I love the promise of a new year—it’s an opportunity to make changes, big and small; a chance to pursue new goals and dreams; a fresh chapter in our life stories. And 2020 has been a wild one, so I know I’m not alone in saying we’re ready for a new year. Resolutions will likely look quite different this year. If you resolved to travel more or spend more time with friends in 2020, I’m guessing your 2021 resolutions will reflect a different theme.
In my 20s, I was the queen of resolutions, making long lists of ideas for self-improvement. “Lose weight” was always near the top, but time and again, I failed to achieve it. The year I actually lost it, I made a completely different resolution: “Stop dieting.” That was one resolution I could actually keep.
Mom life is tough enough, and mom life during a pandemic is another level. If you’re setting resolutions this year, go easy on yourself. Here are eight doable resolutions to consider as you enter the new year.
1. I resolve to put myself on “the list.”
You know, that to-do list that’s in your head, on your planner, or hanging on the refrigerator door (maybe all three!). As a default, many of us moms put ourselves at the bottom or leave ourselves off completely, whether we’re serving lunch to our kids then skipping our own, or replacing their outgrown clothes but continuing to wear torn-up sweats.
Try this achievable resolution: put yourself on your daily checklist, ideally near the top.
As you care for your littles’ meals, sleep, health, and play, keep tabs on yourself too. Check in with them, then check in with you: am I hungry or thirsty too? Do I also need a nap? (The answer is almost always yes).
What this looks like in practice: calling your kids’ pediatrician when they get sick AND calling your doctor to set up the annual checkup you’ve been avoiding. Scheduling a (virtual or socially distant) playdate for your toddler AND coordinating a special activity of your own with your partner. By prioritizing self-care, you’ll be better equipped to care for your kids.
2. I resolve to put down my phone.
Raise your hand if you’ve missed a moment with your kids because you were too busy doing something on your phone. OK, I think that’s all of us here. Now raise it if you’ve captured an awesome moment of their life on camera because you had your phone handy. Yeah, us too.
We all want to be on our phones less often and spend more time with family. Yet, actually putting this into action is hard. In this digital world where we share and do so much with our phones, how do we find balance?
This year, simply resolve to put down your phone more often. An easy way to accomplish this is by tracking screen time using an app (try Moment) or your phone’s settings. The idea is to let the adage, “You manage what you measure,” work its magic. As you track your behavior, you’ll likely notice trends, which will then allow you to adapt and (hopefully) rein in excessive screen time. Some tools allow you to set limits for time spent on certain apps and even “lock” them after you’ve spent your allotted time there.
Becoming aware of your phone use will make you more inclined to set it down and be more present with your kids IRL.
3. I resolve to accept the mess.
I’ll double-tap a darling nursery on Instagram all day, but if I’m being honest, my toddler’s playroom looks neat… rarely. I clean up blocks, cars, and stuffed animals, then he comes right behind me and scatters them. After connecting with my mama friends, this is what I’ve come to realize: no matter what you see online, the mess is normal!
What would happen if, this year, you resolved to be more accepting of this truth?
Psychiatrist Alexandra Sacks M.D., an expert on women’s developmental transition into motherhood, says experienced mothers will tell new moms, “‘You’re going to have to get comfortable with things being a little messy.’ And we mean literally and figuratively.” Motherhood not only brings on a barrage of clutter, spit-up, and blow-outs; it also brings forth our own messy feelings of angst, anger, guilt, shame, and confusion.
In her work, Sacks discusses how mothers can shift their perspective so that they can be more honest with themselves about the messiness of motherhood. For example, let’s say you’re walking out the door and your child vomits everywhere. You might feel annoyed/concerned/angry, but if you find yourself panicking, try to remind yourself that experiences like this are normal, especially in new motherhood. It may be calming to remind yourself that even if you feel out of control, you’re not doing anything wrong, Sacks says.
How would it feel to just accept the mess—the one in our homes and in our hearts? Maybe a little like freedom.
4. I resolve to lean into fun.
The other night, my son was having the best time playing with snow in our backyard. Yet, I struggled to enjoy it because all I could think about was getting him inside in time for bedtime, which was quickly approaching. Looking back, it feels like I missed an opportunity. Rather enjoy the fun with my son, I watched him from a distance, and while doing so, I felt disengaged and anxious.
Children remind us there’s fun at every turn, but sometimes we’re so caught up in maintaining order that we miss chances to join their wonder and delight in the world around us.
Have you ever had this experience? Children remind us there’s fun at every turn, but sometimes we’re so caught up in maintaining order that we miss chances to join their wonder and delight in the world around us.
Sometimes you gotta be the grown-up, and sometimes you just need to play in the snow with your kids. This year, don’t be afraid to lean into the fun—and in doing so, embrace the joy of motherhood.
5. I resolve to let go of perfect.
Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all have some vision of the “perfect” mom in our heads. Oftentimes, in motherhood when we feel like we’re failing, it’s because we’re not living up to the high—dare I say impossible—standards we set for ourselves in our quest for perfection. Why not resolve to let go of “perfect”?
Happiness author Gretchen Rubin has an expression that I find myself turning to again and again in motherhood: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” It means sometimes to get a task done, you may have to abandon your ideal vision for it rather than not do it at all.
When my son was starting solids, I decided he would NOT eat the purees at his daycare. I’d read the brand they used contained trace amounts of lead, so I vowed to puree all his food and make sure it was organic. Three weeks in, with a dirty food processor and those little puree pods on top of dirty bottles on top of pumping parts to wash, I realized that might be a tad unrealistic. I didn’t want to let down my son, but all those dishes were making me crazy. Finally, I changed course. My son ate store-bought organic purees—and he was fine.
In this new year, consider how you allow your version of perfect motherhood to be the enemy of the good. Are there ways to rethink or abandon your visions and replace them with something that’s just good?
6. I resolve to treat my body with kindness.
Body image is an issue many women struggle with before, during, and after pregnancy. From girlhood to womanhood, we’re bombarded with messages from the media and society, telling us our worth is rooted in our appearance. It’s no wonder we’re trained to look in the mirror and criticize our bodies, making plans to exercise more or eat less in order to achieve a more “desirable” shape.
I’m calling B.S. on this. Instead of worrying about fitting into your pre-baby jeans this year, resolve to be kind to the body you have right now.
What this looks like is exercising because it feels good to move, not to punish your body. It means eating more whole foods not because they’re part of some system or regimented diet but because they make your tummy happy. It means savoring a slice of pizza or a bowl of ice cream without guilt. It means actually stopping to rest and take a nap when the baby’s napping because our adult bodies crave rest just as much as little ones do.
When we’re kind to our bodies we set a good example to our children, who learn from us that what matters most isn’t how we look but how we feel inside.
7. I resolve to leave space on my calendar.
Motherhood is often characterized with navigating busy schedules, shuttling kids from soccer practice to dance team to a birthday party and more. This past year, things slowed down. A lot. Instead of running out the door to make play dates, many of us have been at home, jumping on Zoom calls, or devising creative ways to keep our littles entertained.
These two experiences are incredibly different, and maybe it’s something in the middle that we should be striving for. When more things to do open up and our schedules can once again be filled to the brim, ask yourself if you really want them to be that full. In the new year, perhaps you try to make room in your calendar.
By actively working against the urge to over-program your family schedule, the resulting free time gives you and your littles some space to be bored or just breathe.
Resolving to free up space on your calendar will mean saying “no” to more obligations, which can be challenging for those of us who are people-pleasers. However, once you experience JOMO (“Joy of Missing Out”), you may be hooked to try it again.
Making room for margin doesn’t mean becoming a family of recluses. It does mean limiting your family commitments to those that really matter. Try it—and enjoy how those free moments feel like a sigh of relief.
8. Above all, I resolve to give myself grace.
Mama, you don’t hear this enough: You’re doing a great job.
Sure, these resolutions and others will help you better yourself, but know this: right now, as you are, you are enough. Even if you yelled at your kids today, even if you haven’t showered for days, even if you feel like you are hanging on by a thread, you are enough. Whenever we fall or fail, one of the best choices we can make as mothers is to forgive ourselves, get up, and try again. And when we get it right, let’s remember to celebrate those victories too.
If you do one thing and one thing only this year, ditch the mom guilt and give yourself a little more grace.
This article was originally published on December 31, 2019, and has been updated for timelines.
Are you adding any of these to your resolutions this year? Let us know your list in the comments below!