Parenting Expectations Are Too Damn High — I Quit (And You Should Too)

by Melissa L. Fenton
Originally Published: 
parenting expectations
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I quit.

It happened about three years ago, when the crushing parenting pressure I’d been putting on myself along with the over-managing of my children had left me treading water in a sea of mothering bitterness. And nobody in my family wanted to throw me a life jacket, because I was just too miserable to be around.

In my world, nothing was ever good enough, and the expectations I had set for myself and my family were not only unreachable, they were often downright incomprehensible. So when it finally struck me there was a good chance all my children’s memories of me would be slanted towards to the manic and miserable, I quit.

I quit obsessing over the unrealistic self-made mothering expectations of perfection, opened myself up to accepting some good old-fashioned grace, and made a conscious decision to give myself permission to be less (and I mean way less) than I thought I had to be. And I haven’t looked back. Why? Because dropping the heavy baggage of do-it-all burdens from my back left me merrily weightless and a much, much happier mom.

It’s as simple as this: As I began doing less, I became something more.

Lowering your parenting expectations is easier said than done. It’s difficult to do for the stubborn perfectionist who feels like she must do it all exactly right, and equally tough for the mother who already feels like she is failing to now embrace an even lower set of expectations. But giving yourself the grace to stop the insane hamster wheel of parenting expectations is the best gift you can give not only yourself, but your children as well Everyone deserves grace, but especially those that give it so freely while rarely taking any for themselves — mothers.

Grace is needed the most when you’re in the midst of brokenness, to give you an unconditional do-over where previous failures just don’t matter Did you get that? Your previous failings just don’t matter. Grace is unconditional. For overachieving mothers who pressure themselves, always feeling like they have something to prove, grace tells us there is nothing to prove, there is nobody we need to measure up to, and there are no mothering merit badges to be had. Grace will give us permission to finally believe that we define what it means to be enough and do enough — not other moms, social media, or societal standards Those made-up standards do nothing but leave us unfulfilled and weary. You will never be enough when you let others define what is enough. You are always enough.

When you let grace unlock the smothering shackles of mothering standards that you placed on yourself, you won’t believe the how free you’ll feel. Freedom from all that ridiculous crap is so damn liberating it may just blow your mind. You know what else it’s gonna do? It’s going to make you easier to love. The walls of never-good-enough frustration you built around yourself didn’t allow your kids or spouse to love you like you deserve, or for you to even fully love yourself, for that matter. But once those walls have been knocked down? Once you accept the fact you alone are enough? Brace yourself for a relief so gratifying you’ll wonder what took you so long to give yourself a damn break.

Lowering your standards is not failing — nor is leaving dishes in the sink overnight, having an endless pile of unfolded laundry always on your couch, or ordering pizza for dinner for the third time this week. Those impossibly high standards that you foolishly believed made you less than a great mother were all total bullshit. Grace would agree, because grace doesn’t care about dirty dishes, dirty clothes, or less than desirable dinners. It only cares about YOU. And you are so much more than standards — you’re a mom whose only real standard is to love her childrenLet grace allow you let go of your expectations and resentments. Because the day may come when there is no pile of laundry, but there will always be the need for a mother’s love.

And trust me, your grandchildren will be ready and waiting for it.

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