Frustrated Parent: Re-examining Goals, Expectations, and Perspective
Eyebrows furrowed, zero sense of humor, snapping, and general gnashing of teeth paints a fairly accurate picture of a frustrated parent. Unfortunately, it has also been an accurate portrayal of me lately. I affectionately call myself ‘monster mom’ when my frustration begins to show, but I’m anything but lovable and affectionate when I snap at my kids or husband.
Here’s the thing, I’m not dealing with anything out of the ordinary. I’m managing a household and kids while working from home, nothing spectacular there. Which has caused me to pause and wonder why I am feeling frustrated if I’m dealing with normal life stuff?
As I write this post, I’m getting frustrated. I’ve been up since 2:30am and I want to get a post written before my kids get up, generally around 6am. Yet, I’m having a hard time getting the words to come (maybe it’s my lack of sleep?). I’m frustrated while I’m writing about frustration, oh the irony!
The answer, I have concluded, lies in my goals, expectations, and perspective.
Goals are good. In fact, they are great. You make progress, accomplish great things, and become a better person. What happens when people or circumstances prevent you from achieving them?
Frustration – a feeling of dissatisfaction, often accompanied by anxiety or depression, resulting from unfulfilled needs or unresolved problems.
I am a firm believer in setting goals and working to achieve them. However, goals need to be flexible and realistic, especially when you are a parent. Without realizing it, some of my goals have gotten too rigid.
I am the mother of four children ages 4 – 12, who are out of school for the summer. Is it a realistic goal for me to work uninterrupted for two hours straight? The correct answer is – no. Logically, I realize the absurdity of my goal but I have a hard time letting it go. By having that goal, I’m setting myself up for failure and, you guessed it, frustration.
When you feel your frustration starting to build, it’s time to take a step back and reevaluate your goals. What is it that you want to happen? Is it a clean house, children that don’t fight, or a few quiet moments to yourself?
Personal goals can build frustration as well. I’m working on a healthy eating challenge but I just returned from a family reunion. There’s not a lot of healthy eating going on vacation my friends. Why in the world did I think I’d be able to stick it out while on vacation? All I needed to do was adjust my expectations and I would have been a whole lot happier with myself.
We need goals to progress but keep in mind that there will be setbacks. There will be times that your goals are going have to be laid aside, like when you go on vacation. Setbacks are normal. Expect them and you’ll be happier.
We all have expectations. Whether you realize it or not, you have expectations for yourself, your children, spouse, friends, and perfect strangers that you meet at the grocery store.
When I see someone giving me a dirty look in the grocery store because my son is having a meltdown, it makes me angry. Why? Because I expect that people will have a little understanding when it comes to children, but sometimes they don’t.
Building patience is a long-term goal that I have set for myself. I desperately want to be a patient mom. In my efforts to develop more patience, I expect that I will keep my temper under control when dealing with my children.
In reality, all it takes is two of my children turning into whining piles of goo because I asked them to put away their laundry to turn me into a ranting, soliloquizing monster mom. Yet, the lecturing doesn’t help. They don’t magically jump up off the floor, stop fighting, and suddenly realize that it is fair that they put away their own clothes. I expect logic to make them realize they are being silly, but it doesn’t work that way.
As parents, we have to reconsider our expectations on a daily basis because circumstances can change so quickly. If you ask your children to put away their laundry, you expect complaining. If you try to talk on the phone, you expect your children to start screaming like banshees or pestering you for a snack.
A change in expectations can alleviate some of the frustration. If I’m expecting a phone call or if I’m about to make a call, I need to remind my kids in advance that if they see me on the phone, they are not to interrupt. It doesn’t mean they won’t interrupt, but I’ve at least taken steps to prevent some of the frustration of talking on the phone.
When I bring them a basket of laundry to put away, I need to lay down the ground rules and let them know the consequences if there is fighting or an overabundance of complaining.
Having realistic expectations lessens feelings of failure, distress, and anger.
To address my lack of uninterrupted work time, I am changing to task based rather than time based goals. My overall goals for the day may be to complete three orders and write one blog post. That way when I get interrupted, I’ll still be on course for achieving my goal.
I’ve had to do some serious rethinking about my goals and expectations. It’s been a long process that has involved scripture study, prayer, tears, and long talks with my husband. Taking a step back to look at goals and expectations gives me the opportunity to readjust my perspective.
My perspective has been focused on day to day tasks that have built frustration but, when I look with a broader eternal perspective, those daily frustrations look and feel smaller. They lose their immediate importance. I start to see my daily struggles as part of a bigger, more beautiful picture; one that I am working to paint with the help of the Lord.
A realigned perspective has allowed me to see past the arguments over laundry, Legos spread from one end of the house to the other, and hours spent staring at a computer waiting for words to come.
Perspective allows me to see that parenting is a journey not a destination. I will probably never be perfectly patient, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have small victories like not yelling at my daughter when the entire family is waiting in the car while she does her hair.
When I look at it that way, I can find joy in the journey instead of frustration. Becoming a better wife, mom, or person in general isn’t a destination. It’s a process. As I keep that in mind, I feel the frustration subsiding, while my gratitude and faith increase.