That’s right. One more thing on the list of things our family doesn’t do: New Year’s resolutions. I have such a hard time with resolutions. They just seem so…resolute. I mean, I have incredible will-power and self control, and I still cannot for the life of me find a resolution that actually will remain resolved. But I really do love the idea of using the new year as a launchpad to make improvements and set new goals, especially now, since this will be my first official New Year as a stay-at-home mom. I am determined that I will learn from my mistakes in the last year, and get better at loving my new job, in much the same way I did with my old one.
Have I mentioned how much I loooooved my job? I’m sure it’s a little nauseating. But you guys, I seriously loved my job. It was gratifying in that I had a clear understanding of expectations, freedom to determine how to meet those expectations, and clear feedback and compensation for meeting and exceeding those expectations. What’s not to like? It is soooooo much harder to find that now that I’m staying at home. Enter the initiative.
Actually, I started the whole New Year’s Initiative thing a long time ago. I love tangible goals and crossing things off the list, but having specific resolutions at New Year’s always left me feeling like a failure by February. So instead, I started writing down intentional direction for myself for the coming year.
A resolution might say: “I’m going to work out every morning before the kids wake up.”
An initiative would say: “I’m going to make mindful, healthier choices like making time to exercise more often.”
Believe it or not, that simple rewording makes all the difference in whether I’m able to achieve the goals I set for myself or not. In reflecting on the goals I set last year, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of it all. I seriously had no idea how 2015 would turn out, and somehow the goals I set wound up acting as a steering mechanism in my decision-making. Take a look:
- Marriage: I want to spend more valuable, quality time with my husband, not distracted by my phone, my computer, or work that I bring home.
So we signed up for a 24-week Bible study as a couple, and we made weekly visits to the farmer’s market close to our house. We also wound up consistently choosing to attend Celia’s baseball games together as a family, and went on Saturday day trips with our littles. We watched football games and Downton Abbey together, not separately. Nothing major, but I’d say we did pretty well on that one.
- Kids: I want to address the girls’ challenges with school and make improvements in their performance and behavior. I want to improve Celia’s behavior specifically, and learn more about how to help her thrive. I want to make time for my babies, and not miss out on their milestones unnecessarily.
Well…I had no idea that homeschooling would be the route we would take for this one. I think when I wrote that initiative I intended to be a more active volunteer. And to be fair, I did chaperone a bunch of field trips. Or two. Two field trips. Regardless, this one worked out differently than I’d ever imagined, and still worked out for the best. For the boys, my intention was to wait until they were awake to leave for work, and aim to be home from work before they went to bed. (Although Kent wasn’t born yet when I wrote this, and I was imagining he would be a sleeper like his brother. Not so much.) Staying home basically made that one a plus. Winning again.
- Myself: I will give myself more grace after the birth of baby #4.
I didn’t know what this meant when I wrote it. I know what I was thinking- I wanted to be fair to myself. I wanted to take the time I needed instead of returning to a high stress job exactly 6 weeks postpartum. I wanted to be fair about losing baby weight. What I didn’t know was that I’d have no trouble losing the weight, but I struggled with losing myself. Quitting my job…no- my career, staying home with the troop for the first time EVER, homeschooling, holy smokes you guys. In hindsight, I don’t think there was enough grace in the world to get me through that transition. I struggled. But I know I intentionally gave myself as much relief from self-criticism as I could. We’ll call this one a draw. Still room for improvement.
Now for this year’s initiatives. The hubs and I spent a lot of time covering these. I have to admit that I treated this like management review from my working days- I actually really like this stuff. I wrote where I felt we succeeded, where I felt we could improve, and most importantly- what the facts tell us. I changed up how I approach this whole SAHM thing. And I’d like to add that after I presented all this to the hubs, and asked what his thoughts are telling him should be his personal initiatives, his response was “I want to work out more.” Bless his heart. So this is really me going all cray-cray with goals and him saying “Great job, sweetheart. Let’s make it happen.”
- Homeschooling: (This category replaced the not-mentioned-before category for work-related goals) I want to follow my children’s interests more, and incorporate more out-of-the-house learning, including our community and other homeschool families.
This one was super important to me. In looking back, I tried to adhere really hard to a great curriculum. But the truth is, I felt like it confined us. A lot of my stress came from the transition from a job that involved constant interaction with adults in different professional and interpersonal settings, to a job that was basically devoid of adults entirely. We also didn’t ever leave our house. I let nap time and fear of the boys being maniacs hold me hostage. Not anymore. They’re going to learn to behave in public by fire if they have to, but we WILL get out of this house and do things.
- Kids: I want to find more grace for the children this year. I want to trust their ability to play independently and create things and do things without being Hovermom. I want to be patient with them as they learn, and less controlling as they make mistakes.
Basically I’ve been running a kindergarchy up in here. Yesterday, as I watched my six-year old burst into tears because she thought she may have gotten eggshell into our pancake batter, I realized I am raising children who are afraid to make mistakes. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not about to raise an army of little snots with a sense of entitlement. I’m not entirely on the train to crazy-town. Having said that, I do want to teach my children that they are smart individuals who don’t need mommy to do everything for them. And I’m realizing I can’t do that if I hover over them and do everything for them.
- Myself: I want to make time to cultivate my own interests.
I was tempted to make this about exercise. The truth is, I’m not a huge fan of exercise, and I climb a 3-story townhouse 30+ times a day carrying two 25 lb. infants. So instead of working out, I’m hoping I’ll make time for creative exploits, like crafting, sewing, and of course, working on this blog. I’ve been okay with my embroidery machine getting dusty, my Silhouette going without being updated, my library books going unread and overdue, and my blog posts going few and far between. I need these outlets, and I’m hoping I’ll do a little more creating and a little less facebook-browsing when I have free time. Because like all stay-at-home moms, I have that in spades. **sarcasm**
- Marriage: I want to be a solid support for my husband.
Sounds easy enough. It’s just hard for me to support him in his career without living vicariously through him. It’s his job, not mine. His leadership style, not mine. Oy. I’m hoping I’ll be reminded to give less advice, give more hugs, listen more, and talk less. I was so used to putting people on career tracks and guiding them through those that I started doing it with my husband. Except I don’t know anything about his company. Or his line of work. Sooooo…not exactly helpful. Prediction: this will be the hardest one for me.
- Family: I want to stand more firmly in our lifestyle choices around food, influences on our children, and materialism.
Okay so actually, this one will probably be the hardest for me. I like to think of myself as the picture of Southern hospitality. (And clearly, humility.) I just hate the thought of people feeling unnecessarily uncomfortable, and I always feel like it’s terrible manners to refuse the kindness of others. So this year, I found myself saying “oh of course, she can have that” to foods I don’t want my children eating, “thank you sooooo much” for filling our house with Barbies in skanky costumes that sing songs from some pre-teen awfulness, and “sure they can watch TV or computer all day, it’s just this one time.” Y’all, those “just this once” moments were more like “just once this week.” Twice a week. Or four times a week. For a whole freaking year.
We’d like to have another baby this year. And I want to stay committed to living in a small space, with a small footprint in consumerism. That’s what we believe in. Why is it though, that sticking to our beliefs is so stinking hard in the face of the influence of others? I really struggle with this one, because I feel like I’m a really tough, formidable woman.
I don’t know if I’ll actually be tough enough to say “No. We don’t need anything else- we have all the toys, baby clothes, baby gear, baby supplies, and EVERYTHING else we could possibly need. But if you’d like to spend money in honor of our baby, please give to the Young Lives campaign to help teen moms choose life.”
After all, people want to give out of kindness, and it seems like meanness to deprive them of that opportunity. What a first world problem, right?
Here’s the deal. We’re affluent. We’re good with our money. We’re healthy. We don’t need to change those aspects of our lives. I won’t be making those types of initiatives, but maybe those are the right ones for you. I think my goal is to make sure the world of affluence doesn’t create ungrateful hearts, including my own, and doesn’t create a bunch of kids who believe the world owes them something, or exists to serve them. Maybe that’s your goal too. Or maybe this will be the year you really cut out the fast food or pulling all-nighters at work. We all have those things that drag us down. My challenge would be that as you set about making improvements, you change the way you think about those things you hope to improve. So that every time you act, you make a conscious decision that brings you closer to your goal. I’ll be doing that too. And hopefully, we’ll get there. Together.
Happy New Year.