Parenting

Moms: Cut Yourself Some Slack. Don't Make New Year's Resolutions.

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Let’s be honest: does anyone actually keep their new year’s resolutions? I’m serious. Is there anyone at all who, on December 31st, is still doing whatever it was they resolved to do last January 1st? If so, I don’t want to meet her. She sounds annoying.

For the rest of us, New Year’s resolutions are just another way of torturing ourselves with guilt. We pick things we already feel guilty about not doing (like going to the gym, or eating healthy, or changing out of our pajamas once in a while. Whatever) and we say that in the new year we are suddenly going to start doing these things. And then we do them for about five minutes and then we stop. And we feel even more guilty about not doing them than we did before. Because we had resolved to do them! But we’re still not doing them. And look at how much we suck.

But, honestly, what made us think we were actually going to do these things? The whole point of choosing a New Year’s resolution is that the thing you are resolving to do is really, really hard for you. If it wasn’t, you’d be doing it already. Because it’s something you think you ought to be doing. But, for whatever reason, you can’t bring yourself to do it. The fact that the calendar reads January 1st isn’t going to make these things any easier to accomplish.

The list of things I wish I was doing differently is long. Like really, really long. And, if, like me, you’re a mom with a little one (or two, or three) at home, your list might look pretty similar to mine. I wish I exercised more (or at all). I wish I looked at my phone less. I wish I paid more attention to my appearance. I wish I cooked healthier meals for my family. I wish I kept my home cleaner. I wish I stayed in better touch with my friends far away. And on and on and on.

But, regardless of whether I resolve to do these things in the new year, I simply won’t do them. Because those things are hard. Not like, “oh boo hoo I can’t clean the bathroom today because I’m binge-watching watching ‘Game of Thrones’” hard. But like, “oh my God, I just cleaned the bathroom and now my son has peed all over the floor, the walls, and (somehow) the ceiling” hard.

See, I’m doing the best I can. And so, I assume, are you. We’re not slacking. We’re not sitting around eating bonbons and watching our favorite soap operas on television. We’re leading the often frustrating, usually hilarious, mostly rewarding lives of moms. And are there things we could do better? Sure, we’re only human. But for the most part, we’re pretty awesome when you get right down to it.

So if you must make New Year’s resolutions, try these on for size:

Resolve to cut yourself some slack. When you feel the inevitable mommy-guilt setting in, because you only fed your kid carbs today, or because you gave in to his tantrum and bought him the toy, or whatever, take a deep breath and remember you’re only human. Think about all the vegetables you have fed him (even if he didn’t eat them) and all the tantrums you’ve withstood. Remember that being a mom is hard, and that sometimes you’re not going to do it perfectly. Be kind to yourself.

Resolve to appreciate the ways that you’re successful. We all dwell on the things we’ve done wrong. The times when we yelled when we didn’t mean to, or kept everyone in their pajamas all day because it was just too much effort to go out. But we rarely pat ourselves on the back for the things we do (every single day) that keep this ship afloat. So, the next time you’re halfway back to the refrigerator before you realize that your kid just spontaneously thanked you for handing him his milk, give yourself a mental high five. It’s because of you that he’s such a polite little guy. A lot of the things that are going right are because of you. You’re the mom.

Resolve to allow yourself to check out. Obviously not while you’re crossing the street, or giving your kid a bath. But sometimes (or many times) throughout the day. Allow yourself to sit down on the couch and stare into space. Allow yourself to drink a cup of tea. Or flip through a catalog. Or check your email. Or only half-listen to what your kid is saying. Even if he’s whining. Even if he’s standing half an inch away from you and grinning. Whatever he’s doing. As long as he’s safe, if you need a minute, take it. I’m not talking about all the time. Or most of the time. Or much of the time at all, really. Just five minutes, here and there, to think your own thoughts, or no thoughts at all. You need that.

Resolve that, this year, instead of feeling guilty about all the things you’re not doing (and still aren’t doing even though you resolved you would), you’ll recognize the things you already are doing. Because there’s a lot of them. A whole heck of a lot. And that way, even if the house is kind of messy, and you’re slightly out of shape, and you’re serving frozen pizza for dinner tonight again, you’ll be happier. Which is a pretty good start.

Happy New Year.