Ready to do More Than Simply Survive as a Parent
As we begin 2016, many people will make resolutions. I am not one of them. I set goals for myself throughout the year, and the start of a new year is a great time to look back on what I have achieved and what I am still working on, but I don’t use January 1st-December 31st as a timeline that determines my success.
Nor do I like being told what to do, and New Year’s resolutions feel like authority sticking its nose where it doesn’t belong. I’ll commit, improve, change when I want to, not when the calendar says I should.
I know I am stubborn. I also like to have order, control, and a plan. My three children don’t care about any of this. My almost five-year-old daughter and my two and half-year-old twin boys are fierce little bodies of chaos, anarchy, and unpredictability.
My kids are good kids, and my house is full of love and crazy in the best ways possible, but having three young kids leaves me with few resources to do anything other than shepherd three young kids.
Something happened recently, something that I haven’t felt since my partner and I brought our twins home from the hospital.
One evening, while the kids were still awake and running through the house, she and I talked for nearly three minutes without being interrupted; on another night, we realized all three kids were asleep by 9:00 pm; and on a Sunday afternoon, after a long weekend together, all three kids were quietly playing side by side.
It was a collection of brief moments that confirmed what I was too afraid to hope for: we are doing more than surviving.
It has been a long two and a half years of treating myself to food, depending on coffee, and soothing my frayed nerves with alcohol. I don’t know that I would have been able to do anything differently, or that I really would have wanted to—beer and brownies were a delicious midnight snack after getting one boy back to sleep and anticipating the next being awake during their grueling rounds of teething.
I did what I needed to do in each exhausting and exhilarating moment of parenting.
I found comfort in unhealthy places because those unhealthy places were mine and could not be shared with the three young children using the time and energy I needed for me.
Over Thanksgiving break, I was inspired by one of my family members. Over the course of five months, he lost 25 pounds. That in itself wasn’t the inspiring part. The dedication to set a goal and do the necessary steps to reach a goal was certainly impressive.
But the inspiration came in the space in which he took some control over a piece of his life he wanted to change. His married life with three kids is a reflection of my own, and I was finally able to see myself.
I knew it was time to let go of some of the resentment and excuses for not feeling like I had a say over my physical and mental health.
I was ready to do more than just survive life with three kids.
So on December 1st, 2015, I made a promise to myself. I will be more mindful of the food going into my body. I will make the time to exercise more. I will reduce the amount of alcohol I drink. Not because I should, but because I am ready to feel better. Not because I should, but because I am ready to feel better.
I still have those three little kids threatening my sanity, but I am taking advantage of a small shift happening in our house.
So far the results have been worth the discipline. But with discipline comes compassion. If I am to continue this road to a healthier self, I need to be kind to myself. I cannot control the moods of my kids, the viruses they bring into the house, or what they decide no longer tastes good any more than the weather.
Some days are just better than others, and on any one of those days, I will make mistakes.
But I will keep trying. I now need the healthier places more than the unhealthy ones.
If January 1st is the beginning of a journey you are ready to take, I applaud you. If it is not, I understand. Change can only happen when we are ready to embrace it when we are ready to face challenges, ready to look at ourselves long enough to realize we are worth the hard work and ready to give ourselves permission to be happy.
Sometimes it can only happen when our kids offer us a bit of reprieve long enough to see the other side. But when you do feel ready to change, don’t wait.
Resolutions do not need a holiday.