This post itself is a great example of my 2018 resolution to manage my own expectations; here I am, finally putting down the words which have been jostling around my head since New Year on the first day of meteorological spring. The fact that it is several degrees below zero while the “beast from the east” chucks snow and high winds at us means I’m fairly sure this is still winter.
Usually at some point around New Year, husband and I sit with a drink and make plans for the year ahead. There are usually a few ideas about holidays or trips; some sort of sporting or outdoors aspiration; and often a life goal or two (memorably, previous lists include things like “run 10k PB” and “have baby”). I think this habit was born at the end of our Canadian year, when we listed our favourite experiences of the year and planned new adventures. It also brought us a ray of sunshine during our terrible New Year “drinks in the local because buses stop at 7pm” experience, back when we lived in Worsley.
This year, though, there was little opportunity to sit and reflect as I was just home from hospital after giving birth to baby #2 and we were trying to show child #1 some fireworks despite dismal Manchester weather. So I concluded that maybe the best ambition I can set myself for 2018 is to manage my own expectations. Nine weeks in, I am being forcefully reminded of how tricky life can be when decent amounts of sleep are a distant memory, it’s hard to find time to shower, and spontaneity is only possible with the assistance of people willing to hold the children. Yesterday, spontaneity was about getting to the garage to get the car repaired…
So what are reasonable expectations- resolutions, if we must- for 2018?
1. Read more. Preferably fiction.
Like most people, I find it easy to while away hours on my phone reading social media, admiring beautiful homes or catching up with what the President of the USA has been doing. I end up brain dead, skint or enraged. Falling back in love with my kindle (perfect for night feeds) could be one way out of this, would provide better perspective and a sense of actually getting something positive from being awake in the middle of the night, or trapped on a sofa. And reading self-help books or pop psychology is all very well, but I want to reengage with contemporary fiction.
2. Read for gender balance
This involves keeping a vague track of what I’ve read and who it’s by – that English degree immersed me in the traditional “male, pale & stale” canon, despite my efforts. So I need to actively look beyond that in my reading. See also: race / class / sexuality.
Current reading – LOL. I guess this counts for a female author? Still in the pop-psychology category, though.
3. Accept that my friends and family probably don’t want anything crocheted
I have loved starting to learn to crochet. I wanted a hobby which would absorb my brain and stop me thinking about work in the latter stages of pregnancy, and mastering the intricacies of the treble stitch was perfect, along with the need to keep track of the number of stitches (counting to 70 becomes a challenge). It’s portable, put-downable and productive. I am getting better, and more ambitious, so the things I produce may be more desirable. Despite all that, my family and friends tend to react as though I’ve threatened them when I offer to make something- they go pale, break into a sweat, and their eyes dart around the room, looking for an escape. And although it was entertaining to threaten my Mum with a crochet Xmas gift, I want my family and friends to actually LIKE me.
This doesn’t mean abandoning all the projects on my list (& you may not even know you’re on my list); it might just mean not taking it personally if the response to an offer is less than effusive. More baby hats for the refugee charity, perhaps.
4. Keep getting outside and try to shout less in the process
Remember that, once we’re out the door, the children almost always stop crying. Remember that it’s not a good look to shout at them when they’re crying, even when it’s very stressful. Remember it’s ok to go and do things without them, for the sake of my sanity.
5. Have some targets for myself, and don’t feel guilty about it
When I do things that I want to do, I regain the sense of being the central character in my own story, instead of on the periphery. I need to carve out time to do those things, because it makes me enjoy the time with the kids more- and because I deal better with Dave taking time for himself.
6. Be in the moment with others
This is basically another way of saying “try not to look at your phone”.
7. Start a new list of post-baby running PBs
Because I need to accept that I am indelibly changed from the woman on the far side of that Rubicon; this is one way of embracing it, and maybe stepping positively forward, based on that acceptance.