The first few weeks of January, social media is full of moms making resolutions: They want to lose weight, get fit, eat less take-out, read more books, organize their homes. They want to be "better" parents.
Eliza Morrill — co-founder of the parenting website Momstrosity along with her Columbus, Georgia, neighbor Stephanie Hollifield — spent New Year's Eve scrolling through her newsfeeds, reading her friends' resolutions to get up an hour earlier each morning or to cook dinner every night. "I felt defeated," she told TODAY Parents.
"Many people choose a word to 'define' the upcoming year for them, and the only one that I could think of was to 'survive,'" Morrill said. "We have four children ages 3 and under, so constant chaos and sleepless nights are the name of the game for us."
Morrill posted an alternative New Year's resolution for herself, urging other moms to give themselves grace this year, too.
"The truth is, I’m in the weeds. I’m in the when-will-my-kids-sleep-again weeds. I’m in the lots-of-little-kids-with-lots-of-big-needs weeds," Morrill wrote. "I am knee-deep in picky eaters, dirty diapers, temper tantrums, health issues, and repetitive dinners."
This year, Morrill said, she is giving herself permission not to break records or push herself to new feats. "This is not my year to run a marathon. This is not my year to drink two gallons of water a day, or to make healthy, home-cooked meal every night, or serve on all of those committees. It is my year to survive," she wrote. "This is my year to sleep when I can. To give myself grace, always. To embrace the mess."
She noted that moms put pressure on themselves all the time, whether they realize it or not. "Small imperfections during the day equate to our shortcomings in our own mind. Messy house? I should clean more. No clean socks? I’m way behind on laundry. Kid acts out in school? I let him watch 'Frozen' too often. We need to stop. I need to stop," she said.
"The reality is this: My kids don’t need a mom who looks great in leggings right now. Or a mom who makes individualized quiches for all the kids in class. They need a mom who does her best to love them well — imperfections and all."
Morrill told TODAY Parents that she was inspired to write the post after a hard year for her family. "My daughter has had some significant health issues this year," she said. "Just making it through the day sometimes feels like a win for us. And, let's be real: My house probably won't be clean until my kids are in college."
She said that like other moms, she compares herself to "other people's best version of themselves," and she realizes it is counter-productive.
"I wrote the post as a sort of, 'Please don't expect too much from me in 2019,' but I never thought that so many moms would be able to relate to it," she said. "It's a wonderful feeling to know that we're not in this alone — but it's also unfortunate that so many of us struggle with perfectionism in motherhood and life in general."
Parenting and child development expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa said putting stress on ourselves to be "better" parents is not helpful. Instead, she suggests parents try something different in the new year.
"As useful as mindfulness — that ability to take a breath and slow it down — are for improving kid behavior, it's equally valuable for parents to be able to put problems in perspective, know what makes us calm, and actually — at least sometimes — enjoy being with our family," she told TODAY Parents.
"Some stress we can't change, like the stress of a sick kiddo, or the stress that comes when we haven't peed alone in six days, five hours and 12 minutes," she noted. "Some stress we can eliminate, and that's the stress we put on ourselves to be more, or better, or keep up with some vision of perfection."
Gilboa said setting reasonable expectations, doing your best to meet them, and showing yourself grace if you don't also sets a good example for your children. "A good test might be: Whatever you're stressing out about, would you want your child someday to put that same pressure on themselves? If not, it's totally reasonable to set it aside."
Along with surviving, Morrill said a good, attainable New Year's resolution for any mom is just to love her children the best she can every day.