I will embrace the fact that I'm not perfect.
You can be cranky, you can lose your patience, and yes -- you can even move the clock ahead an hour just so the kids will go to bed early and give you some peace and quiet. You don't have to bake everything from scratch, make Halloween costumes out of scraps lying around the house, or coach the soccer team. Children don't need you to be perfect. What they really need are reasonable limits, lots of hugs and kisses, and a happy mommy.
I will get down on the floor and play with my child every day.
Babies -- and older kids too -- need regular face-to-face time with the adults in their lives. And while it can be difficult to get involved in their fantasy world -- especially when you're busy or tired -- it's vital that you do it. Why? Because play is your child's way of expressing himself, and your being there boosts his emotional intelligence. Even if floor time isn't your forte, fake it and follow your little one's lead.
I will take care of my body.
When's the last time you put your needs first? Even if you have to force yourself, carve out 30 minutes a day, several days a week, to get some exercise. It improves your mood, blasts fat, and boosts your immune system. And we're not talking spin classes or complicated step aerobics here -- even a simple walk around the neighborhood will do the trick. While you're at it, try to eat a balanced diet and get as much sleep as you possibly can each night.
I will learn to love the chaos.
Family life is full of unexpected turns, contagious diseases, occasional humiliations, laundry, and more work than you'll ever see an end to. It is also full of moments of great beauty, tenderness, sticky kisses, and a miracle or two. Remind yourself that children are your excuse to lower your standards. As comedienne Phyllis Diller once said: "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing."
I will make the family dinner a priority.
Sure, it's easier to grab pizza and eat in front of the TV than to arrange a meal at the dinner table. But the food isn't the focus -- the family is. Sitting down with your children each night allows you to connect and talk about your day. And research has found that kids who regularly have dinner with their parents are more likely to do well in school and stay out of trouble.
I will focus a little more on my marriage.
Marriage is a living thing that needs to be watered, fed, and nurtured. But raising children takes so much time and energy that chances are you see less of your husband now than you did when the two of you were dating. The solution? Hold hands whenever you can, and hire a babysitter (or enlist your mother-in-law) once a week so you can spend time as a couple.
I will make time for my friends.
You can live without friends, but why would you want to? Setting aside just 15 minutes a day -- to send a postcard, dash off an e-mail, or make a phone call -- will do more than keep you connected. That's because friendships not only nurture you emotionally, they also help you combat stress by allowing you to blow off a little steam -- which in turn may actually lower your blood pressure.
I will remind myself daily that time with my child is precious.
Motherhood never ends -- but childhood does. You have a baby, you blink, and suddenly there's a 3-year-old standing in front of you announcing, "I'm big now." The magic years are unbelievably brief, and every day that little girl or boy is changing and growing, edging a little closer toward the door. Remember that the essence of parenting isn't in the milestones, but in the everyday moments. So stop, pay attention, and make sure you celebrate them every chance you get.
Originally published in the January 2005 issue of Parents magazine, Updated 2010.