With the best of intentions, when the ball dropped in 2020, you resolved to better yourself as a parent, keep your house organized, so on and so forth. While it seemed like a good plan at the time, maybe you fell off the train or never even got on.
We’re here to tell you that it’s perfectly OK, because we’re all human and are trying our best to raise our tiny humans.
In fact, according to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, most people fail to achieve their New Year’s goals. If you’re part of that group, spring is the perfect time to finally complete that clean slate.
“When we make resolutions at the start of a New Year, oftentimes we feel like these are the things we have to do for ourselves,” says Carolyn Jones, life coach at the Chicago-based Coaching with Carolyn. “If we reframe it and focus on what we want to do for ourselves, it is more motivating.”
When it comes to getting a handle on it all, we asked the experts where to begin.
Your role as a parent
Society puts a lot of pressure on parents to perform to extremely high expectations. It’s important to understand and accept that failures will happen and that is OK.
“Even the ‘best’ parents make mistakes,” says Veronica Ursetto, owner and therapist at Integrative Perspectives Counseling and Consulting PC. “What separates failure from success can be as simple as a reframe that we have an opportunity for growth.”
When parents evaluate their parenting style, Ursetto encourages them to first set their personal goals for parenting. After “slowing down to breathe,” she recommends taking a realistic look and choosing one area of change for focus.
A few questions that parents might answer in this step are: what is my motivation for change, what are the barriers to change and what is my model for change?
“Start there,” Ursetto says. “Once you can clearly answer these questions, then you can create small goals for yourself. You can even include your family.”
One such goal she sees many parents struggle with is how to be more present in the digital age.
“Model for your children by putting your electronics down. You can even start small by making one meal a week ‘phone/TV free,’” Ursetto suggests. “There are many other ways we can be present with our children, and I encourage families to talk about what’s needed in each individual home.”
Your kids’ behavior
The kids are acting out. What else is new? Instead of immediately resorting to yelling and punishments, take a step back and look for a potential underlying cause.
“The first place I look when trying to find the culprit of a change in behavior is sleep schedule,” says Pediatric Sleep Consultant Maggie Moore, the owner of the digitally-based Moore Sleep. “It plays a huge role in your child’s ability to self-regulate and their emotions. Not getting the right amount of sleep can cause your child to act out, fight sleep, have a hard time falling asleep and have a difficult time staying asleep.”
While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to sleep issues, Moore says the best way to get your child’s sleep back on track is an earlier bedtime. Even moving it up 15 to 30 minutes can make a big difference, she says.
“Night sleep is the most restorative sleep,” says Moore. “Naps are only a temporary fix.”
Dr. Rebecca Unger, general pediatrician in Northwestern Children’s Practice, says whether you suspect your child has a behavioral problem, it is best to initially meet with your pediatrician or health care provider to evaluate treatment options.
“Your pediatrician and your pediatric office are your medical home,” she says. “Your primary care health care provider knows your family the best and early intervention with them is the best place to start.”
Home organization isn’t easy for anyone, and when you throw dishes, laundry and general cleaning up in the mix, it can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task to tackle it all.
Lauren Tenenbaum, owner of the Chicago-based home organization business Leave That For Lauren, says being organized at home helps to live an organized and stress-free life.
“When everything you need has a designated home, you will not waste time searching for items that are needed,” she says. For people who want to start organizing but don’t know where to start, Tenenbaum suggests starting small and beginning with the room or items causing the most anxiety.
“If it is the kitchen, start with one cabinet a day,” she says. “If it is the playroom or office, start with one section. Get yourself some heavy-duty garbage bags and get ready to purge. Take it day by day, decluttering and organizing can be very emotional and overwhelming.”
Tenenbaum also recommends the “hack” of getting kids involved by letting them aid in both the decluttering and giving process.
“You can look up organizations together and decide as a family where donations such as toys and clothes can go,” she says. “Kids can be so generous and giving that parents will be surprised at what they are willing to part with.”
In addition to being disorganized, one of the first tasks that suffers when life gets busy is housecleaning.
Val Oliveira, owner of Val’s Services: Cleaning With Care, says one of her best tips to keeping the house clean is to clean as you go.
“Doing a little bit at a time is the easiest way to stay on top of house cleaning to avoid being overwhelmed,” she says.
That can be as simple as putting pots and pans in the dishwasher after you cook, or folding laundry immediately after it comes out of the dryer.
An overly hectic schedule can also negatively impact your family’s well-being, says Jones, who cautions that when too many things are on the family calendar, activities and events can easily slip through the cracks.
She encourages parents to tweak their reoccurring schedules to see if there is one thing on there that they can say “no” to. On the other hand, she says it is important to add something that benefits families, such as a family game night.
“There is so much pressure to feel like you have to do all of those things so as not to let your kids down,” Jones says. “But the reality is, when you are frazzled, irritated and exhausted, you can’t be your best self.”
For that reason, Jones suggests that moms block off weekly time for themselves on their schedule, giving them something to look forward to.
“Self-care comes in a lot of forms, and whether you are scheduling a yoga class or just a walk around the neighbor-hood, setting this special alone time can improve your health and well-being.”
Putting it all in perspective
Dr. Ivy Ge, author of The Art of Good Enough: The Working Mom’s Guilt-Free Guide to Thriving While Being Perfectly Imperfect, says at the end of the day, it’s important for parents to acknowledge that no parent is perfect in one or all of these areas.
“As parents, we must know our limits and not beat ourselves up. We must let go of unreasonable expectations,” she says. “Know what you are good at, focus your time and energy on the things that are important to you, and use those strengths to improve your lives.”
Dr. Ivy Ge: How to live better
Reverse engineer a plan for your life.
A lot of moms have sacrificed career or dreams for kids. “Think about your old dream and what got you excited and re-find that passion,” Ge says.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes of those perfect postings we see on social media, Ge says. “Competition is toxic,” she says. “Know that we all shine different ways.”
Always take time for yourself to recharge.
Whether it’s a breathing exercise, a workout or pampering, focus on what makes you feel good about yourself, Ge suggests.
Live more simply.
Realize that material things aren’t what truly bring you comfort. Go through your things and donate what you don’t use anymore so it can bring joy to someone in need.
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This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s March 2020 issue. Read the rest of the issue here.