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Mommy Truths: December 2008

Mommy Truths

The Hard Learned Lessons and Eye Opening Realities of Raising Young Kids

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Setting New Year's Goals

Each year around New Year's I write down my goals for the year. Not resolutions, goals. The term "resolution" means failure to me. I can't help it. Growing up, I nearly always set a weight loss resolution and kind of knew in the back of my mind that I wasn't really going to keep it.

Early in my career, I switched to setting goals. Goals are just more concrete. You hold yourself to them. Especially if you write them down. This is the critical element. You must put pen to paper to achieve success (see my notes on the famous Yale Study about this at the end of this post.) When I started setting specific goals and writing them down about fifteen years ago, my goals were mostly career oriented. And I discovered that when I wrote them down, I met them! Seriously. In fact, I often exceeded them. Especially salary goals. If I set a salary I hoped to achieve in 1, 2 or 5 years, I earned it earlier than my goal.

Setting Mommy Goals
Since most Mommies have children after their careers, why not use techniques that helped in your career for motherhood? As a mother, I've found it critical to make specific goals, especially for myself, if I don't want to be totally consumed by my family and household's ever demanding needs. When it comes to goal setting, the more specific the goal, the more likely I'm successful. And while there's a balance to what's possible and unachievable, I always keep in mind that in most instances, "Some is Better than None!"

Here are some sample areas and goals to consider for your Mommy Goals:

Personal time and space
How much time do you need for yourself each day? Each week?

Example: I will take fifteen minutes of peaceful solace each day.
This may mean that after your husband comes home, you sit in the bathroom with a magazine or staring into space to get a little quite, alone time. But you find a way to take time for yourself each day. Otherwise, it probably won’t happen.

How often do you want to exercise? If you hope for five times a week but three times is achievable, make it happen.

Hobby, study, vocation
Do you want to maintain a hobby or learn a new craft?
Example: I will take a pottery/math/writing class this Spring.

How can you maintain your health while balancing a child’s schedule and foods?

My goal one year was to add one additional piece of fruit each day. I had read that the additional fiber would aid weight loss over time. It was pretty easy to focus on choosing an apple over crackers in the afternoon when I had this goal in the back of my mind.

Do you want to focus on certain aspects of your behavior? Taming a temper? Being silly with your kids? Affectionate with your husband?

Spousal relationships can take a quick backseat when children come along. What time/activities do you want to protect and encourage with your husband?

Some people have a regular Saturday babysitter. If this is too much, how about a goal of one night out per month with your hubby? It will focus you to get a babysitter for at least one night each month and you'll truly look forward to it.

Do you want to commit to green living with your children? Sample goals include packing lunches and snacks in reusable containers versus plastic bags, putting fluorescent lights in the playroom, and keeping the lights off and the heat down in rooms you’re not in.

This is just a sampling of goal areas, but hopefully it can help center you in some areas for the New Year. Good luck!

Goal Setting Sources
(Two sources inspired me to write down my goals. The first was a Yale Study my brother told me about when he was in business school. According to the study, in 1953, researchers surveyed Yale's graduating seniors to determine how many of them had specific, written goals for their future. The answer: 3%. Twenty years later, researchers polled the surviving members of the Class of 1953 -- and found that the 3% who had written down their goals had accumulated more personal financial wealth than the other 97% of the class combined. When looking for a source link to reference in this post, I discovered that Fast Company magazine debunked this legendary story and it isn't true. Oh, well. It works anyway.

The second source was a great book by Martha Beck called Finding Your Own North Star. She helps make your goal setting specific by prompting you to chunk up your goal into minute steps and put each on a Post It note. As she describes it, you put where you are now on a Post It on the left side of a wall. You put your goal on the other side of the wall and every tiny step on Post Its in between. It's a great way to focus your efforts to reach a goal.)


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Believing in Santa Claus

When I picked up Son from preschool Lunch Bunch, he pulled me aside and excitedly said,

"Mom, guess what happened today?"

"What?" I asked.

"Well, we were eating lunch and Miss Jill was getting coffee and we heard bells. And Miss Sherry said, 'Listen, what's that?' And she said, "It's Santa watching us."

He had a huge smile on his face and felt very, very special that Santa had paid a special preschool drive by of his school.

I was touched and moved by his joy and pure belief in the event. And it sealed for me the power of believing in Santa Claus for young children.

I have to admit it's felt awkward for me to summon lies each Christmas in telling the tale of Santa Claus. It goes against my year long effort of gentle explanations and truth telling to my kids. My experience is just a trickle down of a larger trend in our society. Businesses strive for transparency and reality television has created a way "too much information" culture.

It's a far cry from my parents' generation when less was more when it came to filling in the kids on most things. "We'll see" was the common response to many requests and you didn't get an explanation.

So, hearing Son's ready, sweet willingness to believe such an obvious Santa ruse sealed my belief as well. My belief in children's ability and need for the story with a good hero. For a story of magic and mystery.

Kind of like that other Christmas story. You know - the one about the baby who comes to save the world. And while my kids seem pretty moved by the events that night in Bethlehem and three kings who brought gifts, they kinda like the guy who brings them gifts. And, I'm all for it.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Magically Disappearing Mystery Minutes

Why is getting out of the house on time in the morning with two preschoolers akin to herding one hundred cats through a small swinging door? Try as I might, I still can't find the best way to encourage (or threaten) Son and Daughter to get dressed and out the door on time. It doesn't matter how early we start to get ready, their silliness will find a way to delay our departure.

I call this magically disappearing time Mystery Minutes. And my rule of thumb is: Plan to leave 15 minutes prior to the actual time you need to leave.

In fact, plan 15 Mystery Minutes into all outings with children.

That's 15 Mystery Minutes before you need to leave the playground, play date, etc. to make it somewhere else on time (or just because you want to leave). That allows for three "five minute warnings." Which is where the Mystery Minutes come from: The fact that it takes at least three times longer than you think to herd children in your direction. Three times as long to convince them it's a good idea, to assert your authority that they must comply, to entice them with a tempting enough carrot, or threaten them with a strong enough warning.

And, because no matter how carefully I've planned the steps to get us out the door, Son or Daughter will spring a surprise tactic or tantrum that sets us off course.

(This morning I cajoled Son into using nasal spray with a promise of two kitty cookies (one for each nostril). Well, of course Daughter then wanted some, too. What seemed like a good way to get him moving, turned into an all out tantrum when she insisted on five cookies.

"Just two!"
"We don't eat cookies in the morning. Two or none."
"No, five!"

She was frustrated because she didn't understand the rules. 1. We don't usually get cookies in the morning so if we're going to have two, why not five? 2. I usually negotiate on matters of little consequence. When did kitty cookies become a big deal?

So, I tell myself, if I'm going to break the rules, I should live with the consequences. And, if I'm going to break them, why not just give in all the way. More times than not, I realize later that whatever stubborn "rule" I held onto, was not worth my child's tears.

And, next time, maybe I'll plan for the full 30 Mystery Minutes so I'm not a crazed lunatic scrambling for snow pants and a second glove.