How Motherhood Taught Me To Re-Calibrate My Expectations


You know you’ve had a great conversation with a friend when it keeps popping into your mind months later. It has been on my heart since last Fall to write a blog post on this topic, and it all comes from one great conversation I had with a friend over some green juice and snacks several months ago.

In that conversation, we were talking about the transition and frustrations of being a new, mostly stay-at-home mom. Her daughter was born almost exactly one year after mine, and she was experiencing some of the same push-pull of the joy and frustration of SAHM-ing I had, especially in those early months.

We both experienced incredible gratitude to have our babies alive and healthy (this mom happened to have lost her first child as well), and to have the privilege of spending as much time as we wanted with them. We both loved that we got to watch every milestone, share those sweet cuddles, and form an incredibly close bond with our infant daughters.

We also both experienced a bit of an identity crisis - who am I now, beyond being mom?

We engaged in a lot of self-criticism when we couldn’t get tasks accomplished the way we did pre-baby, and plenty of uncertainty (and doubt and worry) about how this whole mom thing would mesh with other aspects of our lives moving forward.

I think feelings like this are pretty typical of the transition to motherhood, whether or not you’ve lost a child, and whether or not you work outside the home. I think they probably apply to many other life transitions that don’t involve having an infant in your care!

A year out from where my friend was, I DEFINITELY didn’t have it all figured out (still don’t!), but I shared the biggest thing that had helped me adjust.

I shared about re-calibrating expectations.

If you’re experiencing a big life change - a transition to a new job, a new romantic relationship, a new city or living arrangement, or a new baby - you can’t expect all other aspects of your life to remain the same.

If you’re spending more time with a new partner, you have less time for activities you used to prioritize. If you move to a new city, you’ll have to put in more work to maintain relationships you left behind in your previous location. If you have a baby, perhaps especially if you’re the full-time caretaker of that baby, you won’t also be able to keep your household, self-care, and professional routines on par with what they were pre-baby.

If you want to feel happy and fulfilled in this “new normal” you’re going to have to re-calibrate expectations.

Initially, I maintained my pre-baby expectations for house cleaning, meals, and my work. Subconsciously, I think I knew I would never meet those expectations, but I would try, and just see how close I could come.

This mindset set me up for frustration and self-criticism.

Eventually, I learned to shift.

I learned to view my productivity in chunks of time. An hour here, an hour there, maybe two, maybe 30 min. Whatever it was, I’d set a small goal for the timeframe. I’d intentionally plan a task or activity I thought would really take less time. When I completed it, I’d celebrate the victory and either 1. take advantage of some needed down-time or 2. jump into another task, feeling extra proud and energized that I had exceeded my own expectations.

Think about it, which feels better to you? Consistently over-asking and under-delivering, or regularly out-performing your expectations?

I know which one worked better for me 🙂

Where can you re-calibrate expectations in your life? If you’re skeptical, perhaps worried you’ll get less done this way because you’re asking less of yourself, would you take a chance and give it a try?

Give it 2 weeks and see what happens. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up feeling more positive, and thus more energized and more productive. I’d love to hear how this experiment works for you!