When it comes time to making New Year’s resolutions, the whole world feels open again: possibilities, a blank slate, starting clean! It gets me so excited (almost as excited as the start of a new school year, all those number 2 pencils waiting to write stories). I feel refreshed and ready to tackle the year.
But I have a confession to make: my resolutions don't involve my children.
I have two sons and I am sure there is a lot more I could be doing to be a better mother. I could feed them healthier food. I could be kinder and listen to their stories more often (even if their stories usually involve farting and/or burping). I could make them floss regularly.
Like I said, there is a lot I could do to be a better mother.
But on New Year’s my resolutions are always selfish. I think about me. Crazy? Perhaps. But perhaps not.
My kids get the vast majority of my time and energy – both physical and mental – nearly every part of my day. I am always thinking of and considering their needs. I read books related to parenting all the time. My husband and I are constantly talking about what is best for our kids. I frequently miss out on time at the gym because this one has a sniffle or that one has a cough.
Yet I have a blank slate right now.
On January 1st, I sit down and I think, “What do I want?” Followed up quickly with, “What do I need.”
Those are usually two different answers.
What I want is a nice, flat stomach. What I want is a better complexion. What I want is perfectly styled hair every time I go out in public.
What I need is time to pursue my hobbies. What I need is time to remind myself that I am more than my kids. What I need is time to take a step back from my children and be a wife again.
Here are the 5 things I need for myself in 2016:
1. To feel good about my body. This isn't working for an ideal weight. This is maintaining control of what goes in my mouth, being able to keep up with my kids on a bike ride and having more energy. A combination of exercise I love and eating healthy helps me get there. Also, this means no more procrastinating haircuts. The power of the haircut is transformative yet I always put it off. In 2016, I resolve to make me love my body.
2. To "date" my husband again. We used to do regular date nights (which, if I am honest, even that term irritates me - I want to have fun with my husband all the time, not just one allocated night). But we let the habit slip with a move, the holidays and two kids with their school and sports obligations. I don't think this resolution means blowing the bank on babysitters, movies and fancy meals out. At-home opportunities to reconnect are easy to come by, we just have to make them happen instead of turning on Seinfeld reruns or football games we don't really care about. I signed up for The Dating Divas lists and am ready to make 2016 about him...or, rather, us...
3. To see my friends more often...without kids. This is so hard to do as free time is a hot commodity. But this year I think the idea of joining book clubs, working out with my friends (anyone want to get together and train for a beginner's triathlon with me?) and planning a weekend away is going to get me there. Because during the week, at the end of a long day, I feel tired and burnt out. I rarely want to go out for drinks and food. But carving out special time to pursue things I love with people I love can only motivate me.
4. To pursue a non-paying passion. I love music. As a former ballerina, music is what drives me. I have dabbled in guitar playing and I also grew up playing the piano. Yet it is rare these days that I make time to play anything. In 2016, instead of checking Facebook on my phone before mealtime, I am going to play something - even if that means I only get five minutes. It is five minutes more than I had before. I want to enjoy something that isn't a competition, a requirement, a job. I don't want any expectations for it, I just want to enjoy it.
5. To continue to challenge myself to get "beyond the comfort zone" once a month. I didn't wait for January 1 to start this challenge and it has been amazing. It helps me combine and pursue the top four resolutions I have while also expanding my horizons and exposing myself to amazing experiences. I wanted to force myself to try new things, learn to embrace my life, take a situation where I was feeling sad and lonely and force a new perspective. Towards the end of 2015, I was feeling stagnant, but I realized it was my own fault. There is way too much fun, adventure, laughter and good people in the world for me to feel sad. Since I started my personal challenge, I have tried a beginners hip hop dance class, done a mud run, tried to go out in the city completely alone and stopped in at a local writers' support group. Not everything has worked out, but this challenge has helped me with everything on my list and I can't wait to see what I end up doing in 2016.
So, there they are, my 5 New Year's resolutions for 2016 that have nothing to do with my kids.
But here's the dirty little twist: it turns out that by making a New Year’s resolution that is for me it is, actually, for my kids, too.
When I get that time away, to reconnect with myself, life is better for everyone. It turns out that I am a better parent, I have more patience to listen to their stories and a burp story might actually make me laugh.
I'd like to add, in my defense, that I am not the only one who feels this way. Science supports me.
Christine Carter writes in her book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents: "Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective."
I want my children to be happy - I want to enjoy being a mother more and more every day. This means changing some habits and demonstrating what happiness is.
This is scary, as there are already so few hours in a day for me and already so many demands.
But Meg Meeker wrote in one of her inspirational books, The 10 Habits of Happy Mother s: "Freeing ourselves from some of the craziness that we have adopted means changing some habits. This is hard, but we can do it because we are mothers and doing hard things is what we're really good at. If we can endure pushing an eight-pound watermelon through an eight-inch opening we can do just about anything that we put our minds to. Anything."
So, moms, what will you be putting your minds to in 2016?