Stuck In Expectations

When I truly surrendered my life to Christ, my first child was already six years old. Like any mother, I had expectations of how I wanted this “parent/child thing” to go down. For example, expectations that my daughter would do well in school, be involved in music, sports and art, be perfectly polite and obedient in every way. That we would live life in peace and harmony. Once I became a Christian, I stepped up my game and read tons of books on parenting and my expectations increased – like if I did this formula and that one, I would produce this perfect Christian child. To my surprise, as I was striving away with my perfect expectations, it didn’t quite go as easily as planned. When we bring our preconceived expectations to the table of parenting, it is often met with the reality of parenting which can leave us feeling confused, guilty, short-changed, angry, sad, and even like a failure.

What is an expectation anyway? Defined, an expectation, “is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. A belief that someone will or should achieve something.” Our expectations come from our own experiences and desires as well as from other sources such as family and friends, and societal pressures and norms. There is nothing wrong with having expectations, however, when we can’t fit our expectations into the unique children that God has entrusted us with, then we find ourselves stuck and feeling inadequate. The feelings of “I can’t do this” creep in.

I believe there is a reason that God didn’t give us an exact formula in the Bible to follow on this parenting journey. Each child He creates is so unique that we can’t force a “one size fits all” approach to parenting. Yes, we should have expectations for our children but we need to shift the ones we have, to the ones God has for them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting goals as long as we are parenting the child we have and not the child we wish we had. What do I mean by that? I believe as we partner with God - He will show us the unique expectations He has for each of our children and that is where we, as parents, find our freedom to actually parent the child we have and not the one we wish we had. Ouch, that seems harsh right? However, it is true. At some point on your parenting journey, you have to face the reality of the children you were given by God to care for. They come in all kinds of packages.

We can spend years stuck in unmet expectations that leave us feeling empty or we can surrender our unique children to the Lord and ask what His expectations are for each child. I’ve learned with each child I've been given to lay down and surrender how I thought it should look like for what I had actually been given in order to walk in complete trust in God. When I traded my expectations for the expectancy of who He is and what He can do, then and only then, was I able to see that the journey with my children was exactly what He had planned all along.

I can speak from experience that the expectations I came to the table with ended up looking nothing like the journey I have actually experienced with my children. What do you do as a mother when you lose a child to death? When one of your children becomes worldly and rebellious? When you have one that has suffered with mental health issues? Are these the kind of expectations that we ever think we will live? Absolutely not! But yet, those have been my unique puzzle pieces that the Lord asked me to carry. Your pieces will be different. These are the types of places that can leave us paralyzed in fear, anger, grief, and feelings of failure. These are the places we get stuck in. These are the places that the enemy likes to whisper lies in.

The good news is if we trade how we thought it should look like for our actual reality, and let Jesus come in and equip us for our unique family, then we can experience growth, miracles, and freedom. Our job is to keep planting the seeds of truth and bringing our children to the source-which is Jesus. He has His plan on how that journey will look. We will see His expectations more clearly and seek what He is doing with what He entrusted us with. The miracles He pours out on us are always in the journey of where He is taking us. We get to experience His peace and goodness and see His hand work all things out for good.

To get unstuck from your expectations you have to surrender your unique puzzle to Jesus and trust in His perfect plan for each of your children - let Him define the expectations that He has for them as you partner with Him in love for your children - creating a beautiful story along the way. Trust the journey in faith and know that He has got this! We can go on some wild rides with our children, but in order to see them like He does, we have to surrender to the journey. Then we can enjoy this parenting thing and make it through the ups and downs. Hold up your parenting cup and let Him fill it in abundance. The best part is He is using your unique experiences to change you into who He wants you to be as well!


Heather Bradley

Hi! I’m Heather, just a girl in love with my Savior, Jesus! Married to the love of my life for over 24 years ....we have 4 children. We have lived all over the USA! A Texas girl at heart but loves the adventure of new places. We are homeschoolers and love to go on road trips and sight see! My heart is to help women be free in Christ by encouraging them to be defined by Christ and not their circumstances. One of my fondest memories  is being a part of the ONE Chapel Church plant in Austin!