5 (Realistic) New Year’s Resolutions for Parents

Realistic Resolutions for ParentsThe new year marks a time of new beginnings – a time for fresh starts, resolutions, and resets.

At least that’s how it goes in theory. In the reality of a parent’s life, however, the start of the new year can be a time of chaos. Kids who have been on winter break for two weeks have begun climbing the walls, amped up on Christmas candy and gift overload. In-laws have only just left after a *rewarding* (but two-days-too-long) visit. Christmas decorations have started to droop, and while the cat has removed most of the ornaments from the tree for you, you now have to locate them under the couch before you can store them safely away until next year.

Needless to say, the new year does not instantly cause a reboot of our lives. In fact, January 1 is really just another day filled with the same challenges, frustrations, and half-burnt out strings of lights we faced on December 31.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to make the changes we want to see. And truthfully, many of us truly like the idea of resolutions and the new year is an ideal starting point for implementing new behaviors, life strategies, and positive habits.

But when it comes to making resolutions, we tend to do so in a state of chaos. We aim high after a month over indulgences with our budgets, our eating, our drinking, and more. We take in the scenery around us and aim for a 180-degree turn about. Even if we start off strong in the new year, banishing junk food and sugars, getting up 30 minutes earlier, going to the gym several times a week; inevitably, our resolve starts to fade and real life takes over, thus starting the resolution cycle all over again.

The beauty of a new year is that even if we have failed in the preceding months, the world continues to spin on its axis, and before we know it, another fresh calendar lies open before us.

So let this year be different – don’t just make resolutions, make resolutions that will have a lasting impact on you and your family. This year, instead of focusing on reorganizing every closet in your house or fitting back in your high school prom dress (it’s not going to happen, sister. I hate to say it, but someone has to), strive to change the little things. Make adjustments to the way you interact with yourself and the world. Choose lifestyles rather than diets or fads. Alter the fabric of your communication starting with small threads, and see what sort of tapestry grows from the changes.

Everyone’s needs and desires are different and we all have a unique family dynamic for which we are responsible. Obviously, no static list of resolutions is going to serve every one. But we’d like to offer you a jumping off point. We’ve made our own list of resolutions for the coming year – and we’ve created it with achievable goals in mind. You’ll find that each of the following resolutions are based on the same basic tenets of your more traditional resolutions (lose weight, stop bad habits, get more organized, etc.), but with a few gentle shifts and some new perspectives on what the goal really is, we hope that you’ll find encouragement, hope, and just a little bit of motivation in the coming year!

1. Learn to love your body.

This does not mean that you can’t diet or exercise. In fact, diet and exercise are two of the most important aspects of loving your body. “Diet” (i.e., eat healthy) to restore health and energy with clean foods and wholesome choices. Exercise to build strength and endurance as a way of celebrating all that your body can do. But let go of numbers and ideals. Don’t make diet and exercise a means to an end, rather a way of existing in a healthy mental and physical space. With healthy habits, those pre-baby pants might just fit again – or they might not. But you’ll be happy either way.

 

2. Don’t put yourself down in front of your kids.

Don’t criticize yourself physically, don’t complain about what you don’t have, and don’t lament your failures out loud, because little people have big ears. They take in everything we say and use it as a means of informing their own sense of self. If you do choose to change your eating and exercise habits, don’t talk about it in front of your kids – unless it’s to reiterate how strong and healthy you feel because of the changes. If you’re having a bad day, speak only of the positive changes you’re going to make tomorrow. You’ll be amazed at how this small shift in perspective influences your kids, but also how quickly it turns your negative energy into a positive force.

 

3. Make self-care a priority (without feeling guilty!)

This is one of those things that we hear at every turn. “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Right? And it’s true. We wield a monumental influence over the mental state of our families. That’s not to say we can make everyone happy all the time or that we can’t have a bad day. But in the moments we find ourselves melting down, the sooner we can pull ourselves from the quick sand, the better everyone will be. Self-care is essential to this goal. Maybe it’s taking a hot bath before bed. Maybe it’s putting the kids in front of a 30-minute show so that we can do some yoga in the other room. Maybe it’s having a girls’ night out once a month. Whatever it is, identify your happy place and make it accessible. Let go of any guilt you might have. After all you do to ensure the happiness of your family, making yourself happy is the least you can do.

 

4. Give more.

As a parent, you’re probably reading that and thinking, “Are you kidding? All I DO is give.” And you’re right. You give endlessly, day in and day out, to your family and friends. If you work outside of the home, you also give to your job. If you stay home, you’re on the clock 24/7. But this is all inward giving – and it’s exhausting. In fact, most parents will agree that there are times when we feel we have nothing left TO give. This feeling can quickly turn into a pressure cooker of resentment and frustration.

So this year, consider turning your generosity of spirit and mind to the outside world. Find a charity or organization to volunteer with as a family, even if only once a year. Participate in a fundraiser for a cause that is meaningful to you. Keep a small stash of dollar bills in your wallet to give to the homeless person on the side of the road – better yet, give your kids the money and let them give it. Whatever it is, giving outwardly is one of the best ways to ensure that all the inward giving you do on a daily basis doesn’t become overwhelming. It will help you keep your perspective in check and your gratitude will grow exponentially.

 

5. Breathe deeply and often.

Again, a silly thing to resolve, right? But chances are, even at this very moment, if someone told you to take a deep breath, you would find that you are holding your breath ever so slightly. If someone told you to unclench your jaw, you would do so, not knowing that you had been doing it in the first place. The fact is, we get so caught up in getting through the day that we miss the moments. This year, when you find yourself stressed, stop and take several deep breaths. When the kids are driving you to the point of no return, do the old trick of counting to ten, taking a deep breath with each number. When you’re stuck reading “one more story” at bedtime, despite the piles of dishes and laundry that lie between you and your own bed, stop to breathe in the scent of that little one who looks to you as the sun in their tiny spinning cosmos. Breathe in every moment that you laugh or feel joy. Breathe in every moment that you feel pain, sadness, or despair. But just breathe. Make this the year that you don’t say, “I can’t believe how quickly it went by,” but instead, “I can’t believe how much I felt and experienced.” It’s a simple, and perhaps trite, resolution. But do it anyway. You won’t regret it.

This parenting gig isn’t easy and no amount of “resolve” will make it easier. But setting unattainable goals can only add to our sense of frustration and self-doubt. Change doesn’t come in single, spectacular explosions, but rather in small shifts to our daily interactions – both with ourselves and the outside world. And what we find is that by calming and centering ourselves, goals like fitness and organization become a by-product of a happier, healthier self.

No matter how you resolve to live in 2019, we hope that you’ll find joy, peace, and strength. We know how hard you work, we know all that you give, and we know that if anyone deserves a good year – it’s you. So hang in there and get ready for your best year yet.