A while a go I wrote about idealism, expectations, marriage & parenting. This is kind of part 2. Read “part 1” here.
Making idealism work is the tricky part of the equation, but even as a realist I value a bit of idealism. Appreciating what I have and managing unrealistic expectations allows me to be rationally idealistic - it allows me to look to the future with hope.
Managing the unreasonable expectations is key. As I move through life it’s easy to see what others have or do without expecting the same of myself. Understanding when I am having unrealistic expectations - of myself and my role as a parent, comparing myself to the images that other moms put out there - can free me from a lot of crazy-making thinking.
When I start thinking that others have seemingly perfect lives, have it all “together” can manage better than I can, I have to remind myself that what I am seeing is their public persona, not the reality. Other people certainly have struggles that I don’t see - debt, time constraints, relationship issues. Some may have benefits that I don’t have - wealth, full-time childcare, household help. We have all made different choices, are working with different opportunities, and have different values. Appreciating what I have reminds me that my values are driving my decision making, and that I don’t have to “keep up” or “do it all”. It allows me to be thankful and at peace rather than feeling inadequate or unfortunate.
Creating a mission statement for my family and making it visible centers me in my decisions every day. When I make values-based decisions that put me “behind” - like choosing to save money, not go on vacation, not buy a brand new car or a house we can’t afford - having those reminders of my values makes me feel at peace with my decisions. I need that constant reminder, because I am constantly barraged by expectations of myself that are unrealistic.
My own brand of optimism comes from creating my core values, writing them down, looking at them, reminding myself that my daily decisions are influenced by and small steps toward the life I am trying to build. Instead of wondering how other people can be so far “ahead”, I can see my goals right on the wall in front of me and know that I am working toward them with intention.
Of course I am influenced by what I see around me - the media, friends, family, neighbors. But I have to create expectations that are in line with my values, my life and what i know about myself. I can create a culture of healthy and attainable optimism in my home by managing those expectations and having a constant visual reminder of where I am going - a touchstone - to assure myself that I am not falling behind but actually getting myself ahead.
What helps you make idealism work?