Setting and sticking to your New Year (parenting) resolutions
By 8th January, 25% of New Year’s resolutions have apparently been given up. That’s according to research published by the New York Times recently. That gym membership, the vows to eat healthily and steer clear of booze, to take up a new hobby or two, learn a new language / musical instrument, read more, say yes to more things, say no to more things, meet more people, take more time for yourself, and so on – many of them have already been abandoned within two weeks of making the pledges. Is there any point in making them in the first place? We spent part of the Christmas holidays with friends on a farm in the middle of the countryside, frolicking in hay stacks, jumping in muddy puddles, mooing at cows, drinking, laughing, playing with any of the seven children under five, and generally reminding ourselves how simple fun can be. (We often get caught up in the need for indoor entertainment in London which can be tricky to find and is often expensive.) As part of this weekend away – and no doubt inspired by the healthy glow attained from the outdoor lifestyle – we all found ourselves sharing our New Year’s resolutions.
What was interesting about this was that the group was evenly split between parents and non-parents, so we were eager to hear what the other half planned for 2018. And, while my partner and I had some very basic resolutions / desires, such as a full night’s sleep or one week of no runny noses (our children’s, not ours), we were all encouraged by the fact that the resolutions didn’t differ too much between the two groups.
One mother wanted to learn to drive; another pledged to listen more (to her husband, children and friends); both wanted to find time for themselves, and to read more. The other ladies had similar resolutions, including carving out time to read and invest in hobbies such as sailing or walking.
The resolutions weren’t that drastically different for the menfolk either. Increased reading was on the agenda, so was getting to grips with French grammar (for an Englishman living in Paris), as well as a renewed focus on health. Although, in this specific case, it’s more about beating the competition as he spends January trying to lose the most weight out of all the men in his office for a prize.
I had half expected that the parents might set a low bar for ourselves to ensure we accomplished what we set out to achieve. Instead, we all had resolutions that didn’t matter whether we had kids or not. And that was both reassuring and inspiring.
There was one major difference between the two groups, however, and that came down to some of the non-parents discussing dating and finding ways to potentially meet a partner with whom to have their own brood of early risers with runny noses. That’s not to say that all the couples with children weren’t living vicariously through these discussions and perhaps even getting too involved in them, by trying to put a metric on how many dates to go on per month!
The question now is whether we can make good on these New Year resolutions. It doesn’t bode well that I had to ask some of those who were there to remind me what theirs were… However, by sharing the plans we had in mind for ourselves with friends, and in a public forum, we are sort of making ourselves accountable to them.
I look forward to hearing whether the mother of three manages to read one new book every month. Even if she just reads a couple in 2018, that is time that she is taking for herself. Our Englishman in
Paris already speaks French fluently so, with a bit of practice, that resolution is certainly attainable. I failed to do more listening than talking on that particular evening, but have a very noisy and musically-inclined three year who tends to talk and sing over me, which is a lesson in itself.
The big theme seemed to be ‘taking time for ourselves’, whether as a parent, colleague, partner, friend, date, daughter or son. In that sense, the New Year’s resolutions between the groups really aren’t that different. Any parenting guide tells you that, to be a better mother or father, it’s important to put your own health first. And that includes our mental health and well-being.
To be content and healthy, invest in what makes you happy. Then you can be a better parent to your family, partner to your spouse and friend to yourself. And, if time is short, grab whatever you can, even if it’s five minutes locked in a bathroom!