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13 Ways I Want To Parent Differently in 2013 (the totally doable version)

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I am not someone who sits around thinking I’m doing this motherhood thing terribly wrong. I do not keep a list of my parental shortcomings at my fingertips or look at other have-it-all-together moms in amazement (I know they have their unraveling moments, too). Sure, I write about being frazzled and sub-par a lot on this blog, but I mostly share that stuff because I think it’s funny, relatable, human. It does not keep me up at night. That said, I love fresh starts and clean slates and I think there's always room for self improvement. That said, I never like to set the bar too high that I can’t step right over it. So here, in no particular order, are the 13 small changes=big results things I plan to do in the coming year:

1. Keep my car neater. At any given time there is an entire wardrobe, tons of old crunched up food, shoes (never matching), toys (usually broken) and scattered mail (sometimes junk, sometimes important bills) rolling around my car.This makes me feel disgusting, disorganized and disgruntled, which I swear is not how I really am.

2. Lose my cool less. Yes, I get frustrated and yell at my kids sometimes. Sometimes it’s warranted (like when Alex "accidentally" throws a ball at me while I’m driving); other times it’s…well, honestly, it always seems warranted because my kids can be really trying and it seems the only way to snap them out of it is to snap (within reason--I don't go psycho on them or anything). But I always feel bad about it. And regardless of the situation, I think everyone would be better served if I just tried to stay calm.

3. Dress better when I’m out with my kids, even if it’s just for pick up/drop off. I work from home and I try to work out most days, which means I wake up and put on gym clothes. And my gym clothes suck (my “gym” is a treadmill in my office so it’s not like I have anyone to impress). The times when I look put together, I feel better about everything in life and I always think, "I should put on a real bra more often." Also: Eventually my kids will be old enough to be embarrassed by my attire so best to break the habit now.

4. Eat dinner with my kids more often. This is not to instill the value of the family table (we already all sit together and talk about our days, Nick and I just watch the kids eat their dinner then put them to bed and then we eat our adult dinner quietly and without poop breaks). I want to eat with my kids so that I eat earlier and less and so I can go to bed without a full stomach. In other words, it’s the perfect post-holiday diet.

5. Get up before my kids…at least a few days a week. This one is self-explanatory. Is there anything better than those quiet moments in the morning when no one else is awake? Oh yes, sleep. And therein lies my problem. But I really, really want to try this more often and I promised my friend Laura Vanderkam that I’d take her awesome advice (she wrote What The Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast) and report back. Stay tuned….

6. Foster my kids’ love of pretend play. Alex and Nora are both really into dress up and pretending to be doctors, nurses, dogs, cats, moms, firefighters, professional soccer players, waiters, chefs, dog trainers, dragon slayers, pirates, etc. I want to start a big trunk of dress up clothes (I had one as a kid) and help them let their imaginations run wild. I’ll even put some princess stuff in there for Nora.

7. Take more family trips to the city. We live an hour from some the best museums, zoos, restaurants, theater and people-watching in the world. We’ve avoided NYC trips with both kids thus far because, well, our kids can be tough in public. And NYC is as public as it gets. But now that they are calming down and becoming more reasonable humans, I want to take advantage. We all went into the city the week before Christmas for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and it was a great day.

8. Take more videos of the kids. I would never say make a scrapbook or a baby book or organize the pictures I already have because that just sounds too hard. But taking more videos is easy. And fun. And there is nothing better than watching old clips of the kids being cute or sweet or funny (good entertainment for them, too!). And the first item on my 2013 to-do list is getting an iPhone (I have an old, crappy blackberry--don't ask) so I'll be one step closer to home video heaven. 

9. Get together with mom friends more often. Nothing makes me feel more supported and normal than hanging out with other moms, trading stories and realizing that we are all truly in this together. And that any effed up issue I may be facing (force-brushing Nora’s teeth every night, for example) has already been faced by someone else who can tell me it will pass.

10. Judge other parents less. Yes, I do it sometimes. No, it’s not productive. And considering I am far from perfect, there are many more useful uses of my time. Like working on some of the stuff on this list, for example.

11. Do more charity work with the kids. I do a ton of volunteering but most of mine involves casino nights and galas and meetings. Lots and lots of meetings. The kids and I have recently made bagged lunches for Sandy clean-up volunteers (a friend organized this and it was awesome) and we collected Toys for Tots and Alex’s class adopted a family displaced by Sandy and he was amazing with writing them letters and donating Christmas presents. I really want this stuff to be a part of their lives year round. Ideas welcome!

12. Learn to do something with Nora’s hair. It’s time. She’s going to be three in a couple weeks and the girl deserves a mom who can at the very least brush her hair, if not French braid it. The messy bun look is so 2012.

13. Create more work/life boundaries. I’d never I say I want work/life “balance” but as a stay-at-home freelance writer, I am often parenting while working (I recently took a call from the governor of Illinois’s office while at the bus stop), and working while parenting (I sometimes catch Nora “just postin my blog, mom” when she’s playing on her toy laptop, that's how often she hears talk about this blog) and when my different roles ooze together like that it makes me a tad crazy. I’d like to multitask less and focus more on the task at hand. Whether that’s getting a quote from Roger Goodell (check!) or feeding my kids dinner. I think this starts by redoing my office so I actually want to work in there (instead of on my dining room table). Or maybe I just want a DIY redesign project to add even more chaos to my life this year....

OK, that’s my list. Fortunately it’s 2013 and not 2031, cause Lord knows I could keep writing. And probably should. So, anything you want to do differently in the New Year? Any of these things on your list? Share here! And happy, healthy, calm and cool New Year to you and yours. I’m off for the next few days so I can start checking some of this stuff off my list.