I should

I had a hard day today. Not bad hard, just emotional and challenging hard.

I realized, with the help of my best friend, that I have some unrealistic expectations.

As a side note, do you have a best friend? I hope so. They are so wonderful and necessary. I adore my husband, and would probably call him my very best friend, but a girl friend is different. Today, without even knowing it, I needed my girl friend. I needed to be able to confess some things that only another mom and wife would understand.  And it helps that mine has known me since I was 18.

Back to my hard day.

It all started when we got on the subject of home school.  It is something our family has gone back and forth on and in thinking about next year with our oldest in first grade and gone every day for 7 hours has brought the idea back up. So I was just casually talking with my friend about my thoughts and got a little teary.  We moved on to another topic {or maybe just got interrupted by our little ones and their play-doh needs} when she said, “it seems like every time you talk about home schooling, you cry”.  Hmmm. She was right. WHY? And this led into quite the counseling session.

I cry because sometimes I feel like home school is the best option for our family. And yet, I am terrified of it. I don’t know how to do it; I’ve never seen it done; I don’t know how to teach one child while my three other are needing me; it is a huge sacrifice of my time and energy and I am not sure if I want to make it. I like {selfishly} the idea of sending my kids off to be taught by a teacher and play with friends while I get a little break. 

I feel disappointed in myself for feeling this way. I should be able to figure it out if it is the best for my children. I should be organized enough to do it. I should, I should, I should.

I should have a daily routine for my kids.

I should have a weekly meal plan and all the ingredients ready.

I should keep up with the laundry.

I should be up and dressed and ready before the kids wake.

I should exercise.

I should do my bible study first thing in the morning.

I should keep the house clean{er}.

I should send birthday cards.

I should stop eating anything with sugar in it.

I should call my friends more often.

I should have all our photos organized and made into albums.

I should mop my kitchen floor.

I should teach the boys scripture.

I should play with them more.

I should. I should. I should.

I was trying to write out some of these thoughts earlier tonight and Audrey just didn’t want me to put her down. I should have been processing, coming up with a list of unrealistic expectations and figuring out a solution so that I don’t feel so overwhelmed. But what I needed to do was hold my baby.  And she was so sweet, just looking at me and studying my face.  What really is more valuable?

I’m not sure where all of these expectations come from. I don’t have one particular person in mind that I’m trying to measure up to. I think I just take the culmination of everything I hear another mom doing and think I should be doing the same.  My friend Jen takes her kids on daily walks, so I suddenly feel like I am less of a mom for not doing the same. My friend K.C. makes really healthy {and tasty} food for her family. Amy is a photographer and takes amazing photos of her kids and has some really great traditions centered on family photos.  Nicole loves the Lord, talks about Him whenever she can and is beautifully dressed everyday.  Rae is always designing something more darling than before.  Annie has a gorgeous home, adores her kids and can’t wait for them to wake from their naps.  The list could go on and on. 

Sometimes I just don’t feel like I measure up.

And the worst of it is, the only one telling me this is me.

These are all expectations that I am creating for myself, all the while feeling like if I don’t do this, Ryan will be disappointed. If I don’t do that, my children will somehow suffer.

My girl friend reminded me of two things:

1. This has always been my struggle.  I create these lofty expectations and then get really burdened when I can’t meet them. It happened when she first met me and its happening now.  Striving for perfection is not a fun problem to have.

2. This is not what the Lord thinks of me.  He is not shaking his finger at me telling me I should do a better job of keeping the kitchen floor picked up. Nor is it what my husband or children or friends think of me.  Don’t get me wrong, I can be a better wife, a better mom, a better friend.  There is always room for improvement and I am all about continuing to learn and grow. My problem is that when I feel like I have so many shoulds, I get overwhelmed, stuck and so afraid of failing or disappointing, that I don’t even try.

And I’ll add one more:

I did have a baby two weeks ago.

My sweet girl eats so often during the day that I’ve spent more time sitting on the couch in her short lifetime than I have in months. All that downtime has made me feel unproductive.  I am not sleeping as much as usual, so my motivation and energy level is slightly lower than normal.  And I do have three other children.

I should probably cut myself a little slack.

So Audrey’s nursery is not done. She is healthy.

So the laundry is heaped in baskets, still unfolded.  We have clothes.

So I haven’t written thank you cards for all the meals we’ve eaten these past two weeks.  My friends understand.

I’m going to work on getting more organized, especially with meals and our daily schedule.  I’m going to create a list of what is important to me and what kind of wife and mom and woman I want to be.  It is good for me to regroup, set new goals and try to improve on myself.

But I’m also going to remember that no amount of striving will earn greater love. My kids just want to hang out with me. My husband has already chosen me. And, most of all, my Heavenly Father takes me just as I am and fills in my many gaps with His grace.  How amazing is that?


  1. Hi, there! This is the first time I've read your blog - a relative sent me this post because it sounded familiar to her...this post - well, it's as if I wrote it myself. I'm exactly like this! So, I have no words of wisdom for you since I'm the same way, but it's nice to know there is someone else like me. Also, - congrats on your new baby! Your family sounds amazing :)

  2. Oh sweetie, I feel your pain. We have all been there and you will be there again. I have grown to find out that guess what, OK is good enough on the material things. As far as the children the most important thing is to teach them to love. You do that daily by the way you love each of them and your husband but most importantly how you love your heavenly father. God gave you this life to enjoy. Enjoy it. It is all about balance. I would imagine if you wrote down everything you did in a day you would be shocked at how much you are doing. It also helps to see where balancing needs to take place. You have a lot on your plate right now. If the kids have food and clothing for the next day, You are good to go. Anything else at this point is an extra. You are doing wonderfully and remember you are doing more than enough. Look to what God wants you to be not what your friends are. It will never be about the stuff when it is all said and done it will be about how we made people feel. Remember it is all about the LOVE and it sounds to me like you do plenty of that. I hope today is a better day for you,Kathysue

  3. Just saw this today and thought of your post.

  4. Dear Emily, We are soul mates. Or twins. Or have the same weaknesses that the enemy uses to distract us. Just last night I was describing most of the same woes to my bf. And how thankful I am that I have her and that she loves me and she loves the Lord. If I may, I wanted to share two things that have made a difference in my life in some of the areas you listed. 1. There's a book called Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy DeMoss. It's packed full of potent Scripture that speaks truth on many of the issues you mentioned today. It's something I refer to often, and pass along to many friends. 2. e-mealz.com No kidding the best {tiny} investment I've made. Check it out.

    Hold onto the Lord's peace ... and hold onto that baby! She'll be too big and too busy for that before you know it. : )

  5. Amy at Lake Country House9.3.10

    After each of my 3 babies i had a "i can't do it all/i am not good enough meltdown". This too shall pass, give yourself the much needed time to focus on that baby. You sound alot like me and the "i should" thinking. Your doing as good if not better than every other mom! Keep it up! Love your kitchen pics by the way!

  6. Its amazing. Just found your blog and refreshed by your honesty and realness. In our weakest moments, the Lord really hones us!

  7. Anonymous9.3.10

    Hi Emily! I read your blog almost daily (even when I'm supposed to be working!) - my name is Lynn and I'm friends with your sister Amy (she sent me your blog site). I don't normally comment on blogs, but your comment from last night completely struck home for me. I put ALL the same expectations on myself, trying to measure up to not just the people I know but the crazy blog sites I read as well. Talk about unrealistic. I found that I try to pass this off as the best way to take care of my husband/child/family/parents, etc. But the reality I discovered only just recently is that I'm really doing these things for myself - to ease my own guilt and sense of what everyone around me needs. They would all be perfectly happy with the chaos if it meant more time with them. I hope we are both able to learn to balance not only the expectations that we put on ourself for our own needs with the actual needs of our families - instead of creating an endless list of unrealistic expectations that can do nothing more than let us down.

  8. Wow, thanks for sharing. I just started reading your blog, and if you and Nell Ann are twins, I am your triplet sister :) I have two kids, a 2 1/2 year old and a 4 month old, and believe it or not, I was reading this thinking, "I feel the same way, but wow, she has four kids, I'm such a wimp!" Please know that all of us little perfectionists out there feel the same way!

  9. Pretty amazing Emily. Thanks for the this post, I think so many of us can relate and struggle, we all need to cut ourselves a little slack. Your honesty is inspiring and makes me know that you are a good momma and wife and friend, always remember that!

  10. em, it is so exciting to see how you are touching so many women's lives. so proud of you and honored to be your friend. xo rae

  11. try having an older sister who is godly, wise, selfless, patient beyond patient, sensitive, hilarious, a good listener, an encourager, non-judgemental, gorgeous, skinny (as in, wears your jeans that you can't fit back into after baby #1 as her MATERNITY jeans!), the most creative person you know, has the coolest house you've been in with the most amazing decorations, and on top of it all she has FOUR kids! try that!

  12. Emily, I think its a disease of motherhood. Comparison. Even if you struggled with perfectionism before motherhood...once that little one arrives, its like we are bound to a new standard of doing it 'right'. I too, have many friends that I 'compare' myself too. We are pretty real with each other but still, its a conscious effort every day to be who God created me to be and nothing else. I think with each child I've gained a new security in who I am as 'mom' but again its a daily struggle. i don't know one other mom who hasn't felt the same way. On the school end... Instead of homeschooling it is christian private vs public school that is my guilty battle of figuring out what is the right decision. Lord knows, I am not cut out to home school and I have no problem owning that...it would be disastrous from all counts. :) I've come to realize there is no one 'right' way for their education and character development. God's hand is directing each step. God give us strength as we navigate this crazy journey called 'motherhood'. Enjoy your babies.

  13. Emily - I know exactly where you are! ESPECIALLY with home schooling! I am doing research out the wazoo right now about it (for our daughter's 2nd grade next year....) and I struggle with the 'should's'...OH - and the guilt of spending the entire day with her!

    I will be praying for you when I struggle, it will get me out of the downward spiral that I tend to get into! I love how you ended the post, tending to sweet Audrey's needs.

    Sending hugs and prayers.... xoxo

  14. Thank you so much for posting this - you put into words so eloquently what I have been feeling for a long time. I so appreciate the fact that you shared this - thank you!

  15. I could have written this post. Except that, I didn't have a precious baby two weeks ago. You did. Anyway, isn't it nice to know we aren't alone? :)

  16. Hi there! I am a new reader of your blog and thought I would pop in to say hello. :) This post really struck me this morning. I was reading it as I was nursing my new little guy (4.5 months) and found myself identifying with everything you said. I am a very goal oriented person and it has been hard for me to adjust to having two kids under the age of two and letting go of that to-do list sometimes, or having it take three times as long to complete a task that used to be a snap. I just can't imagine how you are able to do it with FOUR little hearts, minds and bodies to take care of. So I just wanted to say I hear you, I relate, and God Bless You! :)


  17. Em,
    first- thanks for being the crash test dummy for the unknown world of home schooling. By the time you have it all figured out Samuel will be school age!
    second- i completely understand the, setting your expectations so high they are unachievable. In my case, and probably many others, YOU, friend are the unachievable expectations. Seriously, we've all seen your house, your style is perfection, and your wisdom is deep. And you have more creativity in your slender pinky than I could dream. So thanks, a lot.
    The things I love a MOST about you: Your faith and spirit are refreshingly focused on the Father. Your kitchen floor needs to be mopped. You love sweets. You love "quiet time". You are a real and authentic wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend.
    PS If you give up sugar you will have an anxiety attack- trust me, it is just not natural. On the way home from your house, we stopped at Safeway and bought brownies and ice cream! So there, take that one off your list :)

  18. Wow, your 'should' list reads just like mine. You are not alone. I am not alone. It is refreshing to read about real lives out there in blogger world. Too many picture perfect magazine homes and 'look at how perfect my life is' can play with a girl's mind. Sitting and holding your sweet baby girl is right where you needed to be yesterday. Those floors aren't going anywhere.

  19. You are not alone! I have some (most) of the same feelings. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  20. I think moms with newborns need to give themselves a pass. Really the first two months are just about adjusting to that new little life in your family. As long as the family is fed and has clean clothes to wear the rest will sort itself out. Try and keep your kitchen clean and the laundry clean and let everything else go for the time being. You must be sleep deprived and it is more important for you to rest than clean right now. Good luck!

  21. I just want to say that YOU are not the one telling yourself what you "should" be doing. Those are lies from the enemy and they should be sent back where they came from!

  22. I know this post is quite a few months old, but just have to comment. I just found your blog today and haven't been able to stop going through your archives. Emily, I can't express how much this post blesses me. I've been so bogged down the last couple weeks with the ongoing mental list of things I know I should do and was just thinking this morning of how great life would be if I could just find it within myself to do them all. And, like you, I have a well known problem of setting my goals and expectations way high and rarely ever meeting them. Thank you for reminding me to count my blessings and that God does not expect perfection, just simple devotion. His grace is truely sufficient.

    Thank you, Katie