By Gwen Hope
So here it is again – the start of a New Year and with it all the high hopes and aspirations after a truly difficult time for families. All over social media the usual resolutions are there – shift the weight, do Park Runs, practice mindfulness, cut out carbs, read more books… We’e abandoned the more ambitious because the future is still so uncertain – move house, travel the world, become a millionaire, totally change my life… And then there are the parents on parenting sites resolving to be better parents – to make more time for their children, to be more fun, restrict screen time, do more creative things with the children, shout less, sing more, cook wholesome meals from fresh…
And each year, I’m right there with them. I have a mile-long list of all the things I aim to accomplish in the year ahead. Versions of being the best that I can be, promises to develop habits to make me into a better mother, a better partner, a better friend… Plus a better fit for the jeans I used to wear before I started wolfing down the leftovers from my kids’ meals.
But this year, do you know what? For 2022 there’s a big, fat ‘nope’ coming from me. I’m lying face down on the carpet, banging my fists on the floor and screaming ‘No!’ at the top of my voice. ‘I’m not doing any of it!’
The truth is, it’s early January and I’m exhausted already. My children put big demands on me. I’m up to my ears in toilet training, picky eaters, temper tantrums, childhood illnesses and repetitive meals. I have to work, shop, cook, do the school and nursery runs, do the laundry, find missing shoes, make costumes, take them to swimming lessons, tie shoe laces, remember to put the bins out. And I always have to put the toys away. Plus we’e all tested positive for Covid at different times over the last two months – so that’s been bundles of fun too.
But I am a mother, so underpinning all this drudgery is a love for my children, so deep that it’s almost subliminal. In all the chaos, I’m not conscious of it, but it’s there, always. I astonish myself with my patience, my spontaneity, my resilience, my compassion and my true love for my children. I’m just racked with guilt that I have so little time to show it.
So, 2022 isn’t my year to run a marathon. It isn’t my year to lose two stone and look fabulous, or re-decorate my home in the style of House & Garden, or be Supermum. 2022 is a year for me to be happy. Happy to be who I am, happy to be imperfect.
This is my year to grab sleep when I can, to give myself grace – always. This is my year to embrace the mess. I make no apology for babysitting the kids in front of the TV so I can buy myself uninterrupted time to get the essentials done like cooking proper food for my children.
As mothers, we put a far too much pressure on ourselves, whether we realise it or not. Small imperfections during the day are magnified in our minds so that we feel we’re not keeping up. Untidy house? I need to do more housework. No clean socks? I’m way behind on the laundry. Behaviour problems in school? That’s it – no more video games – ever.
We need to stop. I need to stop.
The reality is this: my children don’t need a Mum who looks trim in leggings right now. Or a mother who makes individualised gluten-free quiches for the whole class. They need a mother who does her best to love them well — imperfections and all. I’m doing that, so I don’t need to make a resolution to make it happen.
So this year, give yourself some credit. Cut yourself some slack. You’re doing fine – being a parent is really hard. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, least of all yourself. Some years aren’t meant to be record-breaking – they’re just meant for you to be the best version of yourself.
January doesn’t have to be a stay-indoors month – there’s loads of things going on for children of all ages, and you can do with getting out too. Check out www.gomunkee.com for inspiration.