New Year’s Eve: the buildup, the anticipation. You can already feel it in the air.

It’s part celebration, part reflection. I may be one of the few, but I always loved New Year’s Eve. While I understand the pressures of the holiday (having someone to kiss at midnight, getting invited to the “right” party, etc.), those never seemed to be the driving force for me. It was a reason to dress up in a way that I never did. A reason to gather with people I love and toast to what had been and what was ahead. 

It’s a singular moment to start fresh. For me, it was the accumulation of everything that had happened in that calendar year. Good and bad. It is also a moment to take what you learned and set a clear path forward. That’s why, despite the complicated feelings and pressures toward the pomp and circumstance, we’re all drawn to it in some way.

Then in one single year, all that changed.

My daughter was born in early February. It was my last New Year’s Eve before being a mom took over completely.  It was the first time the pressures of the holiday got to me. I was overwhelmed by what to wear. I needed to be at a party that would be memorable. Despite being exhausted (being 8 months pregnant will do that to you), I forced myself to stay up until midnight. I stressed about everything.

In some ways, it felt like the last hurrah. I knew that becoming a parent would change everything. My relationships. My priorities. My way of life across the board. I hung all my hopes on THAT night instead of the true intention of the holiday. Spoiler: I did not have a great time. That night I fell asleep thinking about everything I was missing.

Since then I’ve struggled to get back to what I loved about NYE. I’ve been trapped in the pressure of making the singular night count. That pressure made my post-parenthood celebrations go one of two ways.

  1. In pajamas doing a fake YouTube countdown at 8pm and falling asleep shortly after.
  2. Spending way too much on an extravagant night out.

The pendulum has been swinging across these polar opposite experiences. When I stayed in I felt like I missed out. As parents often do, I focused on making sure the kids had fun. That they got their moment with the holiday and the traditions. When I went out, I’d try to “make up” for all the pre-kid activities I missed out on throughout the year. Tickets to a show, reservations at sought-after restaurant, invites to the best midnight party in the neighborhood. Basically, I’d fall into the classic NYE pressure trap. Both experiences left me wanting. 

Last year, I had an epiphany. The holiday that I truly enjoyed had turned into a manifestation of my dueling identities of parent and person. The person/parent life balance is a struggle. It’s a fine line. How do you manage being an active, engaged parent without losing yourself completely? It’s something I constantly wrestle with and believe I always will. It’s an art and not a science. There’s no single solution or answer.

However, when I realized that planning New Year’s Eve was a clear battleground for this struggle, I was able to reassess and rebuild my New Year’s Eve ideal. I focused on getting back to what I loved about the holiday in the first place.

Here’s where I landed:

I Don’t Need to Stay Up Until Midnight

Making that blank statement immediately took the pressure off. If I make to the ball drop, cool. If not, no big deal. As long as I check the other boxes below, I’ll feel like I’m starting the new year on the right foot.

I Do Need to Dress Up

Parents, mom’s in particular, rarely get a chance to spend time on how they look on the outside. My self-esteem always gets a boost when I spend more time on how I look. Will I have a new dress every year? No. But I will dedicate a little more time to getting ready than I do on a regular basis. It’s an important way to check in on how I feel when I spend time on myself, which throughout the year is usually something that gets de-prioritized quickly. Sticking to this NYE ritual ensures that it doesn’t get lost altogether. 

I Do Need a Date

Every parent knows that one-on-one time with your partner is in short supply. The pressure of making this night be the date night of all date nights can get overwhelming. It was certainly a bucket I had fallen into. After my epiphany, I realized that my partner was my connection to both my parenthood and my personhood. Having dedicated one-on-one time with him at the end of the year to level-set on what we had just experienced became a top priority.

I Don’t Need It to Be Big

The pressure trap I fell into was working to make that date “big” and “special” when in reality it didn’t need all of the trappings. Just a quiet corner to share a meal and talk. The act of having an average date night on the “non-average” holiday made us realize we missed simple date nights and made it our resolution to prioritize doing more throughout the year.

I Do Need to Reflect, Refocus, & Recommit

The “date” time also gave me the space to do what I loved most on New Year’s Eve. To reflect on what happened during the year. How I felt about it then and now. What I want to change and focus on moving forward. How I want to reconnect with the people in my life in the new year. Where I want my priorities to be. Life isn’t static. It moves and evolves. In the bustle of things, it’s important to take stock in where you are at and where you want to go. This holiday is for exactly that.

Last year’s NYE one of the best ever had. It was new and it fits my life. I built a space that allowed me to acknowledge my life, as a mom, as a friend and as a partner. This year, I’m planning to do more of the same. Toasting my kids at 8pm, passing the baton to a sitter, and then heading out for a quiet, small date night with my husband, and potentially a few close friends. No fuss, no frills, just connection and conversation. 

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