We all have general expectations of ourselves and what our days will be like. You probably don’t write them down, or have them explicitly defined, yet you likely have an idea of what you expect from yourself on any given day or week.
For example, pre-pregnancy, I generally expected my week to hold: 5 workouts, two blog posts, 5-6 nights of eating at home, daily long walks with my dog, and one day of laundry. Before leaving for work I would pick up the kitchen and living room and after my shower I made the bed.
All of these expectations I held were reasonable. I slowly built them into my schedule and was rarely overwhelmed with those tasks or unable to accomplish them.
Throughout pregnancy some of these expectations shifted, and now in motherhood they have MAJORLY shifted.
The truth is, it’s hard to change your expectations of yourself. Although you aren’t likely letting anyone down by your adjustments, it can feel like you’re letting things drop. As if you’ve given up on what was important to you.
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Here is what helped me get my head in the game and manage my own expectations of what I could feasibly do.
Treat yourself as you would a friend
If you need to adjust your expectations, some type of life change has happened or you wouldn’t be reevaluating things. It’s absurd to expect to keep everything else in your life the same when there’s been a big shift (job change, move, injury, baby, etc.), but for some reason we beat ourselves up for not managing everything thrown at us.
But, you wouldn’t expect that from anyone else. If your friend just had a baby would you expect her to continue to host book club? Would you scoff if your friend who took a new position that adds an hour to their commute each day started eating out more?
You will have negative thoughts when you lower your expectations. Instead of letting them bring you down, recognize them and think of how you would respond if you were talking with a friend who had these negative thoughts. Basically, give yourself a break!
Decide early what you can handle
What you want to avoid is waiting for things to pile up and completely overwhelm you until you crash. If you know a big change is approaching, start picturing what your life will be like when it’s here. If your commute is about to double, or a new project will have you at the office much longer, picture what it will be like to be walking in the door at 7pm instead of 5:45.
Try and figure out what will be the most stressful thing you can drop, and how it will change. Is it hiring a cleaner? Using services like Blue Apron? Working out more on weekends and less on weekdays? Start wrapping your head around your new expectations of yourself early, and if a life change is sudden, take the first week to analyze your new normal.
Tell others your thoughts
Who you tell depends on what you’re changing, but here is my example. About a week after bringing Owen home, I realized my expectation of cooking/eating at home 5-6 nights a week was going to need adjusting. I still would be able to cook, but using new recipes each week and recipes that take a long time or are ingredient intensive wasn’t in the cards.
I told my husband, “I think for at least the next few months I’ll be going back to simpler recipes and we may be eating out more.” He asked if that’s what I was stressing about, and I replied that I wasn’t stressing out, I was just thinking aloud of what I felt I could do.
If you’re cutting back on running, let your running partner or group know your game plan. If you no longer have the money to spend on nights out with your friends, let them know you will only be going out X times a month. By telling the people that your new expectations affect, you won’t feel guilty or like you’re letting someone else down.
Give yourself grace. In the end, you will feel much better if you set your bar at a more basic level, and whatever you get done above that is awesome. Once you get into the grind, you may be able to adjust your expectations back up a bit, but you won’t run yourself into the ground trying to maintain as long as you can.