With a new year on the horizon, I am already plotting all the New Year’s resolutions I want to make. I’m hoping to finally make a habit of drinking enough water every day. I want to keep reading every day, and finish at least four books per month. I’d like to kick my sugar habit to the point where I’m not a slave to my post-dinner chocolate cravings. And one of these years I swear I’m going to find a workout routine that I won’t quit after a month or two. In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit of a resolution junkie.
These are all resolutions I think will improve my life, but the truth is, they could simply leave me feeling like a miserable failure. Or perhaps they’ll boost my overall happiness, but maybe not as much as I’m hoping they will.
There are, however, a few resolutions I think every parent should keep in mind as they make their lists of New Year’s resolutions, because these ones are tried and true:
1. Go out without the guilt. I’ve often made the resolution to do a girls night once a month, and a date night once a month, and all sort of other calendar goals that tend to fall by the wayside throughout the year. It’s fine to set goals like these (putting something on the calendar will probably help you get out of the house), but when you do go out, leave the guilt at home. Don’t feel guilty about leaving your kids or abandoning your husband. Don’t feel guilty that you don’t get out often enough. Just be out in the world when you can and enjoy the hell out of it. You put on real pants for this, and you deserve to have fun.
2. Be open to change. Make all the parenting resolutions you want — limiting your kids’ screen time, going to the park every day, having a homemade family meal once a week — but above all, make the resolution to be open to change. You are not a failure if you find that a certain lofty goal doesn’t actually fit into your life. As you work towards finding a balance that’s right for you and your family, expect growth and change to throw you off the charted course.
3. Forgive yourself. I once made a New Year’s resolution to stop yelling at my kids. I have always wanted to be that calm, collected mom who speaks in gentle tones and can deal with three tantruming kids without losing her cool (she exists out there, right?). I have never been that mom. I am still not that mom. In fact, I made it all of eight hours before yelling at my kids that year, and then cried because what kind of a mom was I if I couldn’t even make it a day without yelling? Sometimes I’d make it a few days, but every time that dam of anger broke, I felt like a complete monster.
The truth was, beating myself up seemed to make me more likely to yell, because it put me on edge. It wasn’t until I learned to forgive myself for the mistakes I was making in parenting that I was able to make any progress. I still yell sometimes, but it doesn’t define my day anymore. I forgive myself, I ask my kids for forgiveness, and I try to do better next time.
4. Enjoy what you can. New Year’s resolutions are always about seizing the day and living your best life. It’s a noble goal to grab life by the horns and fully experience it, but it’s not realistic to think that you’ll be mindfully present for every moment with your kids, or that switching up some parenting habits here and there will leave you totally blissed out all the time. So instead of counting on your small lifestyle changes to carry you to nirvana, make a resolution to enjoy what you can, and know that you will survive the rest.