Want vs. Expect

The Mrs. and I just got season four of Mad Men from Netflix. Needless to say, there are some aspects of Don Draper that I can totally relate to. I’m not the cheating, distant dad type, but I do relate to what I see as his internal struggle between who he really is, how he was raised, who he wants to be, and who he is expected to be (at home and in the office).

In the last episode we watched, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year”, Don has a conversation with a woman psychologist who had helped devise a test to help his firm gauge what their audience wants. He opted out of taking the test and she confronted him. In the conversation she said, “[Life is basically] What I want versus what is expected of me.” (or something to that degree). Don agreed and I think, so do I.

On and off I’ve struggled with this. I often know what’s expected of me—from my family, from work, from friends—and I usually know what I want. But the two, especially with seemingly always-increasing demands on my time, rarely seem to balance out; the expectations feel like they outweigh the wants and I get stuck in funkage.

Sometimes I get around this by staying up late. After the kids are in bed, and things are cleaned up, and preparations for the next day are somewhat done, I feel like I have space to do what I want. Only problem is, it’s usually fairly late in the evening and that first call from a kid in the middle of the night or early morning is already weighing on my mind.

So I’m curious, do you agree? Is life simply what we want versus what’s expected of us? How do you deal with this in your life? How do you balance the two?