Top resolutions for Solo Moms—and how to make them actually happen
New Year’s resolutions are not like snowflakes. They may technically all be different, but they’re all pretty much exactly the same. Most of us strive for the same things in life (happiness, health, and fulfillment) and have the same challenges (time, money, and energy). Those of us with kids pretty much all want to spend more quality time with them, be more patient, and teach our children how to be good people.
Here’s the thing: if you try to commit to idealistic goals, such as “being patient” or “having more family time,” your resolutions will likely belly flop by the end of January. The force of habit is incredibly powerful and hard to break, and making big changes in the way you live or parent your kids is no small task. If you want your resolutions to work, you need a plan, and the more specific, the better.
Good thing we’ve got plans—loads of them. We’ve gathered together common New Year’s resolutions of Solo Moms and fine-tuned them, breaking the grand ideas into specific goals that you can actually make happen!
Want to live in the moment?
- Give your cell phone a curfew. We know that we can’t spend quality time with our kids if we’ve got one eye on our phone, but with the darn thing always dinging and pinging and vibrating urgently, it’s nearly impossible to ignore. Figure out when you can feasibly turn your phone off for a decent chunk of time every day—and then stick to that plan. Maybe it’s no phone at dinner, no phone after 6:00 p.m., or no phone between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. The details of your plan don’t matter so much as the fact that you make a plan and chisel out some unplugged time to spend with your kids. As an added bonus, you’ll be modeling a healthy digital diet for them.
- Take fewer pictures—and make more memories. It’s awesome to have a phone full of photos to share with friends and to peek at when you’re missing the kids at work or when they’re with your ex. But often we get so fixated on capturing the moment with the camera that we miss experiencing it. In the New Year, try this: when you see something totally adorable, make a conscious decision to leave the phone off and capture the moment only in your memory.
- Follow your kids’ lead every once in a while. Parents—Solo Moms, in particular—sort of need to be control freaks. There is so much to do, after all, and if you don’t manage it, no one will. But it can be really empowering for kids to sail the ship of family life from time to time. Let them pick the movie, decide what to make for dinner, or how to spend a sunny afternoon. Giving them a say with the small things can actually prevent them from acting out in an effort to exercise control.
Want to be healthier?
- Sneak in exercise—with the kids. Exercise can feel like an impossible luxury. Who can find the time to squeeze it in between work, caring for kids, and dating? The great thing about exercise, though, is that it doesn’t have to take place in a gym; you can combine exercise with quality kid time. Have a dance party every Friday night. Once a week, walk to school instead of driving. Take a weekend bike ride. The best part is you’ll get your kids moving in the process, so they, too, will be more healthy (and tuckered out at bedtime!).
Want to parent more effectively?
- Catch the kids being good. Experts agree that positive reinforcement works wonders for shaping behavior in children, and it’s easy enough to do, in theory. But in reality, as you’re rushing around getting dinner on the table, helping with homework, and responding to emails, it’s easy to see only the bad behavior because that’s what gets in your way. Try a visual reminder; wear a hair band on your wrist, and every time you glimpse it, you’ll remember to pay attention to your kids’ good behavior.
- Breathe. No parent wants to yell, but staying calm when the kids are driving you up a wall is a feat for which you need a solid game plan. From a basic physiological perspective, the most effective way to calm down is to breathe; the influx of oxygen actually triggers your body’s relaxation. The trick is remembering to breathe when all you want to do is holler. Plan ahead by demonstrating for kids how to inhale “blue skies in” and exhale “gray skies out” when they’re angry. Chances are they’ll remind you what to do when they see you getting heated up.
Want to be happier?
- Integrate gratitude into your daily routine. There is plenty of research to prove that gratitude is a surefire route to happiness, though you probably knew that without a formal study. People who are grateful for what they have, even when it’s very little, are happier than people who have everything and don’t appreciate it. The best way to ensure you practice gratitude regularly is to make it part of your daily routine. At dinnertime, have everyone share one thing he or she is thankful for, or jot them down with your kids in a thankfulness journal at bedtime.
- Stop comparing your family with other families. We’re all surrounded by families who seem perfect—families that have more money and less drama, families with live-in dads, siblings who seem to never fight, doting and devoted grandparents. The temptation to compare your family with these seemingly perfect ones is great—but resist it! It’s a one-way ticket to unhappiness—and, incidentally, it’s not accurate. Nobody, and certainly no family, is perfect. Accepting that will make it easier for you to accept the flaws and challenges that you and your little ones grapple with.
So put on your party hat, and get ready to pop a bottle of bubbly (or at least bubbly apple juice). You’re ready for some new starts in the New Year!
Nicole C. Kear, is the author of Now I See You: A Memoir, recently published by St. Martin’s Press. Kear, who lives in New York City, is also an editor, speaker, and mother of three.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.