3 New Year’s Resolutions Every Parent Needs to Make

Carla: Don’t you love titles like that? Commanding, demanding, shaming you into doing what someone else tells you to do? It’s that word needs. It carries so much condescension and know-it-all-ness. And it’s the stock in trade of parenting advice. It’s a way of letting you know that whatever it is you’re doing as a parent, you aren’t doing it right. There’s a secret something you don’t know and that article or that sermon or that friend is about to enlighten you. And that drives me bananas.

So I’ve come up with 3 new year’s resolutions for parents that you can make or not make. Your choice.

1) Ignore sentences that include the words “you need to.” For all the reasons mentioned above, I’ve started to see this little phrase as the bane of nearly everything I do. For me, it is code for “you don’t know what you’re doing” and I’ve decided to reject that code. It’s not that I know what I’m doing all the time–or even most of the time–but I think I’m smart enough to get around most of the road blocks that stand between me and what I’m trying to do as a mom and a woman and a person. I’m also smart enough to ask for help when I get stuck. I vastly prefer advice that’s given as a suggestion, not a command, advice that is couched in confidence that I can sort through my options and figure out the best path forward.

“You need to” is a confidence killer for all of us, but particularly for parents. There is so much we truly need to do on any given day and when well-meaning experts and friends add to that list, it feels defeating and disheartening. But maybe that’s just me.

2) Stop multitasking. In the last year, I read something that has changed how I think about parenting. It was a short Q & A with a mom who said, “It’s not parenting that’s hard, it’s all the other things I have to do that get in the way of parenting.” I read that sentence about six times before I realized she was right. If all I had to do was spend time with my kids, I would be a fantastic mom. But I find I rarely just spend time with my kids, at least time where I’m not also thinking about work I need to finish or keeping an eye on dinner or writing up a grocery list or cleaning up or hacking through the jungle of laundry or what’s happening on Facebook. If I didn’t have all those other things on my mental plate, I would be so much more patient, so much more interested, so much more relaxed. It’s all the work of adulthood that get in the way!

The best moments I have as a mom are the ones where I am all in with whatever I’m doing with my kids, whether it’s putting a puzzle together or making cookies or even folding laundry. When I manage to shut off all the mental noise in my head and really focus on my kids, I can feel myself becoming more like the mom I want to be–kind, attentive, single-minded.

The trick here, of course, is that someone has to keep an eye on dinner and write up a grocery list and clean up and do the laundry. And in my case, someone has work to do, too. So I can’t just ignore those things and play Littlest Pet Shop all day. But I’m going to try me darndest to slow down my brain. I’m going to do a little more compartmentalizing and try to devote my attention to whatever is right in front of me and not all the other things tapping me on the shoulder. And I think I’m going to have to get my crap together and organize my time better so that when I’m working, I’m working and when I’m not, I’m not. There is nothing noble in being able to juggle an ever-growing list of demands. There’s no prize for being the busiest mom. I need to stop acting like there is.

3) Scare yourself. Those of you who have read this blog for a while might recall that I had a small part in a play a couple of years ago. I loved getting back into something that had been a huge part of my pre-parenthood life and it was truly good for my soul to do it. But I haven’t done it again. You know why? Because I’m afraid to. I’m afraid if I audition for something I won’t get a part. I’m afraid if I do get a part I won’t be very good. I’m afraid that my family would suffer if I were gone nearly every evening for 6 weeks. Afraid, afraid, afraid.

As much as Caryn and I talk about tapping into our passions and living out our dreams, I have to confess that this is something I really struggle with. I can always find an excuse for sticking with the life I have instead of double dog daring myself to step into something different. But when I have stepped out–whether onto a stage or into a classroom or even into a new friendship–the result has always been life-giving. So I’m going to try to scare myself a little more this year. Our friend Jennifer Grant recently shared this quote with me and it’s been hovering in the back of my mind ever since, reminding me that no one is made better when I am guided by fear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”–Marianne Williamson

Wish me luck!

Caryn: Love this title. Reminds me so much of our magazine days. Even with the odd number. (Odd numbers are better than even for giving advice. Did you know that? Magazine editors do!)

But anyway, even though this year I resolved to make no resolutions, I concur with two and a half of yours. I think #2 is too much to ask. And I actually disagree with your premise that we could be better moms if we focused on our kids more attentively. I’m a better (meaning, saner) mom right now because I can add my 2 cents to this piece while eating reheated pizza snuggled next to my daughter watching SpongeBob while my older son gets Life set up for us to play.

That said, I take multi-tasking to the extreme and need to learn to take it easier. To undo some of the things that distract me.

Alas, #3 is my favorite. Love the phrasing. Love the idea. And since earlier this summer when I wrote a whole chapter in my upcoming book, Grumble Hallelujah, about living fearless as a solution to getting unstuck in life, I’ve been more committed to this than ever before. Especially as one who seeks to “live for Jesus” as they say, we need to put fear in its place. But, it’s scary to live fearless. We do need to scare ourselves. Even scare those around us….

Now I gotta go play Life.

So what do you think friends? Got any resolutions to share with the rest of us? Let’s hear ’em!


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Danielle on January 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Man alive, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Number one is so true, because we all know “you need to” means “you aren’t.” And nobody likes to be on the receiving end of that. Number two is something that’s been transformative for me in the past few months, which sometimes means that I’m still a total spaz when the kids are asleep and there is a mountain of things to do or when I’m on my way to work, but at least I’m not a spaz all the time anymore. When I notice myself allowing my attention to be divided twenty different ways (or when one of the kids has to say, “Mom. Mom. Mom! MOM!” because my sweeping/menu planning/thinking-over-what-time-the-kids-need-to-be-asleep-so-they-can-wake-up-happy-for-school-tomorrow has overtaken me) I try to remember to be present. To hear what I hear, see what I see, feel what I feel, all in real time – so I’m in my body and not a short distance from it.

    I see number three, but I think I am less overcome or hindered by fear than I am guilt. Never-ending, oppressive, constant guilt. Some days are better than others, but its always there. The needs – be them financial, emotional, or whatever – are so great and I can only do so much. Cue guilt.

    Thanks for these, guys. Happy New Year!


  2. Posted by Heather on January 2, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Great thoughts, as always. I don’t have any resolutions for this year, but I do have plans. Plans to lead, plans to share, plans to host, plans to listen…all from my home (we’re buying a house this week, finally).

    In living a non-normal-for-us life for the past fifteen months, I am so ready to make a home in a place (house) that I can lead from! The desire is so strong I almost want to scream. Seeds have been planted in me over the last eight years and have been growing and growing and now it’s time to bloom and produce fruit (I love to garden, so this makes the most sense to me). Now, I have lead in many ways over the years, through the church communities I’ve been a part of, and it’s been great. But now, I can’t operate in the confines of the structures around me…so leading and fostering community from my home it is! I had to admit to myself the “lead from my home” part, then came to a place to add the word pastor (well, pastoress, is what I like, to be honest). Pastor without all of the baggage, just “a spiritual overseer”.

    All of this to say, I’m slaying #One, in that I’m not doing basically anything anyone tells me I “need” to do (attend a small group to achieve/experience community). I’m following my heart and living in the NOW (#Two)…And kicking #Three’s ass this year.

    Love you ladies. Thank you for your conversations!


  3. Posted by sasm on January 2, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I think that by following idea 3, idea 1 will automatically play out. Anytime I’m listening to those “you need to” scenarios, it’s because I’m fearful of how to proceed, fearful I’m going to botch it. Thought number 2 spoke to me the loudest. Science has proven it is impossible to do more than one thing at any given time. One’s brain is simply flipping back and forth with great speed. Given that, it follows that no matter what you’re up to – if you’re juggling – the tasks at hand are going to be diluted, diminished, whether its the laundry, rocket science or parenting. And, man, I got to tell you, I have my brain wildly flipping at champion speeds at times. Stuff falls through the cracks. Stands to reason that some of my parenting is doing the same. Thanks for the reminder.


  4. Posted by judi on January 3, 2011 at 12:53 am

    Thanks for this post. It really fits with my resolution of enjoying my kids more – taking time to play, to stop being so grumpy, and to worry less about what other people think of my parenting.


  5. Hey – great post here!

    Once upon a time my teenage daughter saw a doctor re. her depression. A doctor who had literally met her *just then* and the entire (1 sided conversation) was filled with “this is what you need to do” advice. No, we did not go back.

    I love your #3 – scare yourself. Sometimes I think the things that leave me shaking in my boots the most are the things that I NEED to do. Or at least take the time to examine very closely, figure out WHY I fear it so much.

    Happy New Year!


  6. Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this information together.

    I once again find myself spending a lot of time
    both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still


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