When we think of January, a lot of us think of post-holiday let-down, early winter blahs and influenza. But if we're working mothers, we're likely to have a different slant on this much-maligned month.
"Post-holiday let-down? What's that?" asked a busy mother of four. "I love January! No holidays. No celebrations. No presents -- to wrap. No parties to attend. No money to spend. No compulsion to be jolly. What a lovely, peaceful time!"
And a teacher I know whose children are 16, 12 and 7 years old said, "This is one of my favorite times of the year. The holidays are over -- at last! We're all back in school again. The house looks normal -- cluttered and dusty and undecorated. And we can all go back to being our normal selves.
"The most exhausting part of Christmas is having to be nice, nice, nice and happy, happy, happy all the time," she added, grinning. "But in lovely old January, my husband can go back to zoning out in front of ESPN, the kids can go back to squabbling, and I can go back to screeching at them when they don't pick up after themselves.
"Ah-h-h, sweet reality!"
Here are nine ways to help keep this relaxed, relieved January feeling alive all year long, if you're a working mother:
* Banish the words "quality time" from your vocabulary altogether. All the time you spend with your children is quality time, including the times when you aren't happy, happy, happy with each other or having fun, fun, fun.
* Start right now to assume the very best about your children -- and your parenting of them -- unless or until you're confronted head-on with concrete evidence that all is not well with them. The energy that most of us put into worrying needlessly about our children can better be used elsewhere.
* Assume the very best about yourself as a parent, too. Stop questioning and second-guessing yourself, and start patting yourself on the back for all the things you do right.
* Start right now to make time for yourself each day. Don't wait for it to come along. It never does, if you're a working mother.
* Insist that your children do their fair share around the house -- and most of us still don't do enough of this. Remember: Your time is every bit as important as theirs.
* Make a real effort to compartmentalize your work and motherhood concerns, because if you spend your time at home worrying about work, or your time at work worrying about what's going on at home, you'll not only be distracted, but emotionally exhausted as well.
* Eliminate the word "guilt" from your vocabulary altogether -- and don't think it, either! There's not a shred of evidence that being the child of a working mother handicaps a child in any way, but there is evidence that chronic, baseless, free-floating guilt is hazardous to your health.
* Make this the year you finally hire some of the help you need to hold two full-time jobs -- one at work and one at home -- even if your children have to earn more of their own spending money or (horrors!) wear non-brand-name tennis shoes for a while.
* Finally, start putting a few dollars a week aside so that you -- or you and your husband -- can go out occasionally without the children. They're not the only ones who need "quality time," after all; you need some, too. And you've earned it.
) Universal Press Syndicate