It seems egotistical to presume anyone will want to read about my New Year’s resolutions, but for the last couple of years I have tweeted mine, which has served to strengthen my commitment to them. Many of my resolutions are focused on gaining contentment and purpose in work and life, so this year the tweets have grown into a blog, reflecting on past resolutions that have worked for me, along with my resolutions for 2018 and my thoughts for further ahead. There may just be something in here that is useful to you.
Don’t work in front of the children*
(In case you are confused or concerned, this means my own children, not those I teach!)
A colleague gave me this advice when my first was born. At the time, I thought it would be impossible – I mean, how many teachers do you know that spend a day of the weekend planning and marking? I remember, before I had children, if my family arranged a get together at the weekend it could throw me into spirals of panic that I would never get all my work done. A weekend wedding? Forget it! But, I decided to give it a try and was surprised to find it was possible. Now, when I come home from work we are focused on us. We eat together, we chat, we do bedtime routine and stories, and sometimes we have time to play. The weekends are for family. Work can wait.
I am grateful to my children as without them, I never would have reclaimed my Sundays. Whether you have children or not, if you are working one day a weekend I really suggest you try it. You may be as surprised as me how much you can achieve when you have to. Everything still gets done and I don’t miss deadlines.
However, the next problem was that I was squeezing every last available minute out of the evenings, once the children were in bed. It is really tough to do this. The bedtime routine relaxes me as much as it does them. When they were tiny and still needed a hand hold or cuddle to drop off, many was the night my husband would need to wake me up so I could head downstairs, switch on the laptop and gear up for an evening of work. In the first, exhausting, trimester of my second pregnancy I just used to sit in bed working in my pyjamas, school bag on the floor beside me, and the second I finished I would just dump everything in the bag, lie down to go to sleep.
The children came first, work second, and I lost sight of my husband and myself. This led to resolution number two:
Saturday night is not for working*
A couple of years ago I resolved to make a work free Saturday night sacrosanct. It began with Saturday night as ‘date night’, a chance for me to spend some quality time with my husband. Date night can only be cancelled in favour of a night with friends*. I suspect that, as my children get older, I will need to reassign date night to Friday so that Saturday night can become family night. Watching my two attempt to waltz around the living room to the Strictly theme tune is too good to miss. So eventually Friday and Saturday night will be work free. Another victory for life.
*Except during periods of mock or exam marking. I’m efficient but I can’t work miracles.
Go for a walk every Sunday, whatever the weather
Getting out, exploring the woods and walks in the local area is one of our most loved yet simple pleasures. One of our best investments is English Heritage membership and very often we head to our local site and spend a few of hours wandering (or racing in the case of my youngest) around the gardens. I now prefer walks in bad weather, as with so few people about we often feel like the only people in the world.
Keep up the running
I started running six months ago. I call it running. Most people would describe it as an odd jaunty walk. It was really hard and I didn’t feel I was getting any faster or fitter despite going out every other day, but I’d committed to a little race with friends and didn’t feel I could back out. When the race was out the way and winter arrived, with dark mornings and evenings, I resisted my instinct to excuse myself on the grounds of ‘too cold’ or ‘too dark’ and kept at it. And one week I realised I was actually enjoying myself. Instead of thinking ‘thank god it’s my day off today’ I began thinking ‘I wish it was my running day today.’ I’ve carried on over the holiday but, probably due to massive changes in my sleep patterns and diet over Christmas, it’s become hard again. I’m determined not to give up though. Through running I have become fitter, found a new way to spend time with my sister, and have realised I am more determined than I knew.
Only drink on special occasions
For five years the serious business of being a mother to young children meant my body (and bed) didn’t really feel my own and alcohol or any medication stronger than a paracetamol was out of the question. I remember a work do where a much younger colleague bought me shots and I had to break it to her that there was no way I could drink them because I needed to get home to feed my son in half an hour. For the last couple of years I have started drinking again, only on weekends and holidays, but recently I’ve started to feel I’ve got a bit carried away. It’s an expensive habit and on reflection I genuinely think I felt healthier and even happier during the five years I was alcohol free. So, I’ve decided that this year I will only drink on special occasions. I am aware that it would be easy to call every Friday special, so I should state this will be birthdays, anniversaries and occasions such as Valentine’s day
Cut out the rubbish
As I get older I find myself agreeing with Sturgeon that 90% of everything is rubbish. Life is too short to invest time in things that are no good so I’d like to seek out that 10% that is worth spending time on. No more mediocre books, mindless TV programmes, or listening to music on the radio that makes me feel mildly irritable. I’m going to get more organised about my reading habits and plan to steal Jo Facer’s idea (https://readingallthebooks.com/2017/12/27/top-reads-of-2017/) to read one fiction, one children’s and one non-fiction book in rotation.
Make more time for friends
It is easy to neglect friends. I’ve fallen into the teacher trap of feeling like it’s only possible to do anything outside your usual routine during the school holidays. This year will be the time I make more of my weekends, arrange more meet ups, go to the theatre and generally catch up with friends more often.
This year will be the year I start to think about moving forward in my career more deliberately. I trained to teach at 30, having already tried out three other careers, and useful as that experience was, I love teaching and wish I had joined the profession at a younger age. Over the past few years I have held back and let opportunities pass me by, usually for reasons that were right at the time such as having a young family and concerns about my husband’s health. As a result, I’ve side-stepped, acted up and stepped back, often taking on additional jobs to provide for my family. However, I have begun to wonder whether some of my ‘reasons’ are actually excuses borne out of fear of inadequacy. Recently I turned 40 and have begun waking in the night and feeling a different kind of fear: do I have the time left in my career to achieve all I would like? 2018 needs to be a year of ploughing that energy into something more productive. I suspect my husband and @hamilton_steph will be proud of me for finally admitting this.