Expectations At Work Versus Home
Establishing proper expectations is a key practice in navigating projects and relationships in business. Creating expectations for the manner and outcomes of interactions with your kids at home, though, can lead to disappointment.
Expectations for the sake of this discussion are not to be confused with establishing standards for your kid's behavior or having high-minded hopes for them. We should all want the absolute best for our kids and consciously work to provide structure, new teachable experiences, and unconditional love.
The parenting expectations being explored here are more about the fantasies we concoct in our own heads in anticipation of how a moment or event is going to unfold with our kids. Dropping these expectations is about reducing the time you are spending caught up in your own thought patterns. Instead, you honor the moment with presence and allow it to unfold, however it may go.
At work, there are the external expectations of clients, vendors, and strategic partners that need to be constantly read and possibly reset based on the current climate of a situation. This day-to-day management of expectations is done to ensure the long-term satisfaction within the relationship.
There are also the internal expectations of direct reports, team members, and subordinates that can often present an even trickier path to traverse. A path which is often bogged down with inner office politics, ego, and competition. It is a constant workplace dance that can be exhausting in consideration of the demands and personalities of the parties you are working to manage.
When it comes to parenting, though, especially for toddlers and preschool aged kids, there is only one set of expectations you have any shot of managing and those are of your own. Your kids are their own individual personalities with their own set of wants and needs. They are also tightly wound balls of emotion that can explosively react without logic or reason.
Adults in a work setting are playing out roles while operating off of societal queues and expected patterns of behavior. We can massage personalities and situations in our work life to help improve and shape the outcome for others, which ultimately brings success and joy to ourselves. There is little chance of shaping the expectations of your kids, leaving your own then, as the only expectations you have a shot at managing.
While managing your own expectations may sound like an obvious and sound practice for parenting success, I think it will ultimately fail you more often than not. Your best move is to rid yourself entirely of expectations and instead just value the time being spent together. In doing so you give yourself the best possible outcome for experiencing true joy, even in the face of an infamous toddler meltdown.
My Own Clark Griswold Moment
Expectations getting in the way of experiencing true joy with your kids can occur around something as simple as eating a meal together or as grand as celebrating them at their birthday party. I first encountered this phenomena when I took my son to his first professional sports game, which was a baseball game for my beloved Phillies.
This was back around his 2nd birthday. For days I had worked up a picture in my head of this pending seminal moment in our relationship that would forever bond us as lifelong Phillies faithful.
The day of the game we dressed him head to toe in Phillies garb. We drove to the stadium and I carried him through the parking lot, across the streets to the ballpark, through the throngs of the crowds, and up multiple pedestrian ramps to our upper-level seats.
The entire trek to our seats I beamed with pride while carrying my son, my fellow Phillies enthusiast, and brimmed with anticipation about this life-altering experience we were soon to undertake.
We made it to our seats and I exhaled a sigh of parenting victory as I gazed out over the park and took in the sights of my team getting set to take the field. In that exact moment, right as the game was setting to commence, my son turned to me and exclaimed only as a toddler could, "Daddy, I want to go home now".
I had set myself up to become the real-life Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Vacation. It was a teachable moment and it knocked some much-needed sense into my head. I needed to stop with the fantasies of fatherhood and instead just allow moments to unfold and honor them by being present.
A Surprise For A Toddler? Good Luck!
There are other subtle things I have picked up along the way as a new Dad to help allow my interactions with my son be more about the time spent together without the burden of expectations. I learned the hard way that the concept of surprises has been completely lost on my son. Attempts at surprises have only served to build up his energy. Energy that was then released through mini fits and being dramatically let down.
If you are a parent and innately knew to never bother with a surprise, no matter how small the gesture or moment may have been, you are admittedly a wiser being than me. I finally realized through multiple misfires that no matter what toy, outing, or gift that was awaiting my son after the build up it never delivered anything but disappointments.
As importantly for me to learn, my own passions and hobbies can be shared with my kid in hopes of sparking their interest, but I need to be prepared for him to not care in the least. His ability to sustain any level of care for what interests me may never meet the expectations I place on it. While these concepts may seem obvious to some, my desire as a father to passionately share the same interests with my son has gotten the better of my common sense at times.
Drop The Expectations For A Chance At True Joy
We can all easily get caught up in creating a scene in our head about how situations should unfold and even more precariously think how our kids should feel. We undoubtedly build up these expectations mainly through our desire to give our kids the best possible experiences in life, but must also recognize our own baggage can compound and heighten expectations as well.
As young parents when we engage with our kids we could potentially be looking for validation in an era of hyper-parenting. We could also be looking to avoid any form of pain or hurt. Tony Robbins notes that all actions we take as humans are done to either seek pleasure or avoid pain.
I know I can feel the weight of the world at times due to the unrelenting responsibility of having to actively parent a kid. Parenting has created some of the wildest emotional swings I have ever felt before in my life. It is helpful to be aware that our expectations as parents are mainly based out of desperately wanting the best for our kids, but on some level, we can be seeking to avoid hurt as well.
Getting trapped in the thought patterns of expectations does nothing but keep us from being truly present with our kids. When we engage with presence and awareness, as opposed to harboring preconceived outcomes, we can then allow the situation to just unfold and be, no matter what it will be.
So lose your expectations entirely. Drop them and place the emphasis on the time being spent instead. Under this pretext, joy can truly arise from any situation. You will be giving a gift to yourself and your kids.