I tried really hard to think of an alternative title for this post because, 1. it’s the 13th January and you’re probably past the stage of wanting to read about people’s ‘goals for the year ahead’, 2. blog posts like this are two a penny in the first couple of weeks of January and I was keen to make this one feel different, and 3. In the last couple of years I’ve really shied away from setting ‘resolutions’ or placing unrealistic markers for achievement in front of myself, so as not to feel like a failure had I not reached them by the time that next round of 365 days drew to a close.
I know that many people feel swamped in January by the pressure of needing to manifest ‘a whole new you’ and kick the year off in a flurry of ‘achieve achieve achieve’ – I certainly do, and that’s why over the last couple of years I just stopped. Stopped making resolutions, stopped worrying about what I achieved and when I achieved it and tried to just keep my long term goals ticking along as best I could without any sort of time limit on them. I think as you get older, you start to realise that life is just a series of waves. Some ups, some downs. Some periods of hurtling forward at warp speed, some moments of standing still. And through all of those, you grow and change, your wants and desires and markers of success and happiness morph and change and are added to like a tree growing new branches and leaves. So you learn to embrace those quiet times of standing still just as much as the times when you’re climbing high. You learn to bask in the good times, and know that the rough ones won’t last forever. You learn to ride the waves.
We’ve been lucky that 2018 didn’t hold any truly dark moments for us, like I know it may have for many, but by the same token it didn’t hold any particularly high moments either. There was happiness of course, and joy at watching our daughter grow and develop into a beautiful and hilarious little person. Moments we want to remember and small achievements we’ve celebrated. But mostly it was a year of monotony and routine. A year of trying to make ends meet and put our daughter first. A year of living day to day and finding our happiness in those very mundane everyday moments. A year of too much work and not enough fun.
But that’s ok. Some years are slow paced and monotonous, some years are fast paced and exciting. But sometimes after one slow year, there’s the tendency to want to pick up the pace for the following one. To start planning ahead a little more, making bigger decisions and taking those leaps onto the new and scary paths laid out in front of you. And that’s how I feel about 2019. After two years of taking things as they come, I feel ready to start grabbing life with both hands again and start building the future I see for myself and my family.
This time in 2017 I was heavily pregnant, winding down on work with no idea what the future might hold for me as a parent, as a freelancer, as a person. Planning any further than February and the birth of our baby wasn’t something I could mentally make room for.
This time last year, we’d made the decision my Husband would go back into a full time job (after a year of us both being self employed) and we had no idea where we’d be living or what life would look like in the coming months. Planning ahead in terms of my work, in terms of childcare for Evie, in terms of what daily life might look like, was impossible.
But this year things are different. We’re now fairly settled in Manchester and hope to stay here for at least the coming year if not longer. Evie is almost two and although I don’t regret a single moment of the time I’ve had with her during her early years, I feel ready to start carving out time for myself again. I’m ready to take on more work, and throw myself into new challenges. We’ve started talking about the future we see for ourselves as a family, and want to start making tracks towards that (regardless of how long it takes), to address the balance of our routines and our work and family time. I want to tackle my health problems head on and work towards a healthier and fitter lifestyle, so that I can be the best Mum for Evie. And we both want to work hard to try and give her the best life we can.
This January it felt right to write down some goals for myself. Some posts on this blog I write with readers in mind, things that might inspire or interest. But this post is mainly for me. A form of spilling out all of the thoughts and ideas that are taking up space in my head right now. Getting them all down and leaving my brain free to start working through them and making sense of them. Something I can look back on in those times throughout the coming year where I’ll no doubt feel a little lost. A manifesto of the things that are important to me for 2019 and the things that I’m aiming to prioritise. But these aren’t necessarily goals for 2019 alone, and they’re not huge un-reachable tasks. They’re simple things that I want to begin making part of our everyday life, things that will form a better future for us and things that I think, actually, this is the year to address.
But just know, that if you’re reading this and are feeling that familiar sense of self scrutiny that you’re not achieving enough, that you don’t know what your goals are, that you don’t have a word to live by, then just let it go. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to make resolutions. You don’t need to have goals. And similarly if you do want to set yourself goals, then know that if they don’t happen or haven’t fully manifested by this time next year, you have not failed.
So with that in mind these are just a few of the things that I want to focus on in 2019…
Health + Happiness + Hustle
I must admit I’m not normally one for a ‘word/s of the year’. It’s always felt too difficult to pinpoint only one or two things that the whole year could encompass. But this year, it felt so simple. These three things just jumping out at me as the parts of life I want to prioritise. Since having Evie, I’ve had to – compartmentalise – my life so much more. As a parent, there isn’t time for everything, so you do have to prioritise certain things. Last year I most definitely prioritised Evie’s health and happiness which I think in turn let mine slide. I’m not saying that I no longer want to make her a priority, far from it, she will always come first. But I’ve realised that when I feel well and happy and fit, I’m so much more capable of tending to her needs and being a better Mum. I want to put a bit less focus on some smaller aspects of life I was maybe prioritising too much last year and put more time and effort into eating well, making the most of family time, and concentrating on my own ambitions and career.
So let’s start from the top. I really feel like I need to prioritise my health – both physical and mental – more this year. There’s no doubt that the first year of motherhood is exhausting and strips you bare. Your body becomes a vessel to care for another, you’re forced to survive on minimal sleep and your brain turns to mush. But the second year? Wow the second year is exhausting on a whole new level. Your days are longer than they’ve ever been before, your time is not your own, you spend 24 hours a day tending to every demand, cry and request. You spend your time preparing meals they don’t eat, rushing out to a playgroup here, a swimming lesson there, playing endless loops of the same imaginary game over and over, willing them to sleep, then willing them NOT to sleep, answering questions, deciphering new words, and trying your best to not think about the fact that your every action, every answer, every move is shaping the mind of your tiny sidekick and ultimately leading to the type of adult they’ll become.
When is there time for you to eat, for you to rest, for you to work through the list of worries in your head? Answer: there’s not. Most days I barely eat anything other than a hurried bite of a biscuit before Evie notices and wants it for herself, a quick slurp of a cup of tea before rushing out the door to whichever activity we’re late for that morning. I still barely sleep, thanks to a toddler who loves to be in beside us pulling at my hair and clambering to get closer and closer until my head is on the bedside table and my chest squashed by a small body. I can’t even pee without her there to ‘help pull up Mummy’s pants’ while I’m mid way through. My showers are hurried and frantic as I listen to every thud and clunk from outside the cubicle praying she hasn’t hurt herself in those 2 secs she’s dashed off to find another toy. Most days I wake up and know that today will largely be the same as every other day, and that there won’t be a single part of the next 8 hours that’s for me.
And that takes it’s toll. I don’t at all mean to sound negative, because the decision for me to be at home with Evie is one that I made whole heartedly and I wouldn’t for a minute change or regret. I’ve felt so lucky to have these early years with her, to be the one she comes to and the one who sees every new development first hand, because I know it’s not an option for so many Mothers. I’d never take it for granted, but of course it does come with challenges and in 2018 I felt the weight of them more than ever.
Not having time to look after myself has left my health really suffering, and I know I need to get on top of it from now on. I’ve suffered with some unknown stomach issues for a good few years now. Before we had Evie, I spent the best part of two years back and forward from the doctor trying to decipher what could be causing the problem. I’ve had blood tests and stool samples and ultrasounds and endoscopy’s. I’ve visited a dietician and gone on the FODMAP diet and still didn’t really get any further in knowing what exactly it is that makes me feel so ill. I had a temporary break from it (to an extent) while pregnant (maybe my body had other things to worry about) and I guess I had other things to worry about during Evie’s first year that I kind of blocked it out. This year it’s re-surfaced and I’ve found it difficult to cope with. Probably a mixture of lack of sleep, not eating well or drinking enough water, running on empty most of the time, worrying and getting anxious about things alongside perhaps still some un-diagnosed allergy or IBS has led to me feeling pretty unwell for most of the last 12 months.
I know that there are others who suffer so much more and for whom ill health is a constant and unfortunate part of life, so I’m hasten to complain too much or too compare my symptoms with those who have a more serious condition, but I can honestly say that there was no part of 2018 where I felt – well – and that’s been tough. Constant migraines, huge hormonal surges and dips, and bouts of constant nausea. Anxiety over whether I’ll make it through a night out with friends or whether one glass of wine will see me in a taxi home with a migraine. The fear of eating the wrong thing unknowingly while out for a meal and then spending the whole of the next day doubled over with pain. Waking up feeling so shaky and dizzy that I don’t know how I’ll get through a day of parenting. Feeling like I can’t fully enjoy life because every little treat or indulgence will no doubt lead to a week of illness.
It has to change.
I ended the year (perhaps one final push to make changes in 2019) with yet another bout of illness over Christmas and sworn off various foods, and that was it for me. From the first week in January I vowed to make changes and although it’s not been easy (especially this week as we’ve been thrown back into the normal routine with me at home every day on my own with Evie and struggling to find the time to eat, no less eat the right things), I’m committed to getting to the bottom of these issues this year and beginning to live a healthier life.
I’ve returned to the Doctor to discuss the possible problems and solutions once again but for the most part I’m taking things into my own hands. Cutting things out of my diet that I know don’t help me, aiming to make time for three square meals a day which are sustaining and fulfilling, while still being quick and easy to prepare with a toddler around, and prioritising time that was previously spent on other things towards meal planning and cooking.
I’m going to stop feeling pressure to eat or drink certain things while on a night out, stop being too timid to say ‘actually I can’t eat that’ or ‘no I don’t want a drink’ when at a friends house or out for a meal and accept this ‘condition’ for what it is, and find a way to manage it long term, rather than just ignore it and pay the price.
My main – mini goals – to help in this area are to be more organised with our food shop so that we can plan ahead with meals and know what we’re cooking and eating ahead of time, rather than hurriedly going to Aldi on the way home and picking up something quick from a packet.
I want to experiment with cooking more, try new recipes and find cookbooks and meals that can help me put together a rosta of heathy, easy to prepare, meals that both myself and my Husband can enjoy while still keeping my tummy happy.
I want to try and rest more, work towards more sleep by encouraging Evie back into her own bed over time and persuading her to let my Husband do more of her morning and evening routines.
I want to begin some gentle and regular exercise again, regain some time for myself and ultimately feel fitter. Maybe in turn regaining my figure a little (I feel like it’s not really allowed anymore to say you’re not happy with your figure – we’re all supposed to love ourselves and our bodies – but equally if you don’t feel fit or healthy and don’t feel yourself when you look in the mirror it should also be ok to want to work towards changing that, right?).
I want to tackle my anxiety issues head on and work on managing them more.
I want to get to know my cycles better, begin using a mooncup rather than tampons, and try and look after myself more during hormonal points in the month so as not to exasperate my stomach issues any further.
That’s a lot, but I feel like over time it’s do-able. Maybe not fully this year but I’m confident I can make small changes to work towards all of these things this year and through doing that will hopefully end 2019 feeling healthier and more in control of my health than I did in 2018.
Happiness. Quite a broad aspect to discuss, but probably something everyone aims for within each year. But we don’t always prioritise it do we?
I feel as if Happiness is the bridge between all of my goals this year. The cornerstone behind every ambition or health change or career move. Because everything we hope and dream for leads back to happiness right? At the heart of everything I’m aiming for – be it to feel more well, to find more time for myself, to kick start my career again – is the desire to build a happy future for myself, my Husband and Evie. Otherwise there would be no point.
I don’t think I prioritised happiness enough last year – lack of money, lack of time, lack of organisation meant that actually we didn’t do enough to keep our cups full as they say. We let them run dry, we let tiredness take over, we let our free time get eaten up with to-do’s. This year I want to try and savour our family time more, be more present, and make the most of it.
Family is the biggest part of this goal for me. It’s such an important aspect of my life that I want it to be right up there as one of my main priorities.
That means so many things from big changes to tiny ones but ultimately, having spoken at length about our future, my Husband and I want the same thing – more balance, and more time to spend together as a family. And that’s what we want to start working towards this year. It’s definitely not something that will happen within the breadth of 2019 but perhaps more likely in the next five years or so.
When we had Evie, our dream was always to be able to co-parent, to both work and make time for our own ambitions but at the same time both be around to watch our kids grow and spend plenty of time as a family. The dream for many I’m sure, but more than a little difficult to make happen. That first year we gave it a good bash with us both being self employed and to an extent it worked, as Evie got us both and we both still managed to work. But in too many other ways it didn’t work – financially being the main one. Our respective careers didn’t exactly weave around each other seamlessly, and we couldn’t seem to strike a balance – work would always come along for both of us at the same time, meaning one person would have to opt out, then we’d have months where neither of us worked at all and the previous projects we’d turned down weighed on us. Towards the end of 2017 we made the decision that my Husband would go back into full time employment and I’d take on the stay- at- home mantle with Evie ad juggle work as best I could. Throw in a move to Manchester, a failed attempt to introduce childcare and a new dynamic that’s taken us most of the last year to get our heads around, and you can imagine that we’re not striking the best work/life/family balance right now.
At the moment, this is the best option for us, and the only one we can make work, but we both know we don’t want it to be like this forever. It makes sense for us both to fill these roles right now, but as I said in my last post we both want more of what the other has – I want more time to work and be creative, my Husband wants more time at home with Evie and we both want more family time. My Husband’s work sees him travel a lot and be away from home for a big chunk of the year which is tough on us all, but I think this year we’d like to plan ahead more, budget better so that we can pencil in fun things for the down times, and make sure we are really making the most of the times we do have together.
We’d love a holiday this summer, even a small UK one so it would be great if we could find some extra funds for that but in general we want to explore more with Evie, take her to new places and get out and about as much as possible, whether that be at home in Manchester (because we really haven’t explored the city enough) or further afield.
In the wider subject of family, and happiness, I’d love to see my parents more this year (which I’m hoping will be possible once my Dad retires in February) and do some lovely things with them, as well as spend more time with my brother and his fiance too.
And we’d love to prioritise ourselves (myself and my Husband) a little more this year too – spend more alone time together to be ourselves as we were before we became parents, and nurture our relationship more. It’s hard to make time for that when you have a kid/kids in the mix who demand pretty much every ounce of you, and I guess it’s all too easy to just fall into your given roles within that routine you’ve formed as a family. Before suddenly realising it’s been days since you’ve had a proper conversation that wasn’t around your child’s antics, or the routine or the schedule. I know that we’re pretty solid, and are always there for each other when we need it, but we could definitely benefit from more ‘us’ time that’s for sure.
And finally, perhaps the one I’m most excited to get stuck into – a bit of hustle this year. Some time to bring my own career, my own ambitions, my own dreams back to the forefront and start making them a reality. Again I’m under no illusions that this will take time but whereas at the beginning of last year I felt unable to carve out that time, struggling to see how it would all fit together, this year I’m confident that I can make some time. With the support of my Husband, my parents and perhaps some childcare, I can begin realising those dreams.
I ended up taking a much bigger step back from my career last year than I ever planned to – the reality of our new home/life dynamic meant that my career largely came second to being a stay at home Mum for Evie and raising her day to day while my Husband took on the mantle of bringing in a wage. Originally we’d hoped I’d be able to fit more in (living on one wage certainly isn’t easy that’s for sure) but moving to Manchester meant a whole new start in terms of freelance clients and suddenly being thrown into solo parenting for long stints from the off, with my Husband having to travel pretty much continuously for the first three months of him starting his new job, meant I just didn’t have the time to hustle for the work like I needed to. Added to that was our decision to delay childcare until this year (one I won’t go into here but essentially was a combination of the fact that we didn’t feel Evie was ready, and the financial implications involved) which meant that my weekly routine left little time for anything other than small stints of work and occasional projects. For the first half of the year and after our initial house and city move, I found this a difficult adjustment but as the year wore on I came to accept how things had to be and made my peace with the fact that I was essentially a stay at home Mum doing the odd bit of work, rather than the freelance, working from home Mumboss I’d always imagined I’d be. I’ve had to learn the art of patience over the last year in a big way, learn to hold onto those long term ambitions and keep repeating to myself that I’ll get there in time.
I don’t regret a thing. We did (and are doing) what is right for our family at this point in time and I have absolutely LOVED spending so much time with Evie since she came into the world. All I ever wanted was to be a Mum and I feel so very lucky to have realised that dream and be living that life. But I do miss that freedom to just be able to charge ahead when an idea comes to me, to be able to start putting things into practice as soon as I’ve made a decision. Because now I have to hold the idea in my head until I can find a decent stint of alone time to begin it. Now I have to wait until so many other factors have fallen into place before I can make things happen.
It can be hard to watch everyone around you carry on, when you feel somewhat stuck (in a career sense). You worry you might be forgotten, you might miss the boat or fall behind. I’ve felt very much like I haven’t achieved this last year, I’ve watched people come out of nowhere and overtake me in leaps and bounds. I have to keep reminding myself that I am achieving by bringing up my daughter, and that a career break is not something to be ashamed about. If anything, I’m grateful that its given me the time to really think about what I want to do, what I can make work around my family and what I want to be doing in five or ten years time.
I’m ready to put my business head back on and start (slowly) making tracks towards a fulfilling career. To nurture my freelance business and get to the core of what it is going to be long term and how I’ll make it work alongside a family. It won’t be easy of course and there will still be a whole LOT of juggling, but with Evie almost two, we’re planning to revisit childcare and find something that works for all of us. Something that she’s happy and comfortable with, and that gives me some more time to work. Probably only a couple of mornings a week to begin with, but alongside weekends when my Husband is around and the times when my parents/in laws can help out, I’m hoping I can utilise this time.
I want to fuel all of the fires within myself this year rather than just one. I adore being a Mum and want to keep that part of me burning brightest, but there’s also a part of myself that enjoys working and earning money, and that gets fulfilment from being creative.
I have so many ideas, and I don’t really want to lay them all out in this post as they’re still in the planning stages but essentially I’ve had a long term business plan for a few years now that I’m determined to begin. I’ve got a newer (yet just as exciting) idea for a book/app that I think could be really great if I can just get it off the ground. I’d love to start a podcast and have lots of plans for the blog and really want to grow my social media.
But to begin with, I’m going to prioritise my blog more again. I want to dedicate time to writing, and really writing, as much as possible. As it’s my main passion and what makes me happy and keeps me on an even keel. I didn’t put together a 2018 blog highlights post like usual this year because I realised that I actually didn’t blog that much, and definitely didn’t cover a lot of the best moments of the year. I want to write more about life’s little moments, about family, and document our life honestly. And I want to worry a little less about making every post perfect, or only writing about things when I have a bunch of professionally shot images to go alongside it. The problem I have is that the posts I like to write the most are ones like these – ones from the heart, about real things and with real integrity, and those are the posts that really take time. That require a lot of me, and that I need an empty house and a guarantee of at least a few hours to myself, to complete.
But I’m holding myself to it, and hopefully once we have childcare sorted I’ll be able to dedicate those mornings to writing amongst other things. My blog is my way to document my life, and this year I want to make sure it’s packed full of everything that makes me happy.
In terms of social media, I’ve decided to concentrate on two main platforms this year rather than spreading my time thinly across them all. So my main focus will be on Instagram and Pinterest as they’re both visual and I feel play to my strengths. Love it or hate it, Instagram is still huge, and while I don’t want it to become my main online output (in front of the blog), I realise that it’s an important asset to any online business and I need to up my game slightly over there in order to be noticed and in turn do more of what I love with this blog.
So I’ll be focusing on creating inspiring and creative content that can paint a picture of who I am and how I work, and I’m also planning to set up a seperate account to begin slightly more creative work, and practice my styling more (things that wouldn’t fit my main feed for example) so that I can have a portfolio of sorts in the making.
Lastly, I want to integrate myself into the Manchester scene more this year, which I feel I didn’t do enough of last year. I miss out on so many opportunities that land in my inbox because I can’t get to London as easily anymore, but I feel like there’s this huge untapped creative pool in Manchester that I’m just not making the most of. I want to reach out to like minded creatives, research new brands, find fellow freelancers and begin getting myself a little network like I used to have in London. I work so much better with other people to bounce ideas off of, and I know there’s so many great things going on in this city. I think I resisted it slightly last year, not really knowing whether we’d stay here long term or not, but now knowing we’ve committed to at least another year I’m keen to get stuck in, meet new people and network away.
And the rest…
I think that’s probably enough to be getting on with but a few other mini goals are as follows;
– Try to be as environmentally responsible as we can be this year – we made various changes last year and I know we’re headed in the right direction but there’s still so much more we could do. I’m pretty much meat free now but aim to make a full vegetarian diet work for myself in the coming months, I want to move to re-usable nappies and wipes, and generally reduce our plastic waste as much as possible.
– Get on top of our finances – I’m hoping a step up in work for me will help this, but it’s still something we need to be better at managing. I want to start budgeting month on month and seeing where we can make cut backs so as to start saving. Start saying no to more of the things we ultimately can’t afford rather than agreeing and then scrimping the following month, and do a fair bit of Marie Kondo-ing with our stuff and make some money that way.
– De-clutter – Yes officially addicted to the Marie Kondo Netflix series like everyone, but we really do have so much stuff we could get rid of, and it’s time to start tackling our cellar of doom.
– Visit a dermatologist – I’ve suffered with bad skin for TOO long and last year it seemed to get even worse. I’ve tried every skincare product under the sun so I’d love to visit a dermatologist this year and get to the root of the problem.
And that’s me. Reading that back and I’m already starting to feel like ‘woah it’s the 13th January and I haven’t made tracks with any of these things yet’ but I’m reminding myself there’s plenty of time, and that these goals aren’t restricted to this year alone.
I feel ready to start making some positive changes this year, do more for me and just enjoy life more. So here’s to 2019, I’m excited!
How about you? Have you set any goals this year? I’d love to hear what you’re hoping to achieve or prioritise over the next year!