Expectations. You’re better off without them.
So many times over the past four years, I have lived with expectations. Whether it was conscious or subconscious, they were there. Expectations for myself, like how I ‘should’ act or feel, or what a ‘normal/good’ widow would do. Expectations for others, believing that things wouldn’t eventually change when many of the people close to The Hubs said they would stay in our lives. Expectations for the future, in some ways just treading water in the present while constantly looking toward what is next: when will this all be over, when will the next chapter get here, what is coming and when will it start?
But having expectations only sets you up for failure.
If life has taught me anything, it’s that there is no way to know what is coming. If you get so caught up on what could or what you think should happen, on planning your life out, on behaving a certain way or expecting certain behavior from others, on waiting for the perfect moments to get here so you can do certain things…well, you might be waiting forever.
You’re better off without expectations. Does this mean we shouldn’t have standards, should stop striving, stop being motivated, turn off our ambition and sit back on the couch not caring about life? No. Not at all. But it’s important to realize that we aren’t in control, and no matter how much we prepare and hope for things to happen, it’s possible that life might have another plan.
So don’t set your expectations in stone. Don’t pin your happiness on those set things. Make sure they are fluid, or leave them out to shore altogether.
Besides, you never know.
It could be much more fun to discover the unexpected beauty that washes up at your feet. <3
This post is a response to the weekly Writer’s Workshop over at Mama’s Losin’ It!. Learn more about the ‘pretty much famous’ weekly prompts here. This week I chose: “You’re better off without it….”
Now that Little Man is the big five, I’ve been trying to give him a little more freedom (using an empty public restroom alone is so exciting!). I’ve also been giving him a little more responsibility. This is a great age when children are eager to learn and eager to please, and are beginning to form the foundation for lifelong habits. One of the things I’ve implemented with success is a chore and allowance system. I’ve had a few questions about it so I thought I’d share what we are doing. I am no expert, this is just what works for us and it is still fairly new so I am sure it will get tweaked as we go.
Little Man has always been my little helper and has regularly had small things he is expected to do around the house. So when deciding on official chores, I thought first about what he was already succeeding at. I wanted these goals to be attainable to give him a sense of accomplishments. However, I also thought about would stretch him and help me as well. There are many resources out there regarding age-appropriate chores than can assist you in determining what would be best for your kiddo. I ended up with six chores: making the bed, feeding the fish, setting the table, clearing the table, cleaning up toys, and making sure laundry is sorted properly. These are daily chores that he is expected to do simply as a “good citizen” member of the household. In addition, each week I might add on a few optional “extra jobs” he can complete to earn extra. These are things that might help me out that week, like taking down decorations or wiping down the windows.
Creating and Using a Chore Chart
When I started developing our chore chart, I looked around at so many lovely blogs and websites that shared their own kid’s chore systems for inspiration. After researching for a while and thinking I would have to make my own because none were just right, I stumbled across one at The Gilded Pear that was absolutely perfect for what I wanted! I figured rather than recreate the wheel, I would utilize the awesome chart she shared in her post about children’s allowances. (Thank you Leisha!) I chose the blue and green version and modified it to suit our needs. I keep it on the fridge (for now, eventually it will go on a clipboard so the kiddo can reach it himself) inside a clear page protector. I can mark it daily using a dry erase marker, and then erase it at the end of the week. I also store a Notes page on the flipside of the page protector that details the specifics of the chore and allowance system, so that grandparents or anyone that might stay with Little Man can refer to it if needed.
Determining Allowance Amount
I think is very personal to each family’s unique dynamics. You may find that your child is motivated by a small amount, or that you can afford to offer a larger amount. I did a little research on this as well, looking around various financial sites to see what was recommended. I ended up deciding to use the child’s age to determine earning power. So, since Little Man is five years old, he has the potential to earn $5. When he turns six, his allowance will increase to $6, and so on. Once he reaches teen years, I’ll likely reevaluate this depending on his maturity level, involvement in school/volunteerism/extracurriculars, driving status, etc. But for now, I anticipate this working well for many years.
Little Man is expected to complete all of his chores daily, Monday-Saturday, with Sunday free for resting. He earns check marks on his chore chart for each one he completes. At the end of the week, if he has received all of his check marks each day he has earned his allowance. If he misses any chores, his allowance is reduced by a certain amount per chore not completed. His allowance can be increased for that week by completing any “extra jobs” I might have for him. It can also be reduced for behavior. It is known that everyone is expected to be kind and respectful to each other in our household. I wasn’t sure how I was going to track this on the chart, but The Gilded Pear‘s chart integrated it in a fun way for kids. If there are repeated instances of disrespect or mean behavior, his chart is marked with frown faces. If he receives a certain number of frowns, he knows his allowance is forfeited for the week. (So far this hasn’t happened!)
Sunday is Pay Day, the kiddo’s favorite day haha. On Pay Day, Little Man and I sit down together and review his chart. We tally up how much he has earned from regular chores and extra jobs, and if necessary make any deductions. I also use this as a teaching opportunity, taking the time to talk about how proud I am of his responsibility or gently suggest corrections he can make for the upcoming week. Once the final amount has been reached, we bring out the Bank.
The Bank and Money Tracker
To make it a little more fun, I made a “family bank” that holds all of the money I use to pay out allowances. His eyes get so big when as he watches me open the bank and draw out dollar bills and quarters. :) We had a lot of fun creating our bank together. I used a simple office storage box from Target and let Little Man choose stickers to decorate it with. At the beginning of each month I pull out a few week’s worth of allowances (which I have factored into my monthly budget) in singles and put them in the bank. I wanted to teach Little Man about the importance of knowing where your money goes, so I also keep a Money Tracker sheet in the bank. I made a simple form that the kiddo and I use together to record how much he earns each week and what goes in and out of the bank. We also use this form to determine how his allowance is distributed among his three jars.
The Three Jar System
Another big lesson I wanted Little Man to learn is how to manage his money. Once again (noticing a trend here? yes, I love to research things!) I looked around quite a bit for inspiration on child-appropriate ways to teach money management. One of the first things I came upon was the Three Jar system, and I loved the idea behind it. This system divides the child’s allowance among three jars: spend, save, and share. The official Three Jar site uses an online program and has other specifics, but I wanted to tweak the idea to fit our family.
Since Little Man is motivated by visual reminders, I decided to use clear glass jars so he could see his earnings grow. I used some stickers that I let Little Man pick out and labeled the jars Spend, Save, and Give (rather than share, to really nail home the idea that we are giving not to receive anything in return).
Each week, his allowance is divided with 40% to Spend, 40% to Save, and 20% to Give (so with his $5 allowance, he gets $2 each to Spend and Save, and $2 to Give). This might sound too complicated for kids, but its pretty simple right now and as he gets older it will be great math practice. :) The Spend jar is his to do with as he wants. If he wants to spend each dollar on M&M’s the second he earns them, that is his choice. He earned it. If he wants to keep it in the jar to grow and buy a TV with it later, so be it. The Save jar is for savings only. Money is never removed from this year, with the exception of once a quarter or so when we will take it to the bank and deposit it in his savings account. The Give jar is money that is designated for others. He might use it to purchase a gift for someone or to donate somewhere.
Putting It All Together
It all sounds like a very complicated system when you type it out, but I promise it’s not. It has been working very smoothly and is already rewarding for Little Man and I both! He is motivated to work and is learning to be patient as he waits to earn his allowance each week. He is also learning about the value of money and buying things; his little eyes get big when he reads the prices on toys that he never noticed before. He is (slowly, haha) learning to weigh the benefits of immediate gratification (must buy this $1 piece of crap toy right.now. before my money burns a hole in my pocket) with the satisfaction of saving up to get what you really want (a $6 airplane is the goal of the past two weeks). It makes my heart swell as I see him contemplating ways he can use the money in his Give jar (I’ll buy Nana some pie! or give some toys to kids who don’t have any!). Yes, it adds a little more work to my day and week to supervise and administer the system, but it is negligible. Every time I see his face light up with satisfaction at checking off a chore or hear him ask if he can help me, every time I see him count out dollars on his tiny little fingers or scrawl his name across the top of his tracker in his little misshapen handwriting, I realize what an important foundation is being formed.
If you are looking to get started with a chore system, please check out the links I’ve listed throughout this post. Also, I’ve turned my Chore Chart and Allowance Notes as well as the Kids Money Tracker into free printables, so feel free to download them and use them if you’d like. Click on the images below to download a PDF. Easy-peasy! :)
. Do you implement a chore chart and allowance system in your home? What do you use?
Share in the comments!
Linked up at Polkadots on Parade
Aloe Blacc — Wake Me Up
Each week I share a currently meaningful or relevant song from my playlist. You can check out past Tuesday Tunes here. I love new music, so please share your favorite tunes in the comments or use the new the new weekly linky below! This is the first go at a weekly linkup, so please share! :)
Tuesday Tunes Weekly Link Up!
It may have been more than four years now, but there are still random occurrences that sucker-punch me in the gut. Like today.
I’ve kept The Hubs’ email account open for a few reasons I don’t need to go into. If I haven’t had to check it in a while, I try to sign in periodically to make sure the account doesn’t get purged. Today I realized it had been a while so I tried to log in. And what did Hotmail (or Live or Outlook or whatever it is now) greet me with?
“This user doesn’t exist.”
Thanks for rubbing it in, Hotmail.
I tried a few more times, googled a bit, and tried to use my horrible excuse for a memory to recall when I last accessed the account. Well, it turns out what felt like “a while” must have been a year because the account was deleted.
Punch in the gut. This happened to me with my old Hotmail account about a year or so ago. I had kept it active just so I could save all of the emails/pics/etc I had acquired from 2003 to 2007 before I switched to Gmail, but I let it go a little too long and Hotmail deleted it. I was devastated to lose it without a backup, so I vowed to be careful not to do the same with The Hubs’. Apparently I suck, because now all of his emails, all of our email traffic, everything from 2003 to the day before his death…six years of exchange…is GONE.
Gut punch, I tell ya.
It’s my own fault, so I can’t be too mad. (Although I really think they jumped the gun and it wasn’t quite a year. I mean c’mon, my godawful Yahoo account from high school is still active!) And since I don’t delete non-junk emails, if I really wanted to find something we exchanged between 2007-2009 I could find it in my Gmail. But still. That’s only two years. Just like that, another record of his existence = deleted. Gone.
Maybe it’s for the best. I can’t keep holding on to those types of things. It’s just material, and all of the important stuff is right in here *thumping my chest*. But it still sucks. Really sucks.
Back up your important emails, lovelies. <3
Welcome to the first installment of an 11-week-long series here on WSW called Helping Yourself Heal. In this series, we will be examining a set of practical steps that I have found to be helpful and relevant to the grief of a widow. (Read more about the origins of this list and my reasons for this series here.)
Each Sunday I’ll tackle one of the suggestions from the list, sharing the info from the original article as well as my own experiences and suggestions. I hope you’ll join me in examining how you can help yourself heal, and be sure to pass this along to anyone you may know who could benefit. <3
Suggestion #1 – Allow Yourself to Mourn
Your husband or wife has died. This was your companion, the person you shared your life with. If right now you are not sure of who you are, and you feel confused, that is appropriate because you have lost a part of yourself. When you experience the death of someone you love, live with, and depend on, feeling disoriented is natural.
You are now faced with the difficult but important need to mourn. Mourning is the open expression of your thoughts and feelings regarding the death of your spouse. It is an essential part of healing. [source]
Honestly, this is a doozy to start with, because it was probably one of the hardest ones for me implement. In fact, I still struggle with this.
From the very beginning, within a few short dazed and numb hours, I was required to start making decisions. These were huge choices, decisions no 25 year old should have to make, much less one who was in shock. Crucial decisions like if I should call my in-laws to give them news about their son since they couldn’t be reached, how quickly I could travel to meet my husband’s body as it touched onto American soil for the first time in six months, and what I wanted to do about a few finance things. More important decisions were looming: where to bury my husband, how to plan his funeral and arrangements, how to get home. I had to make a choice: fall apart, or go into “business mode” and shove the pain into a corner so I could take care of business. And while I’d much rather have given up in that moment, I didn’t. I put it all aside and focused solely on making the right choices, making my husband proud by honoring him in these final ways, doing things as I knew he would like them, and presenting him and his life in the best possible light.
Yet somehow, when all of the ‘stuff’ was over and I found myself back home facing what semblance of life I was left with, I never turned that “business mode” off. It was too painful to face the loss, it hurt too much to let myself mourn. So I stayed numb. I kept everything locked away. Avoidance became my coping mechanism.
I started this blog a little less than a year after The Hubs death as a way to write through my emotions. It was a start, but yet I still only faced my grief for those brief hours it took to write it down. The rest of my days and weeks were spent distracting myself and denying the mourning that I obviously desperately needed. And I’ve learned over these past four years, and especially in therapy recently, that avoiding the inevitable only makes it worse in the long run. The only way to grieve is to go through it. You can’t go around it, you can’t tread lightly on top of it, and you can’t ignore it.
It is so, so important that you allow yourself the time you need to mourn. If this means you need to be alone, do it. If it means you need someone around you all the time, do that. If it means you need to wear your PJs for a week straight while you watch old home movies and cry, then DO IT. Let all of those feelings come and soak them in. Your hurt is evidence of a love so important, so deep, so true. And mourning for the loss of a big piece of your heart is a display of that love. It is okay to let yourself cry in the Target aisle when you see your husband’s favorite candy, the one you purchased in bulk for his care package, because it feels like yesterday that he was asking you over the phone to pick some up while you were standing in that very aisle. It is okay to eat take out and not cook for a month (okay, a year) because every time you grab a pan it makes you think of cooking all of your favorite meals together. It is okay to sleep in his shirt, the worn out one he wore all the time, and to spray his cologne on it and close your eyes while you breathe deeply. It’s also okay to soak that shirt in your tears. Let it out. Let it go. It is okay. You are okay, no matter how you choose to mourn.
But please, let yourself mourn.
The only way out of that pain is to feel it.
Just remember the caveat to this step — you are not alone and this is not the end. I promise. While it is important to allow yourself to feel the pain of mourning, if that pain ever becomes too much to bear, please don’t give up. As much as it’s not possible to believe right now, the pain won’t be this overwhelmingly devastating forever. You will find healthy ways to cope and to release, and the ache of grief for your love will eventually become a comfortable partner rather than a crushing enemy. And until you get there — you are not alone. Reach out, there are widows out there who understand exactly how those breathtaking, out-of-body, disbelieving moments feel and we are here to help you through it. Send me a message, check out the Resources page for communities you can connect with, google ‘widow support’, search for a widow Facebook group (there are many!), call a hotline, whatever you need to do to connect with someone who understands.
Community creates hope. Hope brightens the light at the end of tunnel.
And there is a light. <3
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