Have you ever felt caged in expectation?
We were new to town with a new baby and a new home. Every step into all of the new was a little scary and a lot overwhelming. I joined an organized mom’s group to have a place to go where I could meet other women and face the fact that my life had forever changed.
At one of my first meetings the kind leaders announced that a woman from the group just had a baby.
Well…that’s really nice, I managed to think as I looked down at my baby who was fussy (as usual). I anxiously bounced and hushed and pacified her so I could focus enough to engage in the moment. While I was scrambling around in the diaper bag, another kind woman in my group handed me a paper.
“When do you want to take a meal to this new mom? Our small group is responsible for eight of them.”
Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I stared at the list of open dates.
I can hardly put a meal on my own table – how will I put one on hers? I don’t even know her. I can’t believe they are making me do this!
I don’t remember if I actually took a meal to the young family or not. And now I am confident most of the moms there would not have thought poorly of me if I explained and passed the opportunity. But in that moment, I felt trapped. Overwhelm escalated to internal outrage and a strong desire to rebel against this external expectation. Inside, I beat on the walls that were pressing in on me.
There are all kinds of expectations and assumptions moms deal with on a daily basis. Family pulling for us to do this. Friends pressuring us to do that. Sometimes we know exactly what they want. Sometimes we make guesses and play mind games, trying to figure people out. In our heads we hear them say:
Don’t let us down.
Don’t question the status quo.
Work your way into the group.
Earn your keep.
You’re a bad person if you don’t.
There will always be expectations. They may be communicated explicitly or they may be implied. Sometimes they may be in our head. But the important thing to remember when you feel trapped is:
You always have a choice.
No one can make you do something you do not want to do.* You are a valuable and valued human being who gets to make choices – choices with consequences. When you and I act like we do not have a choice, we believe we are victims and we may become bitter toward those who hold us under their power. But we give others that power when we accept the pressure placed on us and lock ourselves in their cage of expectation.
You choose to stay or leave.
You choose to say no or yes.
The decision you make has consequences, so choose wisely. Choose intentionally. Put the pressure aside and think hard about what you most want to offer – what you most want to protect. And then own your decision.
So if I bring you a meal, rest easy and know this: I choose to do so because I want to.
*If you really are trapped and do not feel you are able to make choices for yourself, I encourage you to seek guidance from a professional. Tell a friend or someone you trust. You are valuable human being and you are worth it.