As we start a new year and wave a very strong goodbye to an incredibly difficult 2020, we naturally start to think about 2021 and what this new year may or may not bring us. What we see as we pass into another year, is an increase in articles about a “New Year, new you” or “how to finally lose those extra pounds” or any other goal-related articles about how to become a new, and improved, version of yourself.
Although they have largely become the norm, what these ‘new you’ articles invariably suggest is that there is something inherently wrong with the ‘old you’. That perhaps, in many ways, you are failing. While it is important to continually work on ourselves, and set and reach new goals when we read such simplistic articles about waving goodbye to our old, failed, selves, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We are essentially suggesting that there is a perfect version of ourselves out there waiting to be found (and boy do these articles attempt to suggest that they have the solution to get there!).
Without ruining 2021 (although I suspect Covid has already done that for many), it isimportant to start out by recognising that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect person’ or a‘perfect parent’ for that matter. When we start to set ourselves up to become a perfect parent or a perfect version of our self, we are aiming to be something that doesn’t really exist. There is no such thing as perfection.
This concept is particularly important when it comes to parenting. When we strive to become the perfect parent, or worse still, hope for the perfect baby, we are setting ourselves for a very hard time. Just like us, our babies are not robots. They are humans. In turn, they are going to have good and bad days – some days will be text-book, while other days will be, well, awful.
Another flaw with seeking to create a “new you” is the implication that there is something fundamentally wrong with the current you. Sure, there might be things that you could do better, habits you could change, or behaviours to modify, there is nothing so wrong with you that you need to replace yourself entirely.
This being said, the advice for 2021 is to start thinking about ways you may want to do things differently. Areas of your personal growth that may need some modification; or perhaps an aspect of your parenting you would like to enhance.
To do this, first lose the whole “new you” idea, lose the idea of perfection, and instead ask yourself the following:
- What would I like to do more of?
- What would I like to do less of?
- What are some areas of my parenting I would like to work on?
- What are some hopes I have for my baby/children for 2021?
- What are some hopes I have for my parenting in 2021?
- How will I navigate some of the challenges ahead?
When you can start to look at how you can enhance your year, rather than switching yourself out for a ‘better version’ – you can start to make some meaningful changes in your life. By asking yourself what you would like to do more of, opens yourself up to exploring new challenges for yourself. By asking yourself about your parenting hopes, sets you up to look for meaningful ways you may like to engage with your baby/older children.
When we frame things in a way of how we can modify our behaviour, or do more of what we love, we set ourselves up for success. This is in contrast to setting ourselves up for failure when we set unreachable and unrealistic, goals.
By contrast, it might be that you do not want to set a “goal” for 2021. Instead, you may recognise that given the overwhelming challenges 2020 threw at us, perhaps just surviving and managing 2021 will be enough. Keeping our mental health in check, ensuring our babies are fed, loved, and cared for, might just be enough. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Just ‘being’, and living as well as we can, in the face of a pandemic might be all we really want to focus on. There is a lot to gain by simply focusing on the present moment, rather than what goals you may or may not want to achieve.
However you want to look at 2021, I encourage you to bring some hope. Hope that you can make small changes to the way you live and manage your life as a parent. Hope that it will, albeit slowly, get better – even if it takes a while. What you certainly do not want to do is set yourself up to make it harder. Drop the “new you” articles, put aside the unattainable goals, and focus on the little things you can do to ensure you thrive in 2021 – and as a result– your little people do too.
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About the Author
Emily is a Health Psychologist (NZ Registered) with a decade of experience in psychology. Emily runs a health and wellness website - thewellhub.co - where she provides online support to enhance psychological wellness. Emily also assesses and supports patients prior to surgery at a private hospital in New Zealand. Emily is a mother to three young children - Archie (5) and twins - Eli & Sienna (3) and lives in Auckland, New Zealand.