just focus on what YOU have been asked to do!"

  2. I'm in awe. This, I can relate to SO much. And will go about my day totally different (I HOPE) after reading your words. GREAT post, Kelly!


  3. My 15 month old didn't nap in February after a month and a half of holidays and different sicknesses which destroyed his sleep patterns. I thought naps were a thing of the past, and I almost had a nervous breakdown. I can relate!! Sometimes if I absolutely had to do something like cook something or clean something, I would put him in his crib for an hour anyway - even if he would just cry.

  4. Thank you so much for posting this today - I really needed it. My little boy is 16 months, and SO grouchy today!!! I know I really need to control my own emotions & attitude and have patience with him, and also to review my own expectations for myself.

  5. I believe it was the Stoics who said that the only thing we can control in this life is our attitude/mindset. Circumstances are always out of our hands, but how we react to them is up to us. Sometimes those pagan philosophers were right on the money!

  6. My lovely almost 3 year old has gave up naps. We have battled them for a year now. I give-up but he does have to lay and rest for 15-20 minutes. I need to re-charge at times.

  7. How is it that attitude is almost everything when I'm so often too tired to have a good attitude?

    But yes, it DOES make a huge difference.

    I expect to have a better attitude! So IT WILL BE!

  8. Thank you. I needed to hear this today.

  9. So much of our happiness in life is a result of our own expectations. It boils down to our attitude and our reaction when our expectations aren't met, but that's hard to learn.

  10. Guess he hasn't read this post yet, huh? Gotta work on those expectations!

  11. I'm hoping my baby quits crying soon and falls asleep... her daddy woke her up two hours early this morning (on accident) and it's been a day! He'll be home soon and expect dinner too... oh well, thanks for the reminder and this great post.

  12. I've been doing the same thing in more than just the area of napping. Adjusting the old attitude. Your words ring so true, and give me a little more affirmation and determination to keep on keepin' on! What a great post, and what a great mother and wife and blogging friend and influence you are, Kelly. Thanks for this.