Last night I went to bed with a sink full of dirty dishes. I saw them right before heading up to bed and begrudgingly rolled up my sleeves, knowing I needed to clear the battlefield before morning. But somewhere between turning the faucet and reaching for the soap I paused — exhausted. Instead of tackling the pile, I pushed my sleeves back down, walked upstairs, brushed my teeth, and went to sleep.
And this morning, I decided that after thirty-seven years, four kids, and one global pandemic, I am going to allow myself more moments of freedom, just like that one. This year I am taking back control, lowering the bar, and giving myself permission to live a guilt-free life. Starting today, I will no longer beat myself up when I do the following things:
On nights when cooking dinner for my four young kids feels like a mix of Minute to Win It and Jumanji, I will lovingly allow myself the freedom to call an audible. I will move forward with acceptance of who I really am: a woman who doesn’t cook casseroles and a mother whose children rarely get along at the dinner table. Here’s to having the local pizza joint on speed dial and allowing everyone to spread out and eat their meal independently.
Let my kids play hookie
The pandemic has been awful, but it did force a slowdown that offered gave me and my kids a new appreciation for the beauties of boredom and space.
Moving forward, I plan to give my kids a free pass (on occasion) when they want to skip a practice or take a mental health day from school. Don’t worry, I still understand the importance of commitments and consistency and attendance. But holy shit we have created pretty intense calendars for tiny brains and bodies, and I now feel passionate about giving them breaks — both mental and physical — when they need it.
Set boundaries and keep them
As a highly sensitive extroverted introvert, boundaries are my jam. I like to talk about ’em and I love to set them, but I am not typically super good at holding them — and I am definitely not great at dealing with their repercussions.
But in 2022, I know and value their importance. I better understand the fragility of life and normalcy, and I want to amplify my power of “no” to maximize my families’ happiness and my own sanity.
Ignore text messages
Listen, it’s rude and I know it. But I actually just cannot be so constantly available anymore. As a struggling phone addict working to set limits, I need to be absolved of response responsibility.
Because the truth is, sometimes I forget to respond, sometimes I don’t know how to respond, and sometimes I don’t fucking want to respond. Living in an age where everyone is fully accessible all the time is proving to be both anxiety provoking and downright annoying.
So, consider the silence my phone’s version of the AIM away message: “taking a mental health break be back later (maybe).”
Forgo my hosting responsibilities
Holiday gatherings and friendly cookouts beware: I have decided that gathering people is not my responsibility, and your heads are on the chopping block. While I wish I was a super chill host who can enjoy herself during the shindig (does that even exist?), I always end up running around flustered and frustrated, unable to soak in the joy of my kids. So while they are small (and maybe forever) I will take back those moments for my own, and I will only offer to host when it feels good.
Embrace the mom body
At this point in life, I spend far too much time fighting with space between my belly button and vagina and I, for one, am tired of it. At this point, the permanence of this pooch is now a reality and it’s about time I lay down my sword and offer her a hospitable home.
It is also important to recognize that no one is checking me out, and that my brain has much better, more important problems to solve. Plus, what a gift to give my daughters and a “fuck you” to give the patriarchy — acceptance of my lived, aging, life-bearing, flawed flesh!
Stop making excuses
I am not sure why I can’t decline an invitation with a simple “no thank you” and always opt for something like, “I can’t, my mom’s friend’s babysitter fell and I need to help drive her to the dentist.”
I think it is an attempt to not hurt the invitees' feelings, when really the “why” is likely better left unsaid. So this year I am trading the wild excuses for clear, unexplained RSVPs, giving myself permission to decline certain invitations based on gut feeling, anxiety, or laziness alone. Wow, I already feel lighter.
So, who’s with me?! Let’s all throw expectation and guilt to the wind in 2022 and give ourselves permission to be a little more free. Because the past couple of years have been hard, the world is still pretty upside down, momming is difficult as shit, and we all really deserve it.
Samm Burnham Davidson is an ex-lawyer mom of four who swears a lot. She lives in Beverly, Massachusetts.