At the cusp of the new year, Twitter and the ‘blogosphere’ was full of talk about people’s chosen words for the year ahead – a word to focus on as a reminder of what you want to achieve in the coming year. Things like “Love”, or “Calm”.
Not one to be outdone, I decided to give myself a phrase (why stop at just one word?), and that phrase was, “I don’t give a shit”.
I enthusiastically announced my new way of living to Sam, and he declared it highly selfish. And so, wasting no time, my new mantra was applied almost immediately.
But you see, it’s not about sticking two fingers up to all and sundry and forgetting to be a nice person. Neither is it about sacrificing the happiness of others in order to benefit myself.
It’s about not getting so hung up on obligations, feeling that I HAVE to do certain things that I just don’t feel like doing, without the inevitable thick layer of guilt setting in. It’s about saying no to things that will cause unnecessary stress, saying yes to a few things that have been sidelined due to various reasons, trying a few new things, and above all, remembering to prioritise myself after too long a time of never really giving myself a second thought.
And I know that’s something that a lot of us parents with young children can understand.
An unexpected pregnancy with our eldest meant that the change from living alone, just having myself to think about, and having a disposable income, to being part of a family unit with a baby to prepare for came suddenly and instantaneously.Everything had to change – financially, and emotionally, and physically, all at once.
I won’t say it’s been hard, because it’s mostly been fine, with a few, heightened, tough moments dotted throughout my memory. But it’s been a long time of automatically shutting down MY needs and preferences, whilst still coming to terms with the fact that I had to do this overnight without being prepared at all.
So, the Year of Me was born. Otherwise known as, The Year of Spending Money. (Yep, it turns out there was a REASON I gave up most of this stuff when I had kids).
I bought a new SLR and upgraded various computer parts. The camera allowing me much greater control in low light situations, and the computer allowing me to actually get straight down to work without numerous problems and a slow running OS affecting my productivity. To me, making these upgrades meant that both myself and Sam had decided my work was worth investing in, and so this remains one of the biggest ‘Year of Me’ decisions to date.
I said no to driving long distances (Sam doesn’t drive, and long car journeys have always stressed me out when I’m so sleep deprived). Instead, we focussed more on having family time at home.
After three years of being sensible with things we couldn’t really afford, I insisted we take our first family holiday.
I rejoined my choir, which I’d previously left due to affordability and having Rory.
I restocked my makeup with the high end products that I’d swapped for cheaper versions that I had tried to like but just really didn’t get on with.
I started buying shampoo and conditioner again (I used to wash my hair with body wash in an effort to save money).
I allowed myself to part with money for play cafes, etc. I still do it begrudgingly, but I really think it is keeping me sane.
I insisted that this would be the year that Sam learned to drive (work in progress, he’s getting lessons at the moment).
I put a stop to dragging the whole family out to Tesco every weekend, and started getting grocery deliveries instead, despite Sam’s preference to go to the actual shop (read the ‘he can’t drive’ bit again).
I updated my wardrobe with a few key bits. And in doing so, I realised that I don’t hate shopping for clothes post-kids, I just hate doing it WITH the kids, and doing it without the budget to buy anything I like. I realised that every trip to the shops does not have to be a depressing succession of unflattering lighting and confronting mirror angles. Three years ago I was very much lost in the newness of my post-baby body, but now, I am confident in picking out clothes that I like, and clothes that I KNOW will flatter my body to the best of it’s ability rather than see me handing everything back to the changing room attendant, silently cursing my decision to bother coming clothes shopping in the first place.
I refound my sense of style. I realised that just because certain styles might be kinder to my current shape, I don’t NEED to wear something that makes me feel 59. I can wear something that makes me feel 29, even if it’s not THE best cut on me, because I love it, and I only want to spend my money on that. There is a lot to be said about wearing clothes that suit your figure, but there is also something to be said for ignoring the rules and wearing something that makes you happy.
I had my first ever night away from my children (in fact, I’ve had two this year with another two planned in December). I NEVER would have considered leaving Arlo whilst he was still so reliant on me at night. But with Rory, I have decided that enough is enough and one night away is OK – he might not like it, and there may not be a great deal of sleep for whichever lucky person has the job of looking after him, but it’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things and I refuse to allow myself to dwell on it.
I stopped trying to maintain the version of motherhood that I thought my friends wanted to hear from me. It’s SO GREAT to be able to say “Let’s talk about something else” rather than answering the same old boring questions about the kids all evening, or attempting to sugarcoat my parenting experience for the sake of not wanting to be a downer. It’s not been the best transition into parenthood for me, and it’s OK to be honest about that.
I stopped breastfeeding Arlo. (My aim for the latter part of next year is to wean Rory and have an actual breastfeeding break for the first time since becoming a mum).
In more recent months:
I have decided to cut back on the amount of work I am taking on, in order to better juggle my children and work-from-home-parent life. I have learned to say no to photography work that I’m just not that passionate about, leaving room for the projects that excite me.
I ran a day of studio mini-sessions, which is something I’ve always wanted to try. It was BRILLIANT, and I felt like a proper working person.
I’ve given myself the OK to find a half-day of childcare for Rory every week, despite the probability that on an average month, I won’t break even. With Sam away more and more, and with the relentless unreliability of my childrens’ sleep, I think it will really help keep me level. (The problem is, I can’t find anyone who wants to take on as little as 5 hours a week, so this might be a non-starter).
To be honest, ‘I spent money and I liked it’ has not really been a sustainable way of living this year, in any way. Pretty sure bankruptcy would be not such a far flung prospect if it wasn’t for the fact that Sam’s earnings have recently doubled just in time to get us out of a very bad hole of using credit to make sure our basic monthly outgoings were covered. Which means we can now continue with a normal attitude towards spending and saving, which is how it should be, in a perfect world.
It’s a happy medium between two years of feeling pretty miserable and trapped never spending a penny, and one year of slight over-indulgence. Next year will be the year of sensible budgeting, with a few treats here and there maybe.
Oh wait. Next year is my 30th birthday year…