Do you feel disappointed when you expect things to go a certain way and they don’t? For example, you expect your grandchildren to sit around the table after dinner and engage in conversation but their mom says they can leave. You refinish a rocking chair for your grandson and your daughter asks why you bothered to do that. You create a book of photos for your granddaughter’s birthday and your daughter-in-law barely offers a word of appreciation.
At our March GaGa Sisterhood meeting we invited our daughters to join us for a conversation about expectations and how they impact our relationships. There were plenty of expectations from both generations.
Our speaker Kathleen Harper, a life coach and author of The Well-Crafted Mom, explained that expectations are perceptions of how other people should behave. They’re not agreements we’ve made with others but hopes burdened by duty and obligation, weighted by factors out of our control, like rocks in our pocket when we’re wishing for wings.
All your expectations get added to the bag you carry that’s already full of what you expect from yourself in all your roles – parent, spouse, daughter, employee – and pretty soon you’re carrying a burden too heavy to hold, depleting your happiness.
Kathleen Harper is a life coach who supports moms on their journey to a well-crafted life. She offers workshops that include Coaching + Craft as a way to explore feelings and create changes in the way you think, feel and act.
As a mom of two young boys, she felt like a failure during her early years of motherhood. She saw other moms at the preschool, in the grocery store and at the park who looked happy, well-rested and showered. She wondered what she was doing wrong since she’d been such a success in her professional career.
She went to parenting workshops, read books and saw a counselor to help her develop tools to feel more capable, calm and confident. Once she found her way home, she was able to see so many other mothers adrift. She became a life coach to help moms, not only with tools and ideas to make day-to-day problems more manageable, but by creating a community of support and providing a wealth of resources, a “life raft” for moms who want to find a way to their own safe shore.
In her book, The Well-Crafted Mom, she shares a story in each chapter that represents a turning point for her, a lesson she needed to learn. She includes theoretical and practical information on the topic and a Life Craft project taken from her monthly community gatherings for moms. When you link an art project to a fledgling idea that you want to nurture, you build neural pathways in your brain. The end result of your project, especially if it’s something you see or use regularly, acts as a reminder, deepening the new path of possibilities and making you more likely to begin desired changes in how you think, feel and act.
The theme of our March meeting was expectations and the negative impact they can have on our relationships with others and even with ourselves. There’s a comfort to our expectations. They line up our day in an orderly fashion and act as a mental checklist of what we think is going to happen. The problem is that when they don’t, we feel disappointment and look for someone to blame. Expectations also shadow our self-evaluation at the end of the day of what we did or didn’t get done.
For our craft project, we decorated canvas bags as a reminder that we can choose what we carry. The bags can act as a visual reminder to notice our expectations and let go of them choosing instead to travel light and embrace more happiness.
Kathleen explained that there’s a difference between hope and expectation. Hope is a clean wish for the future. Expectations are your perceptions of how other people should behave. They’re not agreements you’ve made with others, they’re hopes burdened by duty and obligation, weighted down by factors far out of your control.
She offered a recipe for turning expectations back to hope.
- Know your ingredients. Use a journal to list your expectations for others and yourself.
- Come clean. Take responsibility for your thoughts about what you think should happen instead of blaming others for unmet expectations.
- Mind your language. Words like should, supposed to, and have to usually indicate that you have an expectation of yourself or someone else. These words create an obligation of how people should behave which leads to disappointment when the outcome is different.
- Shift your mindset. By changing to cleaner words like want to, choose to, will and can, you change the emotional weight of the statement.