Managing expectations has never been my strong suit. During the course of our basement remodel, my impossibly pragmatic husband Stuart was constantly reminding me to keep said expectations in check. Don't expect the plumbers to show up on time. Don't expect the permit to be approved without jumping through some hoops. Don't expect the budget to stay perfectly on track.
Boy was he wrong.
I'm kidding. Obviously, he was exactly right.
(Side note: If one expects any project to go according to timeline, budget, or desired outcome, they're likely to be sorely disappointed.)
None the less, I am an eternal optimist: trying to spin things positively (once the initial rage wears off, that is) and encourage the momentum to keep moving forward. I can't help myself. It's the way the good Lord made me. I also tend to hold unrealistic expectations for myself (I know a lot of us do this, really).
Weeks ago when I wrote my final “Leaving for Italy To-Do” checklist, I perhaps was a wee bit ambitious. I assumed that as an entrepreneur running four branches of our business at once, a homeschooling mom organizing and preparing for the homeschooling year ahead, and as a farmer currently raising a years worth of produce out of our gardens, preserving said produce, and managing the livestock, I could easily find time to polish all the wood furniture and reorganize the freezers before we leave for Sicily.
Come ON, Shaye.
My mother-in-law and her husband will be staying at the farm during our trip away, taking care of the animals, the property, and the three youngest children we are leaving behind. She's spent time here before, but still, the prideful homemaker in me wants to make sure some of the unmentionables are dealt with before her arrival. Like cleaning out the refrigerator, for example. Or finally catching that dang mouse that's been terrorizing my kitchen for the last week. Or dealing with the mess of garbage bags and sponges below the kitchen sink (God forbid she open those doors). I tell myself I don't expect perfection. But I would treat myself differently if that was really the case.
Part of these expectations are good. It's a wonderful treat to company when you have standards for their arrival. Clean sheets, for example, are a welcomed gift. As are nice, fresh towels. And as much privacy for guests as your house can afford.
In these regards, expectations are a wonderful thing to hold for ones self. They keep us striving, working, and laboring (contrary to what culture tells us, hard labor is a very good thing). Expectations can help us to budget well. To be willing to have difficult conversations. To better ourselves and our relationships.
But managing those expectations, and keeping them in their rightful place, is where the rubber meets the road. Because those same good expectations (ie: have a nice, welcoming home for your mother-in-law) can easily turn into a twisted cycle of self-loathing and disappointment (ie: a nice, welcoming home is not the same as pressure washing the outside of your house, polishing every window, dusting every wine glass, and making sure your children are perfectly groomed, all the while detailing your car, detailing your kitchen floor, and hiding any proof that you actually live and exist in your house).
The latter is an unrealistic expectation.
The former is a realistic expectation.
Despite the big difference between the two, it can be tricky for those such as myself to distinguish between them.
I'm rapidly working through my “Leaving for Italy To-Do Checklist”, after all, we have just four short days until our departure. I have expectations for myself:
- Make sure kids get plenty of snuggles, love, and undivided attention to fill their cups
- Leave the children in a good place for their first week of homeschool coop (backpacks packed, lessons prepped, etc.)
- Be as organized as possible with flight information, check in details, parking, and passports
- Don't forget any major camera equipment
- Leave the home in a healthy state for company
- Make sure basic animal and garden needs are accounted for
Know what's not on this list?
- Preserving everything in the garden that needs it before leaving
- Stocking the freezer with 14 meals
- Working through the basket of clothing that needs to be ironed
- Detailing the cars
- Shall I go on?
I love a detailed car and I love ironing. But managing expectations is about being realistic about what is possible. This means declaring victory in some tasks and waving the white flag in others – the wisdom comes in knowing which is which.
Managing expectations for this big trip has been fairly easy. I've traveled around Europe enough to know that if it can go wrong, it often does. I expect transportation strikes, late trains, jet-lag, stomach aches, and pickpockets. It's part of it. Managing my expectations, in this sense, from thinking that I'm stepping into a scene from Under the Tuscan Sun is a very good thing because that ain't reality, folks.
(Also I'm going to Sicily, which is a long way away from Tuscany. So literally, that ain't reality.)
I've worked very hard to be going on this trip. And I've worked very hard to get ready for it (leaving behind half of your family and farm is no small task). I take pride in my planning, organization, and efforts thus far. It would be very sad to leave with an air of self-loathing because I never got around to deep cleaning the espresso machine before our departure.
I would encourage you to hold expectations for yourself, we all should.
But be kind to yourself too.
… and on that note, I am off to scrub the dirty toilets. Because that's where I drawn the line.