The end of the year is a great time to reflect on what has passed: What we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned; even what we regret. We always think of the New Year as a time for resolutions, but it makes sense to take stock before undertaking new promises to ourselves.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who is also an author and writing teacher, introduced me to the practice of conducting a self-review. She intended it as a way for freelancers to reflect on their successes and challenges, to take stock in their writerly selves.
I’ve decided to adapt this practice of self-review this year to my job as a mother. Why not? Our job as parents is one of the hardest there is, yet we don’t benefit from a regular check-in — a reminder of all we’ve accomplished and succeeded at. Too often, we are self-critical and judgmental of our own parenting ways and the styles and choices of other parents. Often there’s no one to tell us, objectively, how we’re doing.
The days bleed into each other when we’re down in the parenting trenches. Our own kids don’t often say things like, “Hey Mom, you’ve done a great job managing my temper tantrums this month by thinking creatively and setting limits — thanks!” (As if!)
Why not reflect, and celebrate, ourselves as mothers this time of year?
I promise, by taking stock with the guidelines below, you will realize that you have succeeded more than you think; that in fact you have accomplished near-miraculous feats. After you see clearly all you’ve done, then you can come up with resolutions, if you’re into that kind of thing.
I promise this is a fun exercise and won’t be a downer. It will require you to be honest about yourself as a parent, and to examine how your parenting identity works into your larger identity as a person, a worker, a spouse, etc.
Here are just some of the 2012 successes and challenges I discovered or was reminded of doing this exercise:
I sent my youngest child off to kindergarten and watched her adapt beautifully; I got a new job that affected my family’s schedule and worked hard to make sure everyone fared well; I asked for help when I needed it — and sometimes even paid money for it (a big thing for me); I supported my children as they followed their extracurricular pursuits; I worked on yelling less; I went back to yoga to cultivate calm; I helped my kids take better care of their troublesome teeth (no new cavities!); I celebrated my 10-year wedding anniversary with my husband; I dealt with my own mom losing strength and mobility to a chronic disease and, although I grieved inside, I stayed strong for my kids and helped my family as best I could; I spent too much time looking at screen when I should have focused on my kids; I won a literary award (might not seem like a parenting accomplishment, but committing to take the time I need to write directly impacts my role as a mom); I learned to say no; I made connections to my mothering community; I gained confidence as a mom; I explored new passions away from my kids; I finally learned to make a good roast chicken.
Before you make a host of new resolutions, consider taking the time to review yourself using the questions below. Have fun, and have a healthy, creative and beautiful New Year!
1. What was your biggest parenting accomplishment during the past year?
2. What risks did you take as a parent? What tough choices did you make?
3. What did you do in terms of “professional” development? Did you read parenting books, seeks out advice and help from others, lean on a critical support network or person?
4. How did you network with other parents or foster your parenting community?
5. What did you do to nurture your creativity, as a parent and as an individual?
6. How did you support other parents in your sphere? When did you ask for support?
7. What did you do to prevent burnout? Be specific: Did you pursue personal time, a hobby, a fitness goal?
8. How did you celebrate your accomplishments as a parent? How were you recognized by others?
9. What was your biggest parenting problem or challenge? What did you do about it? Where did you fall short of your own expectations?
10. What changed about your role as a parent, either with your relationship with your kids or within yourself?