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It’s not what I expected

Posted on Thursday, July 22, 2010 in dating, Divorce, Happiness, Honesty, Kat, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships

I was late, standing in line during my lunch hour to return a shirt The Kid spent about a half-second glancing at before making the most horribly disgusted look I’d ever see on his face, when the 6-year-old in front of me starting acting up.

“Please, Mommy. Please!” she cried as she waved a pink-boxed doll in her mother’s direction.

“Not today.”

“I WANT IT!” she screamed, and then took the box and smashed it into her mom’s leg.

Mom looked pretty horrified.

Of course, I can remember when Trent pulled similar antics on me. What parent — well, modern-day parent — hasn’t experienced that?

But that little scenario never crossed my mind when I was imagining what having a baby would be like. I thought about carefree days at the beach making sandcastles; baking chocolate chip cookies together; biking and hiking and exploring the wonders
of nature. I thought about the fun times. 

I never once imagined having a kid would involve meltdowns in the checkout line at
Target or sleepless nights holding a croupy
child in a steamy-hot bathroom or moments of sheer panic when he disappeared at the park
or how many times Rob and I were exhausted, pissed off, fought or were resentful over something related to The Kid.

And if I saw that happening to others, I thought, “It will be different for me.”

Yeah, right!

“Children may provide unrivaled moments
of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak,” writes Jennifer Senior in “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting.” “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.”

But, isn’t that the same for just about

When I met Rob, it was magical — we laughed,
we talked, we dreamed, we had great sex, we played so well together. “Oh, so that’s what we look like as a couple,” I thought.

Then we got married.

And a new couple emerged. It’s not what I expected. Resentment, frustration, anger, obliviousness — where did these things come from?

Then we had Trent. Again, a new couple, emerged, and a new me — me as Mom.

It’s not what I expected.

Then I got divorced.

During the confusing, painful months before and after our marriage busted up, I didn’t know what to expect — and that, oddly enough, made me open to the possibilities of what was, not what I thought it would be.

I had no expectations of what my future would be like; I had no friggin’ idea. It wasn’t part of the plan — you know, fall in love, get married, have kids, white-picket fenced house …  I had never been a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia. And so I never felt like something was wrong (well, despite my grieving over my marriage, which was fast becoming my past) or right. There was no road map to follow, no blueprint of what being a 40-something divorced mom of a kid in suburbia looked like.

Everyone talks about how having unrealistic expectations messes things up — dating, marriage, parenting — but it’s hard not to have any expectations. Still, the fewer we have, the happier we seem to be.

So, I realized you can take what Jennifer says about kids and replace it with whatever you’re struggling with and it still makes sense:

  • “Dating may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
  • “Marriage may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
  • “College may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”
  • “Work may provide moments of joy, but it also can provide moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak …”

Because we think we know what they “should” look like, and then we get disappointed when it differs from our expectations.

I had no expectations of divorced life, and, you know, it has moments of joy, frustration, anxiety, heartbreak. But, I am happier than I ever could have imagined. What do I make of that?

  • What have you ever gotten yourself into that you think, “Hmm, it’s not what I expected …”?
  • Have you ever gone into something with no expectations, and been happily surprised?

photo © Hotshoot –

Bring on the comments

  1. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf

    You point out some of the key problems with “shoulds,” around key events in our lives – marriage, children, divorce.

    Having been through all three (and I admit, with few expectations around motherhood), I find that I enter new relationships with relatively few expectations beyond going with my gut.

    It works better, for me. And probably for many of us for whom life looks nothing like what we anticipated.

    A very thoughtful post.

  2. Lifebeginsat30ty says:

    I make of it that anything that makes you that happy was a good decision 🙂 I feel the same way! I had no idea what to expect and it’s exactly what you said. It’s filled with all of those things, good and bad. Such is life. Glad to know someone else feels the same!

  3. Kat Wilder says:

    Life in a nutshell: It's not what I expected.

  4. Steve says:

    The inventor of cognitive therapy ( Dr. Albert Ellis ) believed that “shoulds”, making demands on the things *ought* to be was the primary cause of emotional disturbance. He borrowed the concept from Karen Horney ( no jokes! ).

    Dr. Ellis believed that if a person could convert their demands/expectations/shoulds into strong preferences then much of their distress about a particular situation could be relieved.

    Easier said than done!

  5. Lance says:

    What’s the nutshell reason you and hubby had a relationship switch post-marriage? My apologies if you’ve covered this in other posts. Why did the child-like playfulness and passion disappear?

  6. Honestly? Being divorced is not what I expected. While I wanted the divorce, I only saw the negative: what the boys would go through, being alone, etc. With the exception of recent events, it’s been much better than I thought it would be. My ex and I have been able to become friends.

  7. T
    Twitter: tsquest

    Oh I felt such release with this line, “Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.”

    Love this post, Kat. SO very true!

  8. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog

    A girlfriend once taught me that I should go through life without expectations, and I’ll be more content. She was right. Sadly, I learned the lesson after marriage, after kids, after divorce. But I learned it early enough to really enjoy parenting.

    Just saw my 4-y.o. nephew this past week, and so I can relate to the meltdown moments! He’s a great kid, and there weren’t too many. But there were some. I noticed, because my teens never meltdown or throw tantrums.

  9. Kat Wilder says:

    BLW — Yeah, our gut’s a good thing to rely on instead of our minds. Of course, the other I’ve gotten, I have a lot more gut than useful mind!

    Lifebeginsat30ty — Sure, anything that makes us happy is a good decision, as long we don’t cause leave too much damage it its wake.

    Steve — Dr. Ellis is a smart man. Even id we can’t do that all the time, it would eb great to at least have a consciousness about it.

    Lance — In a nutshell, dishonesty. He was still playful — just with other women! We still managed to have great sex throughout our marriage, although there were the usual slumps post-baby and etc. But, since sex is more in the mind than the genitals (once you’re past puberty, anyway), when the mind is clouded with bad feelings and disappointments, it’s hard to get all sexed up.

    Woman with Kids — I don’t recommend and encourage divorce, but for ma and many people I know, it hasn’t turned out too bad, either. But the kids always suffer in some ways. No way to avoid it. And that’s always the downside.

    T — That is a great line. I wish I wrote it! 😉

    Dads — At least the lesson was learned. Probably if someone tried to tell you that earlier, you — like most of us — wouldn’t have “gotten” it.