9 Practical New Year's Resolutions for Busy Parents
This year, don't make resolutions you're just going to break! Learn how to end that trend by bypassing standard resolutions and make some even busy moms can keep!
It never fails. The New Year approaches and the most commonly asked question suddenly changes from “What happened on Lost last week?” to “So, what are your resolutions?” The answer, while often identified at that precise moment, is nonetheless delivered with the strongest of intentions and commitment. Until January 6.
Many resolutions are unsuccessful because they were not grounded in reality from the beginning. After all, it’s hard to lose 5 pounds when a chocolate fix is required each afternoon to keep us sane until bedtime; it’s challenging to do a better job with the finances when the family isn’t getting any smaller; and some toddler antics about which we vow to remain more calm just plain are irritating!
This year, bypass the standard resolutions. It’s time for a few that we just might be able to keep.
We’d all like far more time than this, I’m sure, but it shouldn’t be too hard to schedule just 30 minutes to focus on ourselves each day. Use this time to take a bath, read a magazine, take a walk, do yoga, return email, or just sit quietly in the dark. It’s important to designate a portion—even if it’s only a small portion—of your day to yourself. After all, if you don’t make yourself a priority, you can’t expect anyone else to either.
Delegate One Task
Running a household requires a lot of time, not to mention energy. From keeping clean clothes in closets to maintaining a stocked fridge, by the end of the week there’s little time left for other (more pleasurable) activities. This year, choose one less-than-pleasurable task that robs your free time and delegate it. If you must buy time by hiring someone to complete the task in the short term, do so. Some suggestions: hire a cleaning service every week or two, have your groceries delivered, or skip weekly trips to the post office by using the Postal Service’s Click ‘n Ship service.
I don’t know about you, but by Fridays there are so many separate stacks of mail around my house it’s a miracle we aren’t hit with 16 late charges each month. Additionally, there is probably about a tree’s worth of junk mingled in with those stacks. According to Beth Randall, owner of Joe Organizer in Plainfield, Illinois, people should eliminate as much as they can from their mail. She suggests, “Contact the Direct Marketing Association to get removed from their distribution list.”
Beyond that, Beth proposes a daily mail organization strategy. “After you collect your mail, stop by the recycle bin or garbage and throw away all the junk. Respond to invitations immediately, then record the information on your calendar and throw out the invite. All other mail items should go into a categorized file box for ease in paying bills on time and locating items when you need them.”
A Place for Important Things
There’s nothing like needing to leave the house immediately and not being able to locate your keys or purse. Place a hook inside the garage, front door, or other designated location on which to hang your keys and purse each time you enter the house. That way, you’ll always know where they are when you need them. Better yet, purchase a tracking device to allow you to “page” important items such as keys or television remote controls (and then be sure to designate a location in which to store the pager!).
A Do-Nothing Night
Most of us spend our evenings competing with ourselves to see how many items we can complete from our to-do list. Therefore, it’s important to designate one night each week as “Do-Nothing Night.” In our house, it’s Friday night. We order dinner, rent a movie, and leave the toys in whatever condition they are in at the end of the day (after all, they’ll be strewn about again by 9 AM the following morning anyway). Use this time to catch up on reading, play a game with your spouse, or meet friends for dessert or drinks. Whatever activity you choose, be sure it does not involve working, cleaning, running errands, or anything else you would otherwise deem unpleasant.
Delay Personal Phone Calls
It’s probably easier to be heard on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange just after the opening bell than it is while trying to carry on a phone call with kids around. It seems they always need something the minute you say hello. Trust me, your friends don’t enjoy being put on hold 22 times in a row while you tell your child you’ll be with him in a minute any more than you would. Vow to make your personal phone calls while the kids are napping or after they go to bed when you have a much greater chance of being able to complete the call in peace.
Take a Year!
One year, my New Year’s resolution was to read War and Peace. Truth be told, it took more than a year (and this was prior to expelling four children from my womb), but I was so focused on finishing it by January 1 of the following year that I rarely noticed whether the characters were in a time of war or peace. Putting too much pressure on ourselves to learn a new hobby, finish a book, or teach our children to flush something other than toys down the potty in too short a period of time only creates stress. This year, give yourself 12 full months (or more) to pursue a new pastime. A resolution only has to be enacted within 12 months, not completed. In the end, it’s about accomplishing the goal, not how long it took to do it.
Stagger To-Do Items
Most moms’ to-do lists are extremely long and constantly being added to. All too often, we have 20 items on it, complete 10, and then focus on the 10 we didn’t complete instead of the fact that we completed half the list! Rather than work off of one never-ending list, assign one item to each day. If you complete it early in the day and want to move on to the next item, wonderful. But if that one task is the only thing you get done that day, you’ll go to bed feeling accomplished, not behind.
Eliminate Dreaded Holiday Tasks
Everyone has a holiday chore they actually enjoy. My friend Barb’s specialty is handmade cards. She loves to make them and it shows. My mother’s passion is gift wrapping. She could go up against Martha Stewart in a wrapping challenge any day. Sometimes the wrapping is so elaborate that it’s a gift in and of itself. I tried it one year, but my heart wasn’t in it and therefore, I ended up with glue gun burns and a package barely befitting my daughter’s pet camel.
My solution: any store that gift wraps automatically has my business. Occasionally, I’ll even pay online retailers to wrap gifts for me (and then insist to my husband I was sure wrapping was included in the price). The gifts I wrap myself get stick-on ribbons and are then placed behind the tree to allow my mom’s packages to be displayed up front.
If the prospect of writing hundreds of holiday cards has your stomach in knots, order a photo card with a pre-printed greeting and signature this year. All you have to do is address them and stick them in the mail. If cooking a holiday meal for 30 makes you want to crawl into bed and not reappear until January 2, order a pre-cooked dinner or insist that everyone bring a dish or beverage to share. Holidays should be enjoyed, not dreaded because of the amount of work involved.
New Year’s resolutions should be more than answers we pull out of our proverbial hats as the clock is about to strike midnight at the annual New Year’s Eve party. Instead, make resolutions you believe you can reasonably integrate into your life in the coming year.
As for my resolutions: I’m going to decrease my daily M&M intake from six handfuls to two, invest in TiVo so as not to ever miss another of Lynette Scavo’s challenges in raising twin boys on Desperate Housewives,” and leave the handmade cards to Barb.
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