How to Set Attainable Goals that Focus on Your Personal Needs as a Mom
I stopped setting “New Year’s Resolutions” eight years ago…not coincidentally, at the time I was pregnant with my first child. It seemed silly to make resolutions that I had no idea what my life would look like. My resolutions always revolved around things I could control (my health, my weight, my personal growth, etc.).
How could I make resolutions about things I no longer had control over? First, I was going to be pregnant until May. Second, I had no idea what motherhood would be like. Would I have time to read 30 books in a year or to take a new class? I had no clue. I’d never been a mom.
I’m so thankful I had the foresight to give myself time to heal from having a baby and to ease into motherhood. As it turns out, pregnancy didn’t just give me a new baby, it gave me an autoimmune disease.
Once I had an autoimmune disease, it essentially became impossible to make fitness resolutions. If I am in a flare, it takes everything I have to parent my children. I certainly can’t add “work out three times a week” to my list of things to do.
I’m now seven years in to being a mom and have a second child. I also have been living with my autoimmune disease and secondary fibromyalgia. While I don’t define myself as a person with chronic illness, it has definitely shaped how I live my life.
Different Types of Resolutions for Moms
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I do set goals to live a healthier, better life. I can re-set and work towards those goals whenever I’m able to without feeling guilt over breaking a resolution. I can revise or drop a goal if it no longer works with my physical abilities. I can add new goals whenever I want rather than waiting for an arbitrary date.
Even if you are a perfectly healthy mom, it still can be difficult to make and stick to resolutions. Balancing parenting with marriage, work and general life obligations are overwhelming enough. Creating more to dos can put you over the edge.
I recently came across this image on Pinterest and thought it was a nice twist on a resolution. You’re only resolving to do more things you love. While it doesn’t fall in line with the rationale that a goal needs to be specific and measurable, it does seem more attainable for someone who is barely keeping their head above water (a.k.a. most moms of young children).
In addition to the flat out wish list, I also came across a Less/More resolution. If you have bad habits you want to eliminate, this seems like a nice way to go. My problem with the less/more list is that it may be a bit more to take on all at once. My personal preference is to drop one thing at a time. It makes it more manageable for me and I’m probably a lot easier to live with!
For most goals to be successful, they need to be specific and measurable. For example, instead of saying “I want to read more,” your goal would be, “I want to read one new book each month.” Instead of saying, “I want to be more organized,” say “I want to clean one new space a month” or “I want to accomplish three tasks from my master to do list every week.”
I prefer making measurable goals that I can stick to. When I first started working in public relations, one of my supervisors used to always remind us not to “Overpromise and Under-deliver.” Since then, one of my favorite mantras has been “Surprise and Delight,” a nice way of saying under-promise and over-deliver. I use this phrase in every aspect of my life, particularly with goal-setting.
When you live with an unpredictable illness, you need to plan accordingly. I am just coming out of a flare that started in July. For months, I couldn’t do more than walk my son from the parking lot to his classroom (almost a block each way). I know what my obstacles are so I plan accordingly. I set a goal to care for my body each day. That could mean I exercise or it could mean that I do my stretching. At minimum, it could mean I go to bed early.
You may not have physical barriers that limit your physical abilities but you probably have other obstacles. Maybe you work long hours. Maybe your husband travels. Maybe your kids are young and don’t sleep. Think about your season in life and set a goal that is reasonable and attainable.
It is much easier to set attainable goals than to fail at your goals and become discouraged. You can always set new goals once you’ve reached your attainable goals. It will give you the self-esteem boost you need.
Best Goals for Moms
When I was young and single, my resolutions or goals were superficial. I wanted to lose weight or put together better outfits or spend more time on my appearance. I giggle at those goals now. I’m not saying taking pride in your appearance isn’t important, in fact, the worse I feel, the better I dress.
Now that I’m older, have children and know the challenges of being in poor health, I focus more on my well-being. If you’re looking for ideas on improving your well being, here are some of my tried and true goals that have led me to better care for myself.
I don’t set goals to lose weight anymore. My weight tends to fluctuate based on my medications and overall health. Ironically, the worse I feel on the inside, the better I look on the outside. However, to me, physical improvements mean improvements to my physical health.
Here are some goals that I have been successful with, regardless of how busy I am or how ill I am. You don’t need to try them all at once. That’s the benefit of setting goals versus resolutions. A goal can be achieved at any time and you can add a new goal to your list. A resolution is made at the beginning of the year.
- Do one healthy thing for myself each day. Anyone can attain this goal. It doesn’t have to be a big healthy thing. Eating a piece of fruit can count on the crazy busy days. Going to the gym can count on days when you can carve out more time.
- Go to bed earlier. By setting my goal at earlier, it just means earlier than my normal 11/11:30 p.m. bedtime. I can go to bed 10 minutes earlier and call it a win. I can go to bed an hour earlier and call it a big win! Since I still have kids who wake me regularly (last night my 7 year old came in at 2 a.m. and my 3 year old crawled into my bed at 3:30 a.m.), squeezing in extra sleep is critical.
- Plan to eat better. Following the “Surprise and Delight” philosophy, I don’t set a finite calorie or diet goal. Instead, I leave it a bit open-ended so that I allow for bad days where I don’t feel well enough to cook. On those days, instead of ordering Chinese food, I buy a rotisserie chicken, which is better than other take-out alternatives.
Personal Growth Improvements:
Pre-kids, I took classes at the community college every time I felt like I was in a rut. I took classes on travel writing, belly-dancing, cooking, you name it. I was really good at pursuing personal growth. That side of me went into a serious hibernation when I became a mom.
There just aren’t enough hours in the week for me to go somewhere to take a class. My husband travels so my schedule is also unpredictable. A few years ago, I started feeling like I wasn’t me anymore. I missed my pre-kid life. I needed more than work, kids, work, kids.
If you feel like you are just a shell of yourself, here are some changes I’ve made to help me feel more like the “old” me.
- Read more. I love reading. I always have. When I was a kid, I used to stay up late reading with a flashlight. Once I had kids, it got harder to read more, but it isn’t impossible. I joined a book club with other moms from my son’s preschool when I was pregnant with my second kid. We choose one book a month and there is no “penalty” for not reading. You can still come to book club to socialize. I essentially cut out TV to read before bed. If you can’t cut out TV, you can do audiobooks on your commute (like some of the moms in my book club) or read while your kids are watching TV.
- Learn something new. I really enjoy taking classes. Unfortunately, at this stage of my life, it really isn’t possible to do in person. While I don’t love online courses (I’m old school), I am making it a goal to learn something new online. There are so many online tutorials that you can learn to do just about anything from home.
- Practice self-care daily. Two years ago, I had eight infections in one year. While infections are a side-effect of my medication, they are strongly tied to my stress levels since the year I made self-care a goal, I only had two infections. I am now a firm believer in slowing down and caring for myself. Even if you don’t have health issues now, living your life under constant stress can affect your health. Take time to squeeze self-care into your day. You deserve it.
The best part about setting goals is that you can add more when you reach your goal or take a break from working towards your goal when life gets busy. I have more success with goals than I ever did with resolutions. What’s your preference?