Keeping the Peace at Christmas Part 2 – Managing Unrealistic Expectations of Yourself

So, funny story. When Mikel and I got married, I wanted to be a good wife. Who doesn’t? My idea of a “good wife” was someone who made a big breakfast every morning, like my Grandma Broadway. The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, right?

So I got up early every morning and did just that. Eggs. Bacon. Toast. Home fries. Orange juice. The works. If I was feeling especially inspired, I’d make pancakes too.

About a month into our marriage, he looked at me over his bacon and said, “Ummm…honey. I don’t really eat breakfast.”


I didn’t eat like that. All that work was a labor of love for my husband and he was forcing it down as a labor of love for me. We laugh about it now, but…..

No one told me a good wife cooks breakfast every day. Mikel never asked me to cook breakfast. That was something I came up with all by my lonesome. And in our case, it was so, so, so wrong.

We all set unrealistic expectations for ourselves. And they’re especially ramped up at Christmas, aren’t they?

It’s my experience that these nasty little buggers come from comparison. This is how my grandma did it. This is what my friends do. I’ve always done it this way. The Pinterest lady had this perfect.

Nothing steals peace faster than “I have to’s” and “I’ll never’s” and “I can’t keep up’s” and “I’ve always done’s.” Let’s not forget the ever popular, “Why can’t I be like them?”

The way to keep our peace at Christmas is to manage the expectations we set for ourselves. And we need to keep those based in reality.

These are a few of my unrealistic expectations just from this year:

  • I have to bake 13 different kinds of cookies because I always have and I always take them to family events.
  • I’ll never get all the shopping and wrapping done.
  • I can’t keep up with the extra Christmas tasks AND my cleaning and cooking and laundry. It all has to stay done at all times. Nothing can give.
  • I’ve always given cinnamon rolls to our neighbors and friends. That’s 8 batches at 3 hours a pop. They must expect it now.
  • That family does so many traditions at Christmas – advent adventures every night, candlelight dinner with the family, driving around looking at Christmas lights – we’re rarely home together in December and Taco Bell is considered a home-cooked meal. My kids are deprived. I’m sure they feel neglected. I’m a horrible mom. Why can’t I be like her?

There are more, but I’ll spare you the drama.

Unrealistic expectations. Limits and goals we set for ourselves that aren’t based in reality.

This is reality:

  • The world won’t stop spinning if I only make 4 kinds of cookies and take smaller trays to our parties. I’m sure they’ll still get eaten.
  • The shopping and wrapping got done with days to spare.
  • My house doesn’t have to be perfectly clean all the time for me to be a good person. It’s okay to let the dusting go so I can shop and wrap. It’ll get done eventually.
  • My neighbors won’t cease to exist if they don’t get cinnamon rolls this year. I’m sure they enjoy them when we give them, but life will go on if we don’t.
  • My kids feeling neglected. That was a big one. I actually asked them if it was true. And they said no. They don’t. Not at all. They like the traditions we do have, so we’re good doing life the way we do it.

Newsflash: There is no perfect one way to do it. No perfect mom. Or dad. Or husband or wife or friend or daughter.

There is only being the best you that you can be. And that’s easier to do when we allow ourselves to be human and keep our expectations based in reality.

Life changes. Seasons change. I was home more when the kids were toddlers, so I could bake and clean all I wanted. It’s not the same in their teen years, and there are just some things you can’t get done sitting at a band concert or swim practice.

In five short years, they’ll all be graduated and off to college and I’ll have all the time in the world.

And I doubt when we gather at the table ten years from now and talk about Christmases past they’ll say, “Remember in 2016 when you only made 4 kinds of cookies, mom? That was the worst year ever!”

But they will remember if their mother was a crazed lunatic because she set expectations for herself no human could meet.

Relax. Take a hard look at the expectations you set for yourself and ask some questions. Is it humanly possible? Is it based in comparison? In ten years, will this really matter? And then cut yourself some slack.

When I did that, I decided that it was more important to make memories than cookies, and that’s exactly what we’re striving to do. And it’s so much more peaceful.

What unrealistic expectations do you need to adjust today? Let them go. Trust me. It’s so much easier to keep the peace.

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