Ask Unclutterer: How do you create resolutions when you’re coming up on a major life change?

Reader Amanda submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

How do you define goals or resolutions when you know your life is about to change dramatically? I am due with our firstborn, a son, in early 2012 (our due date is February 4th) … I don’t know how to plan my life around such a big addition. I would like to lose the baby weight (plus some), but I have no idea what that will look like with a baby in the mix. My friends and family are not goal-setters like I am, so I don’t know who to ask for help setting goals around the unknown. Any advice?

Congratulations on your upcoming new addition!

Since you enjoy setting goals and resolutions, I suggest you go ahead and make the ones you wish to make. You won’t stop being you when you become a parent (or when you experience any major life change), so go for it. Do some soul searching, make your lists, and create a 2012 Resolution Action Plan. Resolution enforcement police won’t come and arrest you if you don’t cross all your resolutions off your list by December 31, 2012. Worst case scenario, you won’t achieve any of your resolutions by the end of the year, and you’ll save yourself some time coming up with resolutions for 2013.

Plus, after your son is born and you become accustom to being a parent, you can always revise your resolutions. Think of it as a bonus opportunity — a goal-setter’s dream — to come up with a new plan in the middle of the year! Irrespective of parenting, anyone can revise resolutions and goals as necessary. Your 2012 Resolution Action Plan isn’t law, but rather a living document you can reassess as you wish.

The first two months of parenting, at least in my experience, are very similar to the first two months of a new dating relationship. You’re head-over-heels for this new person in your life and you withdraw from your friends and responsibilities for awhile while you get to know the new person. After two months, you start to enter back into a normal routine, but with this new person in the mix.

Since our son was healthy and a good sleeper, being a new parent was actually pretty easy until he learned to walk. I could strap him in a stroller and go for a run or put him in a carrier and go to the grocery store. When he started walking at 9-1/2 months is when life as a parent got more complicated for us. Luckily for you, most boys don’t walk until around their first birthday, so you could get 2-1/2 more months of the easy life than we did.

All this being said, every child is different and your son’s temperament, health, sleeping and eating patterns, and preferences will dictate how much time you can spend doing things not immediately related to caring for your son. Go ahead and make the resolutions, but don’t feel bad if you don’t achieve all of your goals by the end of 2012. You’ll at least have been loving and doting on your child instead, which is still a wonderful accomplishment.

Thank you, Amanda, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column. Once again, congratulations on your forthcoming adventure in parenting.

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19 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: How do you create resolutions when you’re coming up on a major life change?”

  1. posted by Jude on

    Having gone through it 3 times, my perspective is that it can take a year to get used to the new person and the 24/7 responsibility that comes with parenting. So I’d probably set *one* resolution for the new year, then modify that when it proves to be difficult to achieve. Surprises come with each parenting experience. For example, my daughter cried pretty much for 3 months; one son developed jaundice and spent several days in a light blanket; my first husband was *never* nice to me again after the birth; my second husband was so frustrated because I couldn’t work full time, take care of the baby, and keep the house clean that he ended up hitting me, and thus I became a single mother both times. My kids have all turned out well and are essentially good, intelligent people (they’re ages 17 through 30) so I can say that it was all worth it.

  2. posted by MelD on

    For heaven’s sake, enjoy the baby and worry about your figure later – too much worry might mean you can’t feed him yourself through sheer anxiety and if it’s your figure you’re concerned about, that it a help. Your body takes 9 mths to make a baby, give it at least the same amount of time to recover… keep your priorities straight: you need oxygen before you can help your child, so enjoy him but take care of your needs, too!

  3. posted by danielle on

    I love the idea of allowing yourself to reframe your goals when you need to. I like to call it “fine tuning” :)

  4. posted by Laura on

    As someone who found it very hard to get used to having a baby, I suggest giving yourself a lot of leeway here. You may do great, you may get an easy child, or you may end up with one who is colicky or doesn’t sleep or you may get PPD. Who knows. So IMO I think up front tell yourself it’s okay to drop your resolutions until next year or modify them if things get too tough. I wish you the best of luck!!!

  5. posted by Tricia on

    Congratulations! I am due with my second in March, so we are right on the same schedule. I am being brave and setting some resolutions this year, but I am making an effort not to be too ambitious. I think focusing on a few things and putting off everything else works better anyway.

    One piece of advice I got before my firstborn is that you just will not be able to get as much done as you are used to at first. This was really true for me. I could plan on doing about 30 min. worth of chores/activities in an entire day. This was true for at least a month.

    For resolutions, I have set 1-2 small things I want to finish before the baby comes, 1-2 medium to large things I want to work on this summer, and a small weight loss goal I want to achieve before the end of the year. This is plenty for me, because I know the year will go by really fast, and I want to have plenty of time to be the busy working mom that I am.

    I have also heard of moms (a few anyway) where their baby slept all the time, they weren’t working and they were bored. If this happens to you, you can dust off your ambitious resolutions list and get to it!

  6. posted by CM on

    While you won’t stop being you, you will find that once babies are in the mix you have much less control over your life. You can still set goals, but please don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve them. Or you can set a goal of learning to relax and go with the flow this year!

  7. posted by Kerri on

    One thing to keep in mind about having a baby, is that you are now responsible for another person, and that it is much more than a possibly miserable few months of pregnancy, a painful trip to the hospital and sleepless first months. In the beginning stages, it will feel tedious and unrewarding at times (sleepless nights and endless diaper changes, I’m looking at you!) but it’s important to acknowledge that you are indeed doing something far more important than cleaning the house as much as you would like to, or working a full-time job somewhere, or any number of things that people can place as more important. Try and find some other supportive mommy friends who can help you understand how you are feeling at the different stages, and who have some hindsight to help you see the light ahead!

  8. posted by Debbie M on

    I would make a resolution involving the change. For this change, I might choose “learn how to be a parent to this new person.” (And each new person is different.)

    I’m also coming up on a major life change. I’m quitting my stressful job next month, so my resolutions will be different. I have no idea what my income will be, so I’m not going to be setting savings goals, for example. My resolutions are probably going to be about recovering from the job (specially, I’ll be doing more cooking, more exercise, and more housework) and about finding new work.

  9. posted by bcgirl on

    Congratulations Amanda!
    I really like how you are are thinking about resolutions in the context of this major life change — I think its a great idea!

    I have a 16 month old and I think she’s pretty regular –she cried some, slept some, ate some and on it goes :)

    I really wanted to step in with my two centsre. your question:

    Join a postnatal exercise class!!!!!!! I joined a prenatal exercise class when I was pregnant and it was the best thing I did for myself. The class and instructor were so amazing that for the first time in my life, i looked forward to exercising. This same program offered postnatal mommy and baby classes, so after the requisite amount of “time off” after having the baby(check with your doc, it could 4-6 weeks or less or more), I signed up again. Since these people specialize in this, I knew I was in the right level of class each step of the way (they had a beginner, intermediate, one for premobile babies, one for moms who had already been exercising regularly for 3 months or more, etc.)

    Sure I was exercising and since its a paid class I was doing it regularly, but there were so many more benefits than weight loss, which was infact so secondary now that I think about it–
    1) I got to hang out with other new moms. It was great. Sometimes in the middle of doing the plank, someone would say, “Hey my baby does this, anyone else had that happen to them?” and people would just share their stories while doing bicep curls or whatever. I personally prefered that kind of chit chat to being fully immersed in constant baby talk with moms.
    2) these women seemed to have the same attitude that I did, namely, that being fit and healthy was important. These classes weren’t about tightening the bum and building sexy arms — sure those things happened but the focus was on exercising so that we could be healthy, energetic, happy, physically strong and good role models for our new babies.
    3) A lot of “new-mom” things were normalized. In class I saw and learned that there are multiple ways to sit and hold baby while breastfeeding, instead of in bed or in a comfy armchair like I knew.
    4) I felt smug :) Like the other posters said, some days very very little got accomplished around the house, but bigger things were taken care of, like my health and happiness!! Even if I did little else that day, atleast I got my exercise in!
    5) Since the babies are so little, they don’t do much. Sometimes we use them as weights (ie, carried them while we did squats or lunges) but most of the time I basically thought of it as getting to go to class without paying for a sitter.
    6) My baby learned a lot from being in these classes. We usually toss the babies on mats in the middle of class and exercise around the perimeter. I swear that she learned how to hold her head up during tummy time, crawl and some other behaviours simply from watching the other babies.

    I don’t know what your resolutions are for the upcoming year, but in my very humble newbie mom opinion I feel that doing something like an exercise class can help you accomplish multiple things.

  10. posted by Cathy G on

    Set a resolution that relates to who you are now and what you enjoy, so if you like reading aim to read x number of books this year. Having a new baby can be overwhelming and it can be good to have something that gives you a bit of time, escapism and reminds you of the rest of the world! Good luck, children are the best thing ever!

  11. posted by Jill V on

    I had my “hard” baby first and my “easy” one second. For my first one, I wish my goal had been to RELAX. I was so anxious about feeding, sleeping, not having “me” time, etc. that I made things much harder on myself. The second time around, I went with the flow and life was much easier for everyone. I echo other comments about finding a group of moms to hang out with. I joined a book club when #1 was a newborn and it gave me a lot of perspective and support.

  12. posted by Jodi on

    Another suggestion is to set un-resolutions this year….things you will not do.

    I will not be a slave to my phone/doorbell for two weeks after the baby is born.

    I will not turn my cell phone on during naptime.

    I will not do chores during naptime. (to nap with the baby)

    I will not stay up more than 30 minutes past babys bedtime for the first month.

    I will not eat ice cream.

    Sometimes its easier to eliminate something than to add something, especially when life is busy!

  13. posted by Karla on

    Congratulations!

    I am not the resolution kind of person…

    I still have some of the baby fat (our daughters are 19 and 17) Maybe this year.

    Me-time is overrated. I can tell you this authoritatively after sending our older daughter off to college this year and wishing I could have just another 5 minutes with her.

    No one will ever have an epithet on their gravestone that says “My house was always clean” (I stole that from somewhere) Hygiene is important, sleep more so.

    A crying baby can be a good thing (learned that after the younger daughter stopped breathing at 2 weeks). So can a kid with an independent spirit who is nothing like you.

    Hugs and cuddles are free. You can never offer/receive enough.

    TV is an acceptable babysitter sometimes.

    It is perfectly okay to be selfish (but I still think me-time is overrated). If you enjoy your parents and/or your in laws and don’t mind them spending this time with you (and I’m talking about the next 20 years) okay. If you don’t, limit the visits to meals out somewhere.

    As others have stated–enjoy the ride. Laugh. A lot.

    Finally, if you haven’t already bought the book and downloaded Samuel L. Jackson reading “Go the F&^% to Sleep” do so immediately.

  14. posted by Amanda on

    Thanks, Erin, for the awesome answer to my question! As I should have known, your answer was not what I was expecting, but exactly what I needed to hear!

    Thanks to each of you who commented. I’ve decided to set a single resolution this year, which is to weigh less than 200 pounds by the end of the year. (It is so hard to be public with this goal! I figure the more accountability, though, the better.)

    Since I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in my third trimester, and since I had a very difficult second trimester dealing with somewhat late-in-the-game morning sickness that hit hard, I’ve only gained 15 pounds since my pre-pregnancy weight. I have less than seven weeks to go at the very latest. Given my progress through the third trimester so far, I should not gain more than another pound or two, though I am not worried about the scale. I’d rather watch my blood sugar, like I have been advised!

    (I know this may sound “lucky”, having only gained 15 pounds baby weight, but being pregnant at all really feels like the “luck” part to me!)

    So all in all I will have to lose between 30 and 35 pounds by the end of the year to meet my resolution. I spent yesterday working out quarterly goals and steps to meet this resolution. The first quarter goal? To relax and enjoy the baby, only stepping on the scale at the doctor’s office!

    I do not want to go back to my sedentary lifestyle, but this high-risk pregnancy has taught me to listen to my medical team and to cherish this little one. I do not want to lose this weight in order to have a good figure (though I am human and would love that side-effect.) I know my chances of developing Type II Diabetes are higher now, and I am very motivated to prevent that disease from becoming a part of my life. I want to set an active example for my son, too.

    Sorry for the long comment, but I really wanted to share with one more forum my resolution and the motivation behind it. I’m very appreciative of the advice I have received here. Happy New Year, Unclutterer friends!

    Amanda R.
    Louisville, KY

  15. posted by Jodi on

    Amanda, I think your resolution is excellent!

  16. posted by Bryan Cooper on

    I divide my life into 6 different areas.

    1. Spiritual
    2. Family
    3. Health & Life
    4. Relationships
    5. Career
    6. Financial

    Everything I do I measure against these 6 areas. This is basically my compass in life. As new opportunities become available I measure the impact to all areas. Sometimes I go with the new opportunities and other times I do not. The key is to use this format on a continual basis, not just when a) a life is about to take place, no b) just when developing your yearly goals. Continuous process is the key!!

    I’ve been enjoying your emails for almost 3 years now.

    Happy New Year!!

    -Bryan

  17. posted by bytheway on

    Amanda, I found a new baby in the home incredibly detrimental to my “willpower,” stamina, and general good outlook. And then I had two of them in two years. GULP. Sitting in sweatpants, postpartum, engorged with milk, anemic from delivery, generally shell-shocked from the crying in the middle of the night. For me, one thing was the key to it all. I don’t know if it’s a resolution, a promise, whatever. Here it is:

    Get outside the house. Every day.

    Even if it’s winter. Yes, when it’s raining. Of course, still go, even for 10 mins, when they’re teething/have diarrhea/you have mastitis/when you didn’t get enough sleep. It helps the kid, and you, keep your wits about you. Go exercise, sure, if you can–but at least get out of the house. Sit in the driveway or on the patio if that’s all the farther you can get. Go to the grocery store for milk–even if it takes twice as long now. Go to church/worship space of your choosing. Get a latte and chat up the barista! Anything, anything helps. I’d stroll my kid to the post office 6 blocks away and call that my exercise for the day. This was also helpful for my husband on his long days home with the baby/babies. Just turn off the tv, take a shower, love yourself, and go. Good luck in your new life adventure. Your baby will teach you what you need to do.

  18. posted by lisa on

    Such good words here! How I wish I could have read all of these posts and had bytheway’s post painted on the inside of my eyelids when I was a new mom! Just beautiful. I will only add, for Amanda, since she’s focused on health and weight, that Weight Watchers helped me to learn better eating habits/focus to lose weight while I was a breastfeeding mom. Also VERY helpful to go to meetings and meet others who are in a similar stage of life/goals to gain support. Don’t try to go it alone, but find a friend or partner to team up with for walks or exchanging healthy recipes, etc. Simply food journaling: writing down what you eat every day (without judgement) can help. And yes: get outside the house every day! Congratulations!

  19. posted by Amanda on

    Hey all! For anyone still keeping track, I wanted to update you. My baby boy, T.S., just turned six weeks old yesterday. He was born on 1/20/12, and is a delight!

    I have tried to take bytheway’s advice to get outside everyday. I even managed to get outside yesterday during our horrible weather, even though it was to go over to take shelter in a friend’s basement. (It ended up being a weirdly relaxing day.)

    Thank you again for all of the advice. I just read everything over again, and some of the advice I never thought would apply to me is now golden!

    Amanda R. in Louisville

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