When I was a kid, my family celebrated New Year’s Eve on New York time. My parents moved from New York the month I was to be born, and they never fully integrated into California life. My father insisted that at 9 PM every December 31st, we toasted with sparkling cider, blew noise makers, and made a small but enthusiastic showing of New year’s excitement.
I had a pretty lame adolescence and was home every New Year’s Eve celebrating this way. After I turned 21, I would sometimes go with friends to a bar for New Year’s Eve, but it was never really my “thing.” Loud bars combined with drunk people has never really been my “thing.”
For the five years I dated the man I married and had kids with and for the years of our marriage before we had kids, we celebrated with friends at parties or at people’s houses and those were good years. We had a tight group of friends and it was good to be not in a loud bar with drunk people.
Once I had kids, everything changed. My firstborn was 2 months old for our first New Year’s Eve and I’m pretty certain I spent it breastfeeding every two hours, crying every three, and going to bed with the baby at 8 o’clock. The next year looked the same. Two years later, I had a newborn and an almost 3 year old to handle on New Year’s and everything after that is a blur.
I got divorced when my boys were 4 and 7, and New Year’s divorced is no more fun than you might imagine it to be; my ex has a larger social circle and better attitude about life in general than I do, so I typically would have the boys and he would go out with friends and that was fine. It IS fine. I don’t really feel the need to celebrate New Year’s Eve in any monumental way. The Jewish New Year comes every fall with lots of religious observance, atoning, meal preparation and festivity, and that’s enough “New Year” for me.
This year, my New Year’s celebration will look similar to previous years’ celebrations. But as the new year starts, I’m doing something a little different. This year, I am going away for a girls’ trip with two of my close friends who I rarely see. I met one of these women in prenatal yoga class 12 years ago; I met the other online when our babies were 3 months old through a “friend finder” on the Mothering.com website, a website geared towards parents interested in what was referred to as “natural family living”.
Before you assume that this is a group of rich LA elitist hippies, it bears stating that most of Western society shuns or doubts the importance of a lot of the choices we made, and I’m the only celebrity in this group. We all shared a belief in home-birth and natural birth; we parented without nannies; we shared an interest in holistic decisions about our health and the health of our children; we breastfed on demand; and we believed in never using harsh discipline with our kids. The reason it was so important for us to find each other was in conventional moms’ groups that seek to give support to mothers, women like us were met with scorn and judgment about our parenting choices. A decade ago, we were considered “crazy” for suggesting that hormone-laden foods and toxic chemicals in baby sunscreen were harmful to our babies; these days, those are commonly agreed upon things by even the most conventional pediatricians and parents. But back then, we clung to each other dearly, sharing through phone calls and email (there was no texting then!) our challenges and concerns that were often not addressed by conventional moms’ groups. If we had questions about which cloth wipes were most durable or if we had anxiety about our babies nursing all night, conventional moms’ groups wouldn’t help: we only had each other.
We would sometimes get together at La Leche League Meetings and we also gathered with others through The Holistic Moms Network, but mostly we talked by phone and got together when we could. Because we were parenting according to the principles of Attachment Parenting, our life was not the same as other moms’.
This is not a judgment of people who don’t parent this way and I am not saying our kids will be smarter or better or that we are better or more committed to parenting or anything like that; I’m simply saying that if you don’t have anyone helping you care for your kids, and if you are breastfeeding and not giving bottles, and if you choose to be close to your child for as much as possible for their first year – and for the first several years – of their life, you are not going to be able to go out as much as your friends who don’t parent this way.
It’s a choice I made and I stand by it because it worked for my family and my ex and I believe very strongly in these principles, but the notion that I could have a weekend away with friends really only became a concrete possibility in the past few years and I’ve been a mom for over a decade!
This New Year’s Eve, I hope my ex has a great evening with his friends – and I’m not being sarcastic or snarky; I really mean it. I will be home with my kids playing some geeky board games. Maybe we’ll make some of their favorite snacks. And I will raise a glass and toast with them at 9 PM, like my parents did with me, for a good New Year.
And when my ex comes to get the boys the next day and I get to go away with my friends for a few nights, I’m sure I’ll be sad to say goodbye. But this has been a long time coming, and we all can’t wait. It’s a great way to start a new year.
However you celebrate New Year’s, I hope it’s a good night. And of course please drink responsibly! And of course if you see something going on that shouldn’t be going on because someone is drunk (or even if they’re not), please say something.
Okay, I’m done being a mom about all of this. Happy New Year!