What I'm Going To Do Better As A Mom This Year

After ten years of motherhood, I've realized it's the little things that add up.

What I'm Going To Do Better As A Mom This Year

I’ve been a mom for a decade. Facebook reminds me of this often by showing photo memories of my kids as babies, sitting in the front basket in grocery carts, learning to walk. I see my toddler in the jump seat of our double stroller and my youngest in the top seat.

And, I remember the frazzled, under-slept woman behind the camera who forgot to bring her wallet to the store, forgot to pack herself underwear on a family vacation, who in a blurry sleep-deprived haze withdrew her child from a preschool only to go back on the waiting list to get back into the same exact school. There’s a photo of my first-time mom friends and I taking a limousine to dinner to mark our babies’ first birthdays, not because we’d be too drunk to drive but because we were too tired to stay awake at the wheel. One year in and we’d learned so much.

Even with my kids now in the thick of their elementary school years, there are often “Aha!” moments, like when I realized this year that cutting grapes out of a bunch makes them more manageable. It’s the little things. And the little things are what I’m going to do better as a mom this year.

First of all, I’ve started to delegate some of the tasks of keeping a home clean and cozy to the children, now aged 8 and 10. People who can do long division, build Lego sets independently, construct arcade games out of cardboard and program the TV are more than able to empty the dishwasher daily. It wasn’t something they wanted to do or asked to try because it looked fun, but they do it nearly every morning now because I’ve asked them, you know, 59 times.

Unloading the dishwasher has become the new normal. In the new year I will be a better mom by folding the kids into performing such lifelong skills as sweeping, mopping, and sorting laundry on the regular, too. I know there will be complaining, sighs and moans, but eventually those will fade, or at least happen with less frequency. And having them learn responsibility will make me a better mom because I will have more energy and won’t wake to hear my daughter’s friend say, “Your mom is asleep” in the movie theater again.

My kids have been grocery shopping as bystanders their entire lives, yet they still seem to marvel when, on the rare occasion, there isn’t any milk in the fridge, as if it just magically appears there, chilled and ready for consumption. When I ask who’d like to go to the store with me, I usually have no takers, and have in the past qualified this as my ‘alone time.’ No more.

This year the kids are coming with. I look forward to seeing just how closely they’ve paid attention. Do they know that the peanut butter is right by the jam? That the milk is in the back of the store? Another part of my grocery plan is to encourage my picky eater to try new things by allowing her to pick something out she hasn’t had before. That doesn’t include a different brand of vanilla ice cream, but pickles count.

This will make me a better mom because I’ll be teaching that parents don’t just go to ‘a’ store, but instead frequent two to three to get the best quality within a budget. Okay, they won’t care about that, but they’ll probably agree that finding the lowest price on our favorite brand of gelato is worth it when we can buy two canisters for the price of what we’d pay for one at another store. And it’s real world math.

Plus, while they put things into the grocery cart, I’ll stop at the magazine rack to read about the films nominated for Oscars because I didn’t have time to watch them last year. Speaking of, this year I’m going to see at least two Oscar-nominated films.

And, this year I’m going to listen to more music. I just discovered an album that Radiohead put out in 2007, one of the years I spent pregnant. The excitement I felt at hearing the songs for the first time reminded me of my pre-kids life when I’d know the actual date an artist I loved was releasing new music. And I’m going to share the music I like with my kids too, so when Pandora plays New Order and The Smiths at the grocery store they’ll be able to name the track.  

This year, I’ll be a better mom by allowing my kids’ school projects to be theirs, not mine, to worry about. My daughter won’t learn responsibility if I’m hounding her. And, as I’ve learned from firsthand experience, she won’t be proud of something I pushed her into doing. She certainly won’t benefit from me gluing graphs perfectly centered on her display. These are kids. We want them to be proud of the work they do themselves, using their own creative ideas and their own hands to reach their goals. I will remind her to stick to the schedule and meet deadlines, but I will also take a step back so that she owns the work and its completion herself. 

Speaking of goals, this year I’m going to make a conscious decision to catalog the things I’ve done before listing what I haven’t gotten to. At the end of the day I’m prone to think of the miles I didn’t run, the emails I didn’t write, the texts I forgot to respond to (or were they Facebook messages, or from the Remind app?). Before I focus on the negative, I’m going to give myself credit for remembering that my son had a math test and we fit in a quick quiz during breakfast making sure he knows his times tables. If I don’t make it to the grocery store and everyone’s starving, I’ll try to feel resourceful rather than guilty because I remembered to use a coupon to order another pizza.

And this year I’m going to be a better mom by sharing my excitement when I have my own personal victories, whether through work or through passion projects. My kids may roll their eyes, they may not know what I’m talking about, but I want them to know that their mom has goals and dreams too. My last dream wasn’t to teach them to unload the dishwasher. I will be a better mom by showing that all goals and dreams are reachable or at least worth striving for.

One of the most time consuming and stressful projects each year is planning a party, specifically a kid’s birthday party. My kids are of the ages where they know how they want to celebrate and with whom. This year I’m going to be a better mom by having them plan their own parties. Once we agree on the scope of the celebration, my kids will design the party invitation, be it paper or electronic. And they will keep track of RSVPs and write their own thank you cards for any gifts received. I’ll offer assistance and make sure everything goes smoothly, but they’ll be running the show. Of course my husband and I will have full veto power if a thirty-kid sleepover is proposed.  

I’m going to be a better mom this year by not going into time deficit. I will reliably avoid overbooking my kids after school because this makes everyone crazy and cranky. I’ll be a better mom by showing how time can be managed, not constantly chased, and that saying "no" can sometimes be the best decision.

And I’m going to be a better mom this year by not looking at my phone or other screens when I’m with my kids. They’ll have my full attention. If my phone is buzzing in my purse, I’ll check on it, but it will not constantly be in the palm of my hand. I limit my kids’ screen time and I will limit mine as well.

There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to being a mom, or a human being for that matter. We set our own expectations and respond to the external expectations placed on us by society, friends, the media, and family. This year I won’t expect to be in and out of Target in 15 minutes. That’s just setting myself up for disappointment. It takes that long to get a parking space and a shopping cart that doesn’t have someone’s old Starbucks spilled in it. I’ll give myself a minimum of 45 minutes, more if I run into a friend inside. And if I’m out early, I’ll feel great.

In short, I'm making 2019 about the little things.