‘Tis the holiday season, the darkest and coldest time of the year, a time of contemplation, overeating, over-drinking and overspending. It is also a prime time of year to twist your ankle stepping on a rogue Lego and to wonder why your shipment of limited-edition Batman villains are languishing in a shipping warehouse on the outskirts of Iowa.
As the new year approaches, I asked several parents to weigh in with their resolutions for the upcoming year. How do they plan to parent differently? How do they plan to streamline or calm down? A few themes recurred.
Say “no” more
Being busy is a hallmark of a successful life. Or is it? Many parents I spoke to expressed a desire to learn how to turn down more extraneous commitments, whether it was work or social obligations, to spend time with family and true friends. Being busy and on the go isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it seems. In fact, it’s kind of exhausting.
Streamline social media
One 30-something Bostonian told me that he’s “trying to end each day following at least five fewer Twitter accounts and managing what shows up on my feed more directly. I turned off a bunch of news sites on Facebook from showing up, too. Not that I’m not still reading everything obsessively, but at least this way I have a little more say on when I read it.” Sometimes the onslaught of information is just too much and takes us away from what really matters in life, like actual human interaction.
Cancel cable TV
One local dad said adieu to Comcast in favor of the pure tactile pleasure of holding a good book or an old-fashioned newspaper. “Instead I have been reading the paper, which I can’t yell at. And I read my first novel in 20 years,” he says.
Do business with those who do business with you
“I’m tired of chasing one-sided friendships,” one mom told me. Next year, she’s going to employ a simple outreach rule: If she suggests something socially twice with no reciprocation, it’s just time to move on. “It doesn’t need to be a dramatic confrontation. I’m just going to stop feeling compelled to organize play dates or group outings without reciprocity, because it will give me a better sense of who our true community really is, and I can have more time to nurture those relationships,” she says.
Find a community with a shared vision
Whether it’s religious or charity-and-volunteer oriented, many people expressed the need to bond over a shared mission with concrete outcomes, whether it’s working at a soup kitchen or volunteering at a child’s school.
Stop judging yourself so harshly and slow down
“Even if I don’t get done everything I needed to in a day, that doesn’t mean I’m ‘behind’ or that I failed. I need to realize that it’s not a race,” one working mom told me. Ahh.
Take care of yourself
This is purely mine. Between caring for a newborn and a 6-year-old while working, I hardly eat. I forget to drink water and end up guzzling my son’s apple juice with the refrigerator door wide open. I sleep horribly. Part of this is pure logistics, because it’s tough to, say, take a leisurely shower soundtracked by the primal howls of a ravenous infant. But it’s also OK to go to bed early, buy something for myself (even if it’s just a bright-blue day planner at HomeGoods) and hire a babysitter so I can run errands that have absolutely nothing to do with parental obligations (such as remedying my tarantula-like brows). I don’t need to be a martyr. Everyone needs to put themselves first once in a while, too.