I am not one to make resolutions—they are too strict and unforgiving, the opposite of what I think life should be. But I do think the new year is a prime opportunity to reflect on our lives and the ways we hope to cultivate more joy and serenity in them. As the calendar refreshes, so too can our goals and intentions. Which is why I am taking note of my intentions for the year. Even just writing these down has made me feel renewed and inspired, with the best of intentions.*
1. Do something just for me. It is so easy to have your life as a mother take over every aspect of your being to the point where you don’t remember the person you used to be or the things you used to enjoy. Or maybe you remember them but they are a distant memory, hazy and buried deep in the recesses of your sleep-deprived brain. I’ve decided this isn’t good enough. I was a person before I birthed my children and I am a person still—granted one whose heart and body will forever be altered. Reconnecting with who I am as a person is important for me this year. Some of the things I used to do in a former life are dance, sing, and run—physical and creative expressions that energized my body and soul. As a first step to reclaiming me, I am going to start taking a weekly dance class—committing to it as I do my other responsibilities. If it’s on the family calendar, it’s happening.
2. Prioritize social connections and adult interactions. As a parent, I have fallen into the trap of coordinating my social life around my children. Playdates become the only time I interact with someone outside my family and the most exciting thing that happens all weekend is getting caught up on the latest Netflix original series. But that is not how I want my social life to be. I want to talk to my friends, see my friends, have fun with my friends. So I am going to make time for my adult relationships, including my spouse. There is also research that shows that strong social ties are good for your mental and physical health, so this intention has benefits all around. I will need to be proactive, and again shift how I prioritize my needs, but I think I will be happier and more content when I do.
3. Develop a daily ritual. This is one where I may end up having the best of intentions. Developing a new habit is hard, but I’d like to try. I’d love to have a daily ritual that involves a brief meditation and perhaps a short yoga routine like this one to give my body a boost. I’ve dabbled in meditation, and have enjoyed it immensely when I did it, but I haven’t quite gotten it to stick. I’d like to try again, this time finding a time every day (ideally first thing in the morning) to complete my ritual. Bringing some consistency to my day, a few moments to center and focus on my mental and physical state, will help make me stronger and more resilient throughout the day.
4. More ‘Yes Moments’ in my day. Sometimes I am too focused on my to-do list and miss the beauty going on unscripted all around me. My children have such an ability to live in the moment—inspired by the magical thing called life that they are learning about. I, on the other hand, have the ability to fret over a to-do list and damper their enthusiasm by being hyper-focused on all the things that need to get done. That’s not very fun of me and it’s kind of downer being the practical one who is always saying no. So in this new year I am going to try and say “yes” more often—to their spur of the moment requests to go ride bikes, or splash in the mud, or put their underwear on their head. Because they have good ideas. Fun ideas. In the moment, unencumbered, life is good ideas. And it feels great to say yes. It’s like a little weight gets lifted every time I free myself from the tether of my to-do list. And the joy it brings to my kids’ faces to have their request heard and validated is priceless. Sometimes I need to pause before I say yes—splashing in the mud means muddy clothes, maybe cold bodies, and likely a messy car. But life shouldn’t always be tidy with crisp check marks indicating what you accomplished that day. Saying “yes” more is one way I think I can add more spontaneity and appreciation for the here and now in my life.
5. Manage screen time. This one is a hard one for me. The internet has such a strong pull yet usually leaves me feeling empty and depleted, as it is one of my many avenues for procrastination. And because my time scrolling and scanning comes at the expense of being productive, it often leaves me more stressed and grumpy than before I indulged in screen time. I’ve taken a few steps to minimize both the time I spend on the internet and the grumpy side effects it produces, specifically removing the worst offenders from my phone so I am not tempted first thing in the morning or when I am at the park with my kids. I am also trying to keep computers to one room in the house—out of site out of mind—so that I need to make a conscious choice to separate myself and work on the computer. Even with all of those modifications, it takes a great deal of conscious will power to choose not to browse the internet. To remember that I can read a book, or get a breath of fresh air, or play with my kids. It is a priority this year to show myself and my family that the internet is a powerful tool, but it doesn’t have ultimate power over me.
6. Make time to be active. Physical health is so important to our health and well-being and I feel better, mentally and physically, when I’ve been active. When I am active my body wants to be more active. It’s inertia at its best and most beneficial. I can feel my cells, bouncing around, ready to go bounce around some more. Not only that, but being active does wonders for my mental health. It helps clear my mind, manage stress, and puts me in a better mood. Those happy endorphins really do have an effect on me. This intention is about making time to move my body: to go for a walk around the block, go running with my dog, or go to a gym class. Better yet, do something active outdoors where I’ll get the benefit of fresh air and maybe a little sunshine—the perfect ways to amplify the positive effects of being active.
7. Push back on perfection. One of the hardest things for me is accepting when things aren’t perfect or done exactly how I envisioned them. I seek perfection and precision as a way to feel in control in an otherwise chaotic world. Unfortunately, trying to ensure everything is done just right takes a lot of energy and takes away from the joy of living, and ultimately makes me feel more overwhelmed. I might have a lot in my “mom brain” about how lunches should be made or how to wash a kid’s baseball uniform, but mine isn’t the only way. And nothing will get done if I have to do everything in an attempt to ensure things are done to my exact specifications. Expecting myself and others to deliver a level of perfection is also detrimental—it creates a tension in my household where my loved ones come to fear the impending critique if something isn’t done right. I don’t want to instill fear—I want to instill love. My final intention for the year is about accepting and appreciating things as they are and not letting my quest for perfection get in the way of doing, loving, living, and enjoying.
*I am human and even in writing these intentions I wasn’t able to follow all of them. A combination of procrastinating with screen time and editing in a quest for perfection resulted in a draft that started in January and was published in April. While I have been thinking about these for the last few months, it took me longer to put them all down than I anticipated. It might not be perfect, but it’s done!