I became a parent for the first time on Dec. 31. Six years and two more kids later, I haven’t seen the ball drop on New Year’s Eve since. I may be the only parent on the planet who doesn’t need a resolution to sleep more.
But since my name changed to Mom on the last day of the calendar, my annual end-of-year plans to become a better person have transformed into resolutions to be a better parent. I figure I’ll work on being a better human in general again when my kids are 18.
This year, though, I’m scrapping the parental New Year’s resolutions of the past: Don’t yell at the kids. Play more. Don’t compare. Say yes more (to the kids). Say no more (to everyone else).
Those are great ideas, really, but as my kids get older (and more numerous), I’ve also gotten lazier. Or maybe the right word is efficient. Either way, my resolutions this year will play to my natural slothfulness.
Use parental controls — on myself. This sounds more masochistic than lazy, but hear me out. Scientists are frantically studying the impact of screen time on kids’ brains. I don’t know about your kids, but mine swarm me like it’s feeding time at the zoo when they see me with screen in hand. Now, thanks to Apple’s latest iOS upgrade, I’ve started getting a shameful, weekly report detailing how much time I spend (uh, waste) on my phone. Checking the weather is one thing, but I sure don’t need to lose hours watching your dog and child share an ice cream cone when I have my own personal circus at home. The time has come for me to set boundaries on my own screen use. I’m not ready to abandon certain apps — I work from home and sometimes social media is my only lifeline to other adults — but I do plan on taking the lazy way out and using parental controls meant for limiting teens’ screen time on my own devices. One setting change for the new year and Siri will tell me (and therefore also my kids) when it’s time to ditch Facebook. Winning all around: I spend less time mindlessly scrolling, someone else enforces the rule, and my kids witness this and regain some of my attention.
Try out lazy parenting. Did you know that’s actually a thing? It’s essentially stepping back from your children, purposefully, to allow them the space to try things on their own and create independence. A pat on the back to most parents I know; this is something we seem to do quite well. Chatting with mom friends on park benches while our kids play is one of my favorite pastimes. But while taking care of a neighbor’s cat recently, my almost-6-year-old daughter spotted a broom and giddily began to sweep their kitchen. I swear she took on a cheerful, Cinderella-like persona, gliding across the floor and crooning with cartoon mice and birds. And she didn’t do a half-bad job either. My response was a mix of shock and mock anger: Why has she never done this at home? I’ll wager a guess and admit it’s because I’d worry that she was making a bigger mess and brush her attempts aside. This year, I plan on (time and patience permitting) allowing the kids to crack the eggs, letting my 2-year-old put his own pants on even if it takes all day, and generally (and intentionally) curbing my instincts to step in. Lazy parenting may be a misnomer; it sounds like it takes serious restraint and mental energy. But the benefits to the kids can be numerous, so I plan to give it a try. If you need me, I’ll be on the couch.
Sleep less. I know, I know. I’m the only parent in America who’d make this a goal. You must understand, though, that I have an exceptionally warm and loving relationship with my sleep. With each additional child, I turned in earlier, fiercely protecting my precious slumber. As my kids have gotten older, though, their bedtimes have gotten later — yet mine hasn’t budged. The result? Less lazy time with my brilliant other half. I can’t speak for him (though I usually do anyway), and he’s a darn good parent already, but I’ve learned that the more my husband and I are in sync, the better I am at parenting. And the more time we have together to talk through any challenges about our kids — without them present — the better our solutions become. A little less shut-eye would increase our time together, and it might actually be good for me, too. A study this month found that more than eight hours of sleep a night may be harmful for our health. Good timing, because I’m ready to laze it up with the hubs. You know, for the sake of the kids.
So here’s to reading more books, understanding water-cooler conversations about popular TV shows, ringing in the new year at midnight and being a wonderfully lazy parent in 2019.
Jodie Fishman works at the intersection of public health and communications. She is currently 60 percent maternal and child health professional, 40 percent stay at home mom, and 100 percent thankful. Her work has been featured in HuffPost, Kveller, Scary Mommy and more.
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