As everyone was getting ready to welcome in the New Year a few weeks ago, I noticed lots of friends posting on social media, summarising the year they’d had.
It’s something almost everyone seems to do in the period between Christmas and New Years Eve, when we're still on holidays and finally have time to reflect on the year that’s just been and what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. My Facebook and Instagram feeds were full of people sharing inspirational quotes and their best memories in photos, but I also noticed a large number of people declaring 2016 had been a “bad year” for them and hoping 2017 would be better.
I have had bad years in the past and I know the feeling of having a barrage of stressful things happen in a row. Losing loved ones, getting made redundant, financial stress, health issues and relationship breakdowns are hard enough to deal with on their own, but when several of these things occur in the same year, it can feel like the universe is kicking you when you’re already down. I completely understand people who have a year like this wanting it to end so they can have a fresh start.
But from what I saw, most people were actually just disappointed with 2016 because of not achieving what they had wanted to achieve, like not being able to move into a new home at the time they thought they would, not falling pregnant quickly (I’m not talking about people dealing with infertility) or not liking a new job. Personally 2016 was a good year for me – I welcomed my second daughter, enjoyed work and family life, and watched my oldest daughter thrive in preschool. But it’s the first year in a while that I’ve felt this way, and I know it’s because it was a “milestone year” for our family. A milestone year is a year when you get a great sense of achievement from getting married, giving birth, buying a house, getting promoted or travelling, and it makes non-milestone years seem boring in comparison.
Research backs this up. A study from the Australian Institute of Family Studies in 2015 showed that life satisfaction was strongest for people at the beginning of relationships and leading up to babies being born, probably because of the anticipation of future happiness. Not surprisingly the friends who thought 2016 had been a great year were those who had experienced some of these types of milestone highs and were still coming down from them.
It’s kind of sad that so many of us are ready to write off an entire year because they aren't as fun as other years. So at the end of 2017, I’m going to celebrate all the little things we’ve done as a family. Like when my baby starts sleeping through the night (if it ever happens), and my five year old starting school. Returning to work after maternity leave and settling the baby into daycare. Surviving the baby’s first stomach bug/ear infection/head cold that she’ll inevitably catch from another child while at daycare. Any date nights or family time we get to enjoy on weekends in lieu of proper holidays. And every time I make it to a Pilates class on a busy week. Because we’re actually accomplishing plenty of things every day and even though they may not be exciting enough to be shared on the highlight reel that is social media, they are definitely still worth celebrating.