I’m a planner at heart. I have a tendency to dream big and set lofty goals. New Year’s resolutions are no exception. The problem is, since becoming a mom, it’s pretty darn hard to come up with resolutions that I can actually keep. Kids have a tendency to squash any well-laid plans to smithereens.
I recently found a list of resolutions I made as a brand new mom, when my first son was almost a year old. My resolutions included, “Eat more whole, unprocessed foods, and feed them to the baby.” And here’s another gem: “Straighten up the baby’s toys twice a day, once after lunch and once before bed.”
Ummm, you can imagine how that all went down. My baby, who was pretty happy to eat mashed-up peas as an infant, flat-out rejected anything that wasn’t in the white bread family just a few months later. And soon after his 1st birthday, he started walking—and climbing—so the few little messes he made each day turned into 25 mini-volcanoes scattered throughout the house.
Now that I’m an older, wiser and more realistic mom, I know not to make resolutions that will be so easily broken. And I realize that in the grand scheme of things, things like perfect nutrition and neat houses don’t matter as much as happy moms and kids.
So here are some simple, realistic New Year’s resolutions that I think I can keep, and that everyone—especially my kids—will approve of:
1. Laugh More
I have learned that there is no way to survive parenthood without a sense of humor. Oh, there are things to take seriously. And there are times you need to weep, or scream. But most of the time, you just need to laugh it off. The fact that my 3-year-old strips down to his diaper as soon as we enter the house and then refuses to get dressed a half-hour later when we need to go out again is totally infuriating. But at the same time, it’s so ridiculous that it’s freaking hilarious. Last night, we walked into Grandma’s house, and he immediately stripped, throwing his shirt, pants and socks on her dining room table. I mean, you have to laugh, right?
2. Hug More
“Hug your kids,” everyone says. Well, duh. Most of us can’t get enough cuddles. But in the hustle and bustle of life, it’s hard to get down on your kid’s level and just go for a giant bear hug. This past fall, I noticed that my 8-year-old was becoming more distant. He’d come home from school, play his allotted 30 minutes of video games, then disappear into a book or his homework. When I asked him to come to dinner, he wouldn’t answer. When I raised my voice, he gave me the stink-eye. I realized that I was yelling orders at him from the other side of the house. So I started coming into the room he was in, sitting on the couch, and wrapping my arms around him while I spoke to him. It’s made a huge difference. I had forgotten about the power of touch, cuddles and connection. All kids need it, even the big ones.
3. Judge Less
We keep hearing about “the mommy wars” and how much we mothers judge each other. But I think our biggest critics are ourselves. I constantly catch myself doing it. Just yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t taken a shower in almost a week. This was a record for me, but rather than laugh it off (see No. 1), that stupid dialogue of critique started buzzing through my head: “You should stop putting the kids first and take care of yourself more,” and “The kids are cleaner than you are!” and “I bet the mothers at pickup notice your greasy hair,” and “I guess you’re just getting old and saggy so that that disheveled look just goes with the territory.” Why wouldn’t I just laugh, remember what an insane week it had been, and then just get into the damn shower? We moms need to cut ourselves lots of extra slack. We’re all just doing our best with what we’ve got. Can’t we all just stop it with the negative thoughts and self-criticism?
4. Lower Expectations and Embrace the Chaos
I recently decided that Mondays are always going to suck. My kids get jolted by the early morning rush and the long day ahead of them. They are cranky, and so am I. So on Mondays, I don’t expect them to be perfect. I don’t make many plans. I don’t cook a gourmet meal. I don’t expect to do my most energetic and thoughtful parenting. I just aim to get through the day alive. Once I set the bar that low, I noticed that Mondays were suddenly easier and less stressful. Parenting is all about expectation, right? If you expect your child to sleep through the night by X number of months (especially if your best friend’s baby did), you will fall into a panic when your ball of cuteness is still up every two hours for the next six months (I speak from experience—sigh). The same goes for every milestone and expectation you have. Expect your kids to do things their way, in their own time, and expect life to be a little crazy until they are much older (sometime before college would be awesome).
5. Make Self-Care a Priority
As with many moms, my world revolves around my kids. It feels like every single minute of my day is devoted to their care in some way. To an extent, that’s how it should be when they’re young. But if I don’t take care of myself too, I’m useless to everyone else. It’s not just about things like trying to fit in a shower more than once a week (but oh boy, I really shouldn’t wait that long again!). It’s really important for we moms to take time to do something that is completely for us, and us alone—something that reminds us of who we are at our core, who we were before there were little people at our feet 24 hours a day. For me, that’s making sure that I fit in a run a few times a week. Nope, not a run with the jogging stroller and a cranky toddler, but a run alone, headphones blaring my music, feet pounding the pavement, my heart beating out of my chest, and all those awesome endorphins flooding me from head to toe. I don’t expect to get a run in every day, but my goal for the new year is three runs a week, even if that means waking up early or—gasp!—putting my husband in charge of dinner when I bolt out the door.
It won’t be perfect: Parenthood—and life for that matter—rarely is. But I think these are some realistic New Year’s resolutions I can keep. And if not, I can at least make it a goal to take a shower more than once a week, right?! Here’s hoping.