The first day of the new year. Everything feels so fresh and full of possibility. The sun was shining in Boston and it is almost like a film has been lifted.
But really, what will make this year any different than the last?
I spent the past few days reflecting a lot on 2018 – examining the highs and lows and considering the missed opportunities. The year was a great year with so much to be thankful for. My family and I had ample opportunity to enjoy some truly amazing experiences together and it would be so easy to just consider it a win and hope to repeat. But, not everything is perfect and rosy, and what is one’s life if you aren’t being honest about ways to improve. I don’t want to start the new year off with regret, but I do want to learn from the things that I hoped to accomplish, but just fell short of. Maybe some of my goals were too broad, maybe there are times that I lost my way without a needed re-direct, and maybe there are times that I just didn’t work hard enough or smart enough in the right areas. I think in general my years follow a pattern, but despite this, I am never really prepared for the inevitable. Like the painful and hard parts of birth and early motherhood, when I look back in retrospect, I generally gloss over the painful and hard parts and focus on the beauty and excitement.
So, here is a journey through my 2018 – and hopefully by the end of this retrospect, I will have some new resolutions for 2019 that contain the polish and realism that will push me, and push you, dear readers, into a more successful and fruitful 2019.
2018 started off really strong – at the most magical place on earth, actually. Last winter break we took both our kids (then-16 and not-quite-yet-2) to Disney World. Why would one go to Disney at one of the busiest times of the year? Check back in next week to find out – link will be here!
Disney to end a year and start one anew certainly set a tone for 2018, but as any that has planned a trip to Mouse Mecca knows, it is also a sure-fire way to start one’s year of in the red! Was it worth it? Absolutely! But it will definitely be a one-off for us our preference will be to keep prior year travel expenses from running over into the following year. In my mind, I’d like to ensure that future trips are treated a bit more like reward parenting, wherein you should never give the reward before the work/task/deliverable is complete. Vacations in general should be saved for and paid for before you go away whenever possible, and even more so December/January vacations so that one can avoid starting a new year with lingering credit card bills. This is, of course, not always be the case (and for this particular trip, the end of year debt was a bit unavoidable) but remains an early lesson that I take away from the start last year.
So, of course as one does every year, I set out into the year with some expectations and plans. What were some of my goals for 2018? Well, some of them were the same impulses that come every January – spend more time with family and friends, visit interesting places, be successful at work, be more organized at home, be healthier, etc. I’d love to be able to share specific goals and plans, but while my work life is very deliverable-driven, I have failed on that front in my personal life. Lesson number 2 for the new year is that I need to treat my personal life a bit more like my professional. My resolutions for this year will need to be more concrete and with built in check-in points if they are to be taken seriously.
From this list of amorphous 2018 goals, despite the generalization, the first two are generally the easiest to accomplish because they are the most fun. With the vigor of a “plan” for a happier and healthier year, we set aside time in January for local activities with friends and for quick trips to spend some time with family.
January quickly rolled into February, which found my husband, daughter and I in one of our favorite cities – Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. After a few days in the city, we drove to Punta Cana and had our first (and possibly last) experience with Caribbean All-Inclusive. More stories to come on this topic and the reasons that it will be awhile before we visit another all-inclusive resort in the future….
So far we were nailing the first two “goals” on my list (as easily as one can hit a foot-sized nail head), and I was even keeping up with sporadic blog content and the roll out of an Adventures with Baby Facebook Page. February felt productive and re-energizing and I continued to ride the high of new year.
March is always a month of great highs and of challenge in our home, yet it somehow surprises me every year. We celebrate our daughter’s birthday and both my husband and my birthdays too, so it can be a fun and busy month, but it is not without its stresses. With school vacation weeks in February and in April, March is usually a prime crunch month for my stepson. It is often the month that we feel the pain of the setbacks and challenges, and where we get the splash of cold water that redirects our attention to the ups and downs of parenthood. We generally trade off vacation weeks with my stepson’s mother every year and the years that we do not have him for April instead of February generally create an especially brutal March as we work to reset routines and expectations in addition to the crush of school work. Similarly, with trips at the end of December/early January and in mid-to-late February, March is also a busy catch up time for both my husband and I at work. This is where the balance gets really hard, and in the face of the seemingly endless Boston cold, despite the celebrations and family time, March is hard. Growing up they said it “Goes in like a Lion and out like a Lamb” but with climate change, it seems it is more like it goes in like a Dire Wolf and out like the Polar Bear.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however, as April peeks out just beyond the bend. With school and work, every year we do what we can as we chase onward towards the beacon of April vacation week ahead. April 2018, in need of something “easy” and with the flight prices to anywhere warm jacked-up for the school travel week (we yearn for the day that our travel is not tied to these high-cost weeks!), we decided to try a cruise out of Boston to Bermuda. This was our first trip on Norwegian and while I have covered a bit of our Hamilton highlights on the Blog, there is a lot more here that is begging to be shared in future posts!
May and early June are also often challenging times as we try to dash to the end of my stepson’s school year. It is also often time that my husband has to travel for work, leaving me as a solo parent for one or two separate weeks. Despite the challenges, the reprieve that we finally feel from the bitter New England cold rolls in and makes everything feel a bit more bearable. We often pepper these months with weekend outings and daytrips, while planning and saving for our summer vacations.
Despite the early year trips, Summer 2018 was certainly the highlight of the year. We had two international trips planned, one to Ireland with my father, aunt, brothers and soon-to-be sister-in law in later June/early July, and another to Paris and the south of France in August.
We ended the summer with a birthday celebration for my stepson and a Labor Day getaway to Montreal.
The summer fun had to come to an end, however, as September brought a new school year and work that had piled up to a fever-pitch. I started working 50+ hour weeks and things at home fell behind the slog of work and nightly homework battles. Earlier in the year, I joined a bridal party as a backup bridesmaid for my cousin’s beautiful fiancé, but my combined affinity for party planning, love of family and proximity to the bride against the rest of the bridal party landed a lot of planning in my court. The wedding, however, took place in late September and capped the month in glorious celebration.
The relentless workload persisted, however, and while I found time to enjoy family and activities on the weekends, I felt constantly behind. My motivation at home decreased and the more that things like laundry piled up, the less I felt like doing it. One wouldn’t know from my Instagram feed, but the combination of working, parenting and house-keeping (or lack thereof) started to grate on me. My husband went away for work again at the end of October and I felt very tired and alone.
November marked the start of the holiday season and a brief break from work. We managed to steal away to Niagara while visiting my Dad in Buffalo, and a taste of the international helped me to feel a bit recharged. I decided to remove something I have come to hate from my life and worked with my husband to drag a beast of a couch to the curb while we await (the much delayed) delivery of a new couch (note to the wise, don’t order anything from the site Hayneedle – I ordered this couch on November 26th and on January 1 it is still not yet delivered…).
December brought more time with family, and this year we decided to stay put for the break between Christmas and New Years, with a hope to start the year off in a better financial position than last year. We filled our break period with outings to Disney on Ice and the Museum of Fine Arts, while focusing some of our energies on home.
And here we are – the first of the new year – with a clean slate and an opportunity to make this the best year yet. There is already a lot to look forward to in the year ahead (including a great trip in the works already for February!) and I think I have learned from the past year – as demonstrated in the start of my new list of resolutions below:
- Dedicate 30 minutes each day to housework, either first thing in the morning, or as soon as I get home from work
- Prepare for the week ahead on Sunday by setting up as much in advance as possible for lunches, dinners and outfits planned for the week
- Focus on getting to work 20 minutes to half an hour earlier, and plowing through as much work as possible before everyone else gets in
- Get to bed earlier, which starts from the moment that we get home from work, and includes stricter enforcement of bedtime for each of the children in our house – during the week, the only time my husband and I have is the short hour or two of peace after the last child is in bed and that time has been creeping later and later. Like daylight savings, we are going to need to push that clock back to where it needs to be for our own sanity
- Set aside dedicated time to work on personal projects and hobbies every week (including blogging!) – as with anything, the more that it is put off, the harder it is to get back going again
- Book check-in points on my goals throughout the year, especially before and during the key months of March, May, June, September and October. It may even be wise to plan a personal day each in March and October to be used to catch up and to reset.
- Continue to make small attainable goals throughout the year – And celebrate when they are accomplished!
With any luck, these resolutions will be an attainable start to help me and my family to set ourselves up for the best year yet!