By Laura Simon

New Year’s resolutions have always felt a bit funny to me. Once each year, immediately after a late night of partying, we all sit around and resolve to make the life changes we’ve failed to make for at least the past ten years. And somehow, we expect those changes to stick. Even when I was young and childless, I had a less-than-stellar track record with the things, and once kids came along? Forget it. Yes, I could totally resolve to go to the gym every day, but resolving anything with a toddler or two is like throwing open the door and inviting the tummy bug into my house. Why resolve to feel guilt and shame in mid-February? I mean, just coping with the weather in February is hard enough.

I was knee-deep in the baby years when my friend spoke truth to me: she had decided not to give up anything for Lent, which borders on sacrilegious in Cincinnati, where she lives. But she told me, “You know what, I have two toddlers and a nursing infant. I’ve already given up sleep, alcohol, dairy, looking and feeling human, and swearing while the kids are awake. What on earth is left?” And since I also had two toddlers and a nursing infant, I decided she made a lot of sense.

These years of mothering are hard. They’re amazing. They’re full of growth – for us, too – and not just the kids. Why do we go around setting impossible standards for ourselves, when getting through the day is enough to considerably strengthen and deepen our character?

Listen, we can all embrace guilt. Or, we can embrace the stage of life that we’re in. This year, my New Year’s resolutions reflect my decision to do the latter. I call them “New Year’s Resolutions for the Mother with Young Children”. Maybe you can relate:

1 – At least once a week, I’ll wake up in a bed that isn’t mine. Or at least, I’ll be in that bed when the sun comes up, because waking up implies that sleep happened at some point. I know this sounds scandalous, but it isn’t. Every time I think we have the sleep thing under control in this house, someone derails the train. Right now, it’s my three-year-old, who’s smitten with her new big girl bed and just wants to share it with someone. Every night. Somewhere around 3 am. For awhile, it was my oldest son and his night terrors. He had no problem going back to sleep if his elbow was buried firmly in my neck. And my middle son just wants to cuddle once a week or so, and who am I to say no? These years go fast, right? I’ll totally confess that I love watching my kids sleep. I love their snuggles and their sighs…and even their sleepy toots. I sleep very poorly with their various appendages sprawled all over me, but I’m embracing the stage. So be it.

2 – I will eat more chocolate than I should. Or drink more coffee. Or consume more wine. Or all three. Whatever your guilty pleasure is, resolve to enjoy it. I mean, don’t go crazy here. We all feel better when we make good food choices, but I woke up one day and pretty much all of my pre-child life was gone. Curling up with a good book, enjoying a clean house for more than thirty seconds, having a conversation with a friend, sleeping, actually going out somewhere and relaxing…these little things that recharge me are impossible luxuries. I wouldn’t trade my children for the world, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally miss the fun things I used to do. I lieu of this, I stay up too late after the kids have gone to bed and eat chocolate. Just a little. Just enough to fire up those endorphins and keep me moving for another day.

3 – Whenever possible, I will stay in the shower longer than I should. Yes, hot water costs money. Yes, it’s hard on the skin this time of year. Yes, I’ve heard of the so-called benefits of taking cold showers. No, I don’t care. There are plenty of days where I don’t get to shower at all, so I don’t feel the slightest bit guilty enjoying it when I get one. And, it usually buys me just a little alone time. I mean, there’s always at least one visitor at some point, but no one actually insists on touching me while I’m in the shower. Although – true story – I did get asked to peel a banana one time. Apparently the fifteen minutes between breakfast and snack were just too much.

4 – I will get borderline obsessed with something that seems absolutely ridiculous to the rest of the world. For me, right now, it’s teeth. Actually, it’s been teeth for a long time. First it was cutting teeth, and now I have one child simultaneously losing teeth and cutting new molars. Teeth impact so much: the way a child eats, the way a child behaves, the texture and consistency of the things that come out of said child’s body. Teeth are worthy of obsession. Also, if my oldest doesn’t stop complaining about his loose front teeth and muster up the strength to pull them out himself, I’m taking matters into my own hands. Literally. Do you think he’ll need therapy for that?

5 – And finally, I will continue doing things that would make my 22-year-old self weep. Things like saying, “You should totally trade your SUV for a minivan. I LOVE mine. It’s life-changing”. And venturing out into very public situations without a stitch of make-up. And texting my sister-in-law from the dressing room at TJ Maxx because I have no idea what’s in style anymore. I almost bought reindeer antlers for my minivan this year, because my toddler begged me to get some. I’m sorry, younger self. It’s probably only going to get worse.

You see the benefit of a resolution list like this, right? It’s kind of like making a “to do” list and putting a few things at the top that I’ve already completed. The joy of checking off a box doesn’t hinge on when it was completed. The joy is in actually finishing something. I can keep these resolutions. These are things that I’m going to be doing anyway.

Come February, I’m going to be feeling pretty good about myself, because look at me: I am a resolution keeper. And in the tired years of parenting littles, we need all the good feelings we can get.

Feeling inspired? It’s only January 3. You can totally write some new resolutions that reflect your stage in motherhood. Feel free to share them with us in the comments. We’d love to cheer you on.