Inside: Instead of making New Year’s resolutions your focus this year, why not make a stop-doing list, instead? Get inspired to make your own list by reading the 10 things I’ve stopped doing in the past few years that have made me a much happier mom.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and you’re probably spending at least a little sliver of today thinking about how you want to live life differently next year.
I’m right there with ya…sort of.
Most of the time, New Year’s resolutions are about what we want to start doing – the things we want to achieve or to be.
But what if the key to achieving what we want to achieve or to becoming who we want to become is to stop doing things, instead?
Move Over New Year’s Resolutions. Hello, Stop-Doing List.
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Goals felt especially pointless when sometimes I felt like my very life hung in the balance every single day.
Even though I am in a much better place now, I’ve still resolved to not spend a lot of time setting yearly goals – especially not crazy, pie in the sky goals that only make me feel worse when I don’t achieve them (not everyone is this way, but I most definitely am).
So instead of setting goals, I’m spending New Year’s Eve/Day rereading Essentialism and thinking about what I need to stop doing this year, along with a few habits I want to establish.
And that led me to think about all the things I’ve stopped doing the past few years that have made me a happier mom.
So if being a happier mom is on your wish list for the coming year, I’m hoping my “stop-doing” list from years past will get the ideas flowing for what you can stop doing to be a happier mom this year.
Why Focus on What You Need to Stop Doing?
Everyone has the same 24 hours, and we all have a finite amount of energy. As moms, I feel like the time and the energy are particularly scarce.
My dad’s death made me reevaluate pretty much everything.
Am I spending my time and energy – my LIFE – the way I want to be spending it?
As a recovering “should-er” (not a word, but go with it), I spent a lot of time doing things because I thought I should. Especially in parenting.
My decisions were mostly fear-based:
- If I don’t give my kids a big list of chores, they won’t be responsible.
- If I don’t limit screen-time, my kids are going to waste their lives in front of the T.V. (and become horribly addicted, lazy adults).
- If I put myself first, I’m being selfish, and my family won’t get what they need.
Anytime a decision is fear-based, it should raise a red flag. But my dad’s death made me reevaluate all of those things.
I questioned all the “should’s” and decided how I really wanted to spend my time, and how I wanted my kids to spend their time.
Life is too short to waste on “shoulds”.
A “Stop-Doing List” for Moms: 10 Things to Reconsider This Year
This list is in no way exhaustive, and you may find that some of the items on this list sound like the exact opposite of what you need right now.
If that’s true, just move on to the next thing.
If you’re anything like me, the last thing you need is one more mom blogger telling you what to do and not to do.
These are simply ten things I personally have stopped doing in the past few years that have made the most difference in my happiness as a mom.
I hope it inspires you to create your own stop-doing list this year!
1. I stopped putting myself last.
Why do moms put themselves last all the time? And why are we encouraged to do so? It has to stop.
Clearly we can’t do what we want all the time, nor am I suggesting we completely neglect our responsibilities. Life still needs to happen; kids still need to be raised, etc., etc.
But there has to be balance. Because when we burn out, our family suffers more than if we had prioritized our own mental and physical health in the first place.
If your kids watch a little more t.v., they will be o.k. Really.
If everyone eats cereal for breakfast for the second night of the week, they’ll be o.k. (Or they’ll learn to cook?)
If your house isn’t picked up all the time, but you were able to go for a run? That’s absolutely worth it.
Putting myself first for ME looks like:
- Reading a book while drinking my coffee in the morning before taking care of others.
- Running 45-60 minutes three days a week.
- Working 10-15 hours a week, something that brings me joy.
Many of the decisions that follow were how I made the time for these three things.
2. I stopped cleaning my house all. the. time.
It’s amazing what our society expects of moms:
- work (because it’s no longer a feasible option for most moms to stay home)
- play with the kids all the time,
- stop them from watching tv,
- make sure they eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,
- nurture your marriage,
- practice self-care.
Oh, and keep your house clean all the time, too.
This year we bought our first home. It just so happens to be double the size of our last home (we went from 1200 sq. ft. to 2400 sq. ft.).
While we so grateful for the extra space, since all seven of us are home all day, every day between working from home and homeschooling, it’s a lot of house to clean.
I was barely managing keeping up with a daily and weekly cleaning schedule when we lived in half the space. And that’s back when I was having the kids chip in more with the cleaning.
So when we moved I made a radical decision (for me) to break with the idea that my house needed to be squeaky clean all the time.
I chose one area – the kitchen – to clean at the end of every day. The kids help with that one area. (And no, I don’t sweep the floor every day.)
Everything else gets cleaned haphazardly as I notice it needs cleaning, with bathrooms getting the top priority slot.
I don’t dust, either.
As for tidying, the kids chip in as I ask or they decide to clean things on their own (which the older ones do for fun sometimes).
And lest you think I don’t love a clean house, I really really do. The next thing I stopped doing made the biggest difference in not needing to tidy all the time.
3. I stopped living with clutter.
I’ve written several posts about the benefits of minimalism and decluttering, so I won’t go on and on about this one.
But since I’ve also written a few articles about the downsides of minimalism, I feel the need to clarify that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
You can figure out how to not get drawn into buying more stuff just to be more “minimalist” (if that statement confuses you, read THIS post).
You can find balance between keeping things just in case and letting go of excess to make more time for what matters to you.
Ultimately, getting rid of clutter – so long as you don’t reaccumulate clutter – gives you back your most precious resource: your time.
And that’s a huge win for any time of the year.
Favorite Decluttering Posts to Get You Started:
- Where to Start Decluttering When You’re Completely Overwhelmed
- 8 Tips for Decluttering on a Low Income
- Please Don’t Declutter Your Entire Home in a Weekend. Here’s Why.
- How to Declutter in Just 15 Minutes a Day
- 10 Compelling Reasons to Become a Minimalist Mom
4. I stopped shopping recreationally.
Naturally, this one has to go right after living without clutter. If you want a truly clutter-free home that stays that way long-term, you need to stop bringing IN clutter.
You might not believe me if you knew how many times Amazon comes to my house (we now live 35-40 minutes away from the mall, Target and most other major stores), but overall, my shopping is waaaay less than it used to be.
Like so many moms (pre-2020 madness), I used to go to Target weekly “just for the necessities” and I’d inevitably talk myself into some home décor item that I could definitely do without.
Even going in to the grocery store leads to buying more stuff.
I try to do the majority of my shopping online – even groceries. Plus, I’m currently in the middle of a no new clothes challenge.
Overall, shopping less gives me time for other things, saves money AND brings in less clutter. So many benefits!
5. I stopped limiting screen-time.
This one is going to get some haters, and haters with book and article recommendations about how screen-time is ruining our kids and so on and so forth.
That’s o.k. I plan on writing more about this topic in 2021 because it’s so controversial (update: see linked article below).
After reading about this idea in multiple books and blogs, I wanted to give it a try. But every time I tried, after about a week my control-freak self kicked in (along with all the voices of our culture screaming screentime is evil in the background), and I put screen limits back in place.
When we moved long-distance this year over the summer, I knew it was the perfect time to commit. Our mortgage took three whole months to go through, so there was a lot to keep my mind busy.
I decided to let go off screen-time limits, other than a basic “do your morning job before screens” and screens go off at such and such time at night.
Now I know that the parents who follow this philosophy were right: it would take a good 2-3 months for a natural, healthy balance to kick in.
After that, you realize that kids don’t really want to do screens all day, every day. Just like adults, they crave a balance of different activities.
Once they realized I was serious and wasn’t going to take away screens again, they stopped binging and have hit a healthy rhythm to their days.
There are so many positive benefits to not limiting your kids’ screentime, and I realize that I am in a unique position as a homeschooler, but again, another post for another time.
All you really need to know for this article is that my goodness, I never ever want to go back to controlling screen-time. It’s simply not the best use of my limited energy as a mom.
6. I stopped making the same decisions over and over again.
I picked up this idea from Kendra Adachi’s book The Lazy Genius Way. I highly recommend it!
The first Lazy Genius principle is to “decide once.”
Decide once where you are going to grocery shop.
Decide once where you are going to buy your kids’ clothes.
Decide once how you’re going to clean up the kitchen and what kind of laundry routine you’re going to follow.
If you want to take this idea to extremes, you can decide once what you’re going to wear every day by having a daily uniform. Decide once what you’re going to eat for breakfast and even what meals you’re going to make each month (minimalist meal planning is a pretty genius idea).
I already knew the dangers of decision fatigue, but Kendra captured the idea so succinctly and took it farther than I ever have.
It gave me the confidence I needed to stick to the same grocery store every single week (even if I thought I could save a few bucks at a different store), to only clean up once a day, and to make certain big parenting decisions once, like not limiting screen-time.
7. I stopped giving my kids tons of chores.
For years, I followed parenting bloggers who encouraged me to “involve your little one’s in chores at a young age”. It’s hard, but it’ll be worth it, they said.
But you know what’s freaking exhausting?
Trying to clean when you’re worried about whether or not your three-year-old is licking the silverware before putting it away in the drawer (true story).
Or spending double the time – for weeks on end – teaching your six-year-old how to vacuum a room properly when you could have been done fifteen minutes ago (or better yet, skipped altogether and not feeling the need to vacuum religiously every single week in the first place).
Or fighting your child week after week after week about multiple responsibilities on cleaning day.
Between working from home, homeschooling, and having five kids, I’m saying HECK NO to this one.
I will teach my kids how to do all the chores they need to know, but I will do it in my own time, thank you very much. Homeschooling offers the luxury of more time.
I simplified the chores so that each older child (3 kiddos so far) has a morning job and an evening job that revolves around the kitchen.
When they hit age nine, they handle their own laundry. Another blessed ninth birthday happened in our house yesterday, and I am pretty dang excited about less laundry to do.
Occasionally I give out a paid job for something I would be willing to pay someone else to do anyway, like cleaning out the car.
But no fancy chore charts. No long lists of chores for each kid that I have to manage.
Nope and nope.
You Might Also Like: What Is Respectful Parenting? A Refreshingly Radical Philosophy
8. I stopped slaving away in the kitchen.
This one is going to look a bit different for every mom.
Maybe you grab an instant pot and learn to rock that thing. Maybe you let go of the idea that you need to make a hot breakfast and lunch every day.
For me, it looked like embracing Costco’s prepared and frozen foods, sandwiches every day like clockwork and focusing on getting each child to have one fruit and one vegetable a day (if they get more, great, but that’s all I was going to think about) and a relatively healthy dinner available 4-5 days a week.
I try to cook dinner five days a week, but other than that, I use this toaster oven/air fryer like a boss.
I keep a lot of easy to make things on hand for the kids to eat (and husband, too) and keep it super simple.
Easy fruits and veggies, frozen waffles and cereal, nuggets and frozen pot pies and bagel pizzas are staples at my house. Oh, and pretzels and goldfish, too.
I bake only when I truly want to. Store-bought baked goods are more than o.k. right now.
And I’m a happier mom for it.
9. I stopped sending my kids to school.
I know what you’re thinking (especially all the moms who are forced into homeschooling right now). June, how on earth is this on your list of things that will make me a happier mom?!
So let’s get this out of the way first: homeschooling is not for everybody. I am the last person you would have thought would homeschool, let alone actually enjoy it.
I am an introvert who loves peace and quiet.
I adored school growing up, so much so that I went to grad school because I didn’t know what to do with myself outside of school. But that’s another story for another time.
But for me, homeschooling made my life so. much. easier.
I don’t have to drag four (now five) small children out of the house at a god awful hour five days a week.
I don’t have to wake up kids from naps to pick up kids from school.
I don’t need to force my kids to follow sleep/wake rhythms that are the opposite their natural ones.
I don’t need to pressure my children to read before they’re ready to do so, or learn things they could care less about learning.
I don’t have to feel the additional pressure of a school and teacher’s expectations. I don’t have to feel guilty about pulling my kids out of school for vacation or when they aren’t really that sick.
While I do have to meet with a teacher at the end of the school year, I can choose a teacher who gets my homeschool philosophy and vision.
Homeschooling has it’s hard things for SURE, but mama, you can choose your hard.
I choose homeschooling because it’s a million times easier and more enjoyable for everybody in our family. I love the freedom homeschooling offers, and I will never ever send my kids to school if I can help it.
10. I stopped caring what other people think about my parenting decisions (mostly).
Truth be told this will always be a work in progress for me. I will always be a recovering people-pleaser. Shrugging off criticism, especially from people close to me, isn’t easy.
This is also a tough one because we are a social species and crave belonging.
So when we one day decide to parent differently than our circle of mom friends, or our parents, or our siblings, and they make their feelings known about our choices, it’s not fun.
But you know what? They don’t have to live your life. You do.
You are the parent of your child, and you are the one who is ultimately responsible for your parenting decisions.
You know your child best. You were born with a mama’s instincts, and you can learn to trust those instincts.
You can choose to grown and learn and adopt different parenting styles than your friends and family. And that is more than o.k.
What’s helped me most to let go of what other people think is to remember that they don’t have to live my life. They don’t have to answer for the choices I make: I do.
At the end of the day, and the years, I alone am responsible for my relationship with my children. No one else.
So if I want to breastfeed my child past age two because that is the best decision for me and my child? People can judge all they want. It works best for me and this unique child in this season of life – end of story.
I’ve made a number of controversial, far from mainstream parenting choices over the past few years, and the further I go, the more I realize it really doesn’t matter what other people think (see all of the above items).
Have different parenting choices meant that some relationships have faded away? Sadly, yes.
Are other relationships harder because of my choices? Absolutely.
But at the end of the day, your relationships with your family are, God willing, going to be the most lasting and enduring ones of all time. Stop looking to all the “experts”, trust your mama instincts and one day, you’ll reap the benefits.
So What Are YOU Going to Stop Doing This Year?
O.k. I’ve given you the things from past years’ stop-doing lists.
Hopefully you didn’t take them prescriptively, but they got you thinking about your own life.
So now it’s your turn.
What is one thing you can stop doing this year that will make a biggest difference in your overall outlook as a mom? I’d love to hear!