Good goals for moms in the new year
Candy Woodall is the business reporter for The York Dispatch and mother of four children. She lives in Springfield Township with her family and dreams of one day leaving the house with all shoes on the correct feet, having enough time to read even one book that she’s purchased in the last two years and earning enough money to pay for everything Pinterest tells her she needs to do.
It only took 33 years, but in 2013 I finally learned to do more listening than talking, more reading than writing.
I met and invited a group of wonderful women to share their hearts and parenting journeys, and I have learned something from each of their stories. Together we have a support system that helps us push through parenting struggles, have an ear ready when someone needs to vent and we are the best democracy I know. We managed to align conflicting schedules long enough for us to take hikes throughout the beautiful parks in York County, host a Christmas Cookie-making party in the most economical way and meet up to make healthy, organic food for our children.
Through these visits we’ve been a model for how women should treat each other; we don’t judge or compete or tear each other down the way so many women ruin relationships. We encourage each other. We offer solutions. We find ways to help each other succeed–as mothers, women and friends.
The reporter in me has also done a lot of observing, studying the sociology of moms, and I’ve come up with some sensible resolutions for the leading ladies of our families.
1. Don’t quit anything. Start something. Women waste too much time trying to exterminate personality traits they perceive as flaws. There are many people in your life who love you for all the things you’re trying to get rid of. Embrace who you are and add new joys to your life.
2. Stop worrying about your body. It can be a surprise to see yourself in the morning mirror the day after you birth a baby. The strong core that helped you walk with confidence is now seemingly hanging there without any muscle tone and strategically hidden in every photo you take with your child. Stop it. You’re beautiful. And there are plenty of women out there who would do anything to have your postpartum body.
3. Love your body. Inches below your heart you grew another heart. You grew a life. Your body isn’t flawed. It’s miraculous.
4. Refuse to be too busy. Earlier this year I read an opinion piece in The New York Times about the glorification of busy. It gave several examples of how people glorify being busy or tired, but it didn’t really examine why people glorify those things. After thought and discussions with others, I’ve decided it’s because women think they sound more valuable if they’re too busy for something. Maybe that’s an effective dynamic when playing hard to get in dating relationships. But in families and friendships it sends a message that you don’t value someone enough to make time for them. Never be too busy for your family or friends.
5. Be happy about your happy baby. Babies come in all stripes; some are more pleasant than others. If you have a happy, healthy baby, be happy about that. Don’t look for ways to make your child seem more difficult to raise to fit in with those who may be having a different experience.
6. Don’t be unhappy when your baby has unhappy moments. So your baby stayed up and cried all night? That’s called being a baby. It happens. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom, and it doesn’t mean anyone thinks you’re a bad mom.
7. Take naps. Do it for 15 minutes or an hour or simply stretch out on the couch or bed with your eyes closed. Take some time with your baby, children, partner or support person to be still for a while, savoring the moments that seem to pass too quickly.
8. Get rid of the guilt. Maybe you gave up on breastfeeding or skipped the gym or fantasized about your life before children. That’s OK. Tomorrow can be a better day. Let go of the guilt and move on.
9. Don’t worry you’re doing it wrong. You’re not doing it wrong. You are what your child needs and you are biologically programmed to meet your baby’s needs. Because you’re the kind of parent who is worried you’re doing it wrong probably means you’re doing it right.
10. Trust your instincts. Most women have sharp instincts. Those instincts are heightened once a woman becomes a mother. Regardless if they alert you to something big or small, trust those instincts.
11. Plan a vacation. Not only will it offer something relaxing to look forward to during your most stressful moments, it will also help you stay on track with other resolutions. Planning a vacation inspires you to save money and practice patience. More importantly, it’s fun!
12. Don’t let social media be your planner. If you want to stay in your pajama pants all day, cuddling your onesie-wearing baby and watching a “House Hunters” marathon, do it. Don’t dress up and plan a forced adventure just so you have a photo to post to Facebook.
13. Learn to function on less sleep. Being an exhausted, new mom isn’t an original story. It’s just part of being a mom. I’d love to tell you that you’ll get more sleep as they get older, but that’s not always the case. They may be involved in sports or activities that keep you on the roads late at night, you’ll stay up worrying the first time they drive with their new license, you’ll stay up worrying when they’re in college and when they have kids of their own. They may fall asleep in the backseat or sleep in at a slumber party, but trust that you’ll be wide awake. The good news is, you eventually learn to function quite well on about five hours of sleep.
14. Hold on to a part of the 21-year-old you. Remember when you were that confident woman who knew exactly what she wanted out of life? Don’t lose that girl. You had all the time in the world to take care of yourself, daydream, share your day in pretty journals or over drinks with your best friends. You had the time and disposable income to spend the day shopping for yourself and go off on spontaneous adventures. Keep aging with grace, but find a way to keep a little bit of that in your life. It’s charismatic.
15. Don’t forget your love. It’s so easy to focus on the kids. But you must never neglect the special companion in your life. They are working just as hard as you, even if it doesn’t seem they are juggling as much. Give your partner some of your love and attention, and know they are trying hard to please you. Women are multitaskers by nature, so we have the wonderful ability to do multiple things at one time. That’s why we can be spotted folding laundry, making plans to see grandma, checking homework and nursing a baby at the same time. Men don’t work that way. They are biologically programmed to finish one thing at a time. Your guy wants to help you. If you want help, give him a specific task you would like help with; don’t rattle of a list.
16. Say thank you. When my husband and I were getting married, a lifelong friend and local pastor advised us to always say thank you. We have treated that like a vow, and no matter what else is going on, we always say thank you. It’s a wonderful part of our lives and relationship. Life with children gets really hectic; days easily roll into weeks, months and years. If you have no time for anything else together, just say thank you. Thank each other for the love and support. On days when nothing seems to get done, thank each other for the good intentions.
17. Look ahead. We can waste entire days weeping in a rocking chair because our babies aren’t small enough to fit into their newborn caps, that life is moving too fast, that we didn’t enjoy the early days enough because we were too busy figuring out how to survive them. Forget all that. Look ahead and focus on all the beautiful moments you will have with your child as he or she grows. I promise you there are beautiful, amazing things to appreciate at every milestone and stage of life.
18. Smile more, complain less. Everybody struggles with something. It’s OK and normal and recommended to vent and talk with trusted friends. But don’t share your sob story with every mom or person you meet. Most of the time your problems will sound like the woes of a privileged person who is actually pretty fortunate to have a beautiful, healthy family. So when a stranger asks how it’s going, offer a smile and say, “Can’t complain.” And then go call your love-you-like-a-sister and complain.
19. Cook more. Eating at home is one of the easiest ways to save money and calories. It sets a great example for your children, ensures they’re getting a healthy meal and you will feel like a better mom.
20. Hold their hands and tuck them in. For as long as they will let you, hold the hands of your children and tuck them in at night. One day they will cross the street without you. One day they will go to bed on their own. Instead of being happy you taught your children how to take care of themselves, your heart will break a little when you realize they don’t need you in the way they used to. It will make you feel a little better knowing you held hands and gave goodnight kisses as long as you could.
21. Be thankful. You’re a mom and it’s the most beautiful person you can be. Since the beginning of time, mothers have been regarded as the most important figure in a child’s life. Society has evolved to recognize the importance of fathers, but moms are still the caregivers-in-chief. You have delicate, fragile lives in your hands that can be raised into wonderful people. If you ever thought about changing the world, here’s your opportunity. The world will be a better place when it’s full of adults who were properly loved as children. These are the best days of your life because of the beautiful lives in your care. Be thankful for each and every one of them, each and every day.