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New Year's Resolutions for a Bad Mom

Photo Credit: Michel Marcol

I spend a lot of time making fun of myself and my big, fat ass and joking about how we’d all be a lot happier if we lowered our expectations. I hate the whole concept of “perfect mommy” and do what I can to set a more reasonable standard to live by. And while it makes me feel better, it also makes it easy for me to justify my own (bad) behavior. I’m not really a bad mom, but I don’t think I’m winning any prizes either.

And while New Year’s resolutions get a very bad rap, I think there’s value in self-reflection and self-improvement, even when it’s painful. In fact, it may be most valuable when it’s painful. That’s where I am right now.Lately I find myself embodying all of my parents’ worst characteristics. They’re both wonderful, but they’re real people with real faults. And I remember all the things that happened when I was growing up that made me say, “When I’m a parent, I will never do that.”

Figuring out that I was already doing all the things I swore I wouldn’t, plus a large number of other unfortunate items that I brought to the table all by myself, was not easy to accept. It came as a sudden, unpleasant realization. It was like looking in a mirror in broad daylight and seeing all the lines on my face in a way that I hadn’t before. And seeing that I had (gasp!) a white eyebrow hair and (sigh …) dark circles that never seem to go away anymore. And what happened to my neck?

I’m not sure when I became an adult, but I also seem to have become one that feels like a stranger. At least on those rare moments when I really look at myself in good light. I don’t take the time to do that very often, literally or figuratively. I’m too busy running around, trying to manage all of my very grown-up responsibilities.

But the part of me that still thinks I’m young believes I have plenty of time to change. Maybe I can be beautiful again. Maybe I can be the kind, patient person I want to be. Maybe I will find the strength to model the behavior my kids deserve to see, and actually do it every day.

When I was young, I thought the worst thing in the world would be to grow up and become my mother. I was an idiot. I now realize that the worst thing in the world would be for my daughters to grow up and become me.

But I have an idea. An idea that my kids and I can do this together. That I can teach them about wanting to do better and do more. That we can set goals together and work to make them happen as a family. They’re still little, and I’ve spent the past eight years trying to shield them from the harsher realities that defined my childhood. But perhaps it’s time to be a little more honest. Perhaps we could all benefit from taking a good look in the mirror in broad daylight.

After talking with my older kids, we’ve decided to all work on three things this year:

  1. Controlling ourselves (our entire family has a slight problem with being impulsive)
  2. Thinking of others (and doing things for others every day)
  3. Being healthy (that means cutting back on stuff we love and incorporating some stuff we maybe don’t love as much)

Are these things merely dreaded New Year’s resolutions, doomed to fail after a few weeks? I have no idea. But I do know that the new year is an opportunity to start over. And though I have recently come to accept that I’m not really young anymore, I will never accept that I don’t have plenty of time to change. Because I would never want my kids to think it’s too late for me, or them, to become something better than what we currently are. Or to fix something that’s broken.

Life can (and has) thrown curve balls, whether through my bad choices or bad luck or a bad economy or that bitch cancer or [insert reason here] … but I can and should always seize an opportunity to do better, to start over. I need to take those long looks in the mirror more often, and then look forward with new eyes. And always remember that there are three sets of little eyes on me, waiting to see what I’ll do next.

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