Published on December 30th, 2022 | by Mutha Magazine


Ask a MUTHA: Rituals and Hopes for a New Year

As 2022 draws to a close, we asked MUTHAs: What are your year-end rituals and hopes for 2023?


My brother was admitted to the hospital when my daughter was born. A Christmas baby, we thought, but she kept us waiting. New Year’s then? Still no. A few days later, with the elastic bands stretched to breaking across my belly, we watched the heart rate monitor, heard the beeps, then the cry. I didn’t know then that the BEEP BEEP BEEP of a heart rate monitor would be the metronome of my life for the next 374 days, until he died. It almost happened on Thanksgiving, then on Christmas, then New Year’s. Please, just not her birthday, I begged. It wasn’t, but close enough. This year we cried on Thanksgiving, we’ll cry on Christmas, you know the rest. A ritual, of sorts. A metronome still, but with a different sound. I hope that one day, on her birthday, it will stop, and the only sound she hears is laughter. – Ariel McCleese


I have been a workaholic career woman for three decades. Finally slowing down a bit & trying to develop hobbies & recreational practices: puzzles, card-playing & camping.

My main goal for 2023 is to become a publisher of climate justice fiction. Despite widespread disinformation that we’ve already lost the fight against the climate crisis, the truth is that we can still win if we fight. So I’m excited to publish stories about people fighting and winning. – Aya de Leon


I’m responding with my year-end ritualistic drawing because really what I want the most is to keep on drawing as years keep rolling. – Pam Wye

Illustration by Pam Wye


When I was growing up, my mom took my brother and I to a Christmas Eve church service where everyone would have a candle in a little paper cup. The minister would light the first one then, everyone would pass the candle light. This was always such a magical moment for me to watch how a single flame grew. Now, every evening, in the month of December, I plan to light a candle to remind myself and my two children that there is still so much light in the world. We can share our light by being kind to others and passing along the warmth and good spirit in our hearts. It is my hope that my children will grow to see the light in themselves and in others and to be able to pass their light forward to make the world a more peaceful place to be. – Sarah Ray


Ah New Year’s! I have a ritual that began while I was still in college—I ran away with a group of jugglers that got together every year to celebrate New Year’s Eve. At first it was in their parents’ basements, but after college we started renting places and piling in—first ski lodges and then houses as the contingent grew (first adding partners and then having kids). Now it is our 39th year of meeting and we collectively rent an estates or an inn for the entire week from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day, splitting up the jobs and the cooking and the costs. Around 30 friends come in from all across the country with their grown kids (the grand total is usually around 65—and we have our first third-generation participant this year). One room is always dedicated to board games, there are ongoing RPGs and a semi-formal New Year’s Eve (though this dress code can mean anything from feathered masks to jeweled flip flops) and there are various other activities that pop up, from bellydancing to fencing to polar bear swims — many of the original bunch ended up as MIT-grads, so the whole weeklong event is basically a commune run by spreadsheets. Just writing all this down is making me smile and miss them. It’s my one real vacation from running Pen Parentis. I always return from the House excited to renew my commitment to my creative writing career, ready to write, send out and publish and do whatever it takes to get a novel out into the world.

Photo by A. Mathiowetz

So: my hopes for 2023 is that the short story collection I have forthcoming in March from Borda Books will put some new eyes on my fiction. (It gets bad when your eyes light up at the 5 over 50 debut novelist lists.) Yes, so, for 2023, I wish to connect with readers and friends—to connect over ideas and activities, to philosophize and discuss big ideas in animated conversations, to inspire and be inspired. I hope to travel and especially hope that Pen Parentis (the nonprofit I founded in 2014 to help writers stay on creative track after kids) is shored up by a literary community that wants to see it succeed far into the future. As a mom, I hope that my two (very) young-adult kids find their own creative voices and that those voices are always filled with love and compassion and intelligence—the world needs so much change, and it is easier to get the non-swimmers across a treacherous river if they trust you.  – Milda M DeVoe


My goals right now and for the next year are to congratulate, appreciate and acknowledge the great organizational efforts I achieve in my home. It is a never ending effort that is not always thanked. So I decided to take a step back and look at the beauty of the organizational piles, sections, compartments that I created myself. It brings me great joy. And I hope that these drawings of organization will bring satisfaction to all the other people working hard at maintaining their households. Especially during the holidays when these tasks are doubled! – Rachelle Ymay Skilling

“Closet Organization Diagram” by Rachelle Ymay Skilling
“Laundry Organization Diagram” by Rachelle Ymay Skilling


Here’s my end of year journaling ritual, which I pair with restorative yoga:

Lie back over a cushion supporting your upper back and head. Check that your chest feels open and your lower back neutral. Cover up and breathe in and out of your heart. 

When ready, roll to your side and then ease up to sitting. How is your heart? Get quiet. As a feeling arises, label it without judgment.

  • Ask your heart, “How can I support you?”
  • Ask your body, “How can I support you?”
  • Ask your mind, “How can I support you?”
  • What is the biggest gift in your life right now?

Lie on your belly to encourage digestion of not just food, but also experiences. Breathe to your belly. 

As you metabolize your accumulated stress, it is like wiping away dust from a windowpane. Clarity affords us the ability to see reality. 

Viveka is discrimination and clear vision. When you see clearly, the obstacles to love and truth are wiped away. 

Photo by Hannah Tims on Unsplash

When you’re ready, press your hands down and press your hips back to child’s pose, or ease right up to sitting. 

Look back at the year with clear vision — viveka.

  • What memory are you grateful for?
  • Think of a struggle you had this year.
  • What about that struggle makes you grateful?
  • What gives you pleasure that you can expand this coming year?

Lie on your side in a cozy fetal position. Go through your body, inviting each part of you to relax and settle into gravity. If you like, you can listen to a guided body scan. When you notice that you feel rigid, let go of your body a little bit. Unclench. You may need to intentionally go through and tighten your muscles to let them remember how to release. 

Sit when you are ready. Look forward with clear vision, and meditate or write. You don’t need any more prompts. – Kate Lynch


An aging friend once told me that we begin our decline when there’s nothing left to look forward to. I once thought this meant having plane tickets to far flung locations, a calendar populated with concerts, dinner parties and events, big writing assignments that swoop me up to new career heights.

Yet as 2022 dwindles, I confront another year predicted to swelter my children’s skin, irritate their lungs, and parch our southern California home. What can hope even look like in a warming world? For the book I’m writing, Mothering in the Anthropocene, I’ve interviewed climate scientists, marine biologists, philosophers and psychologists about how mothers might retain hope, or optimism, or not just lose our shit, in a planetary moment when everything feels so bleak. Each one of them (and they’re all parents, I might add) sings a similar song.

A dash of pessimism goes a long way in living a life where it feels impossible to be optimistic about the future. Accepting that our children might not be destined to have a better environment, or life, than we have, can actually open us to embrace the joy of living. Say what? It sounds counterintuitive. But grief counsellors argue that to have a good existence, we must accept the reality so we learn to appreciate what’s here now.

This feels a little woo woo in theory. Be grateful, even though the world will collapse, because there’s still hummingbirds and dung beetles. But think about when you are ill, or worse, when your child is ill. Before the illness, we take our healthy bodies for granted. They function just fine, so maybe we even complain about our creaking knees or laugh lines. But when we’re sick and it feels impossible to walk to the toilet, suddenly, when we can easily put one foot in front of the next, we rejoice. Same with our children. When they are bouncing basketballs off the walls, we’re annoyed, but when they’re curled on the couch unable to lift their heads, we beg for what we once deemed annoyances brought by their little feet.

Maybe what climate scientists and grief therapists are saying functions like this too. We know that the earth is ailing. We know our kids are in trouble. But when they smile, when the sun breaks through the cumulus clouds, aren’t you cracked open just a little, in a good way?

Looking forward to 2023, I’m going to invite pessimistic hope to energize me. I don’t believe we will fix our climate crisis this year, but I’m going to do my part every day to try. I don’t expect any of us will alone make a difference by not flying or using plastic, but I hope we acknowledge our collective power as mothers and start using our mom voices in a big way. I don’t think your kid or mine will fix any of this, but I hope we all continue to teach our children how to revere nature, protect all species, especially those necessary to our survival. I don’t imagine 2023 will be easy, but I still look forward to the joys of mothering in the Anthropocene. There was never a guarantee in any of this. There was only the ocean of hope we invested in the earth by having kids. I hope by inviting your pessimism to the party with your hope, you and your kiddos find ways to thrive in 2023. – Michele Bigley


One of my family’s traditions is to go to the annual Banning Museum holiday event in Southern California. It’s a sprawling mansion that belonged to an old, wealthy family that undoubtedly participated in some of the shady things that most old, wealthy families did. When I went as a kid, I loved to marvel at the Victorian toys decorating the rooms on the guided tour. I basically wanted to be Samantha from the American Girl series. There’s an adjacent Civil War museum, which includes information about California’s role in the war (there was a camel brigade, I guess?). My dad likes to ask the docents a million questions while we all get antsy; that’s part of the tradition. It’s cool to see how this space now serves a very economically and ethnically diverse community. A local high school choir performs, and they serve the same sugar cookies and apple cider that they’ve been serving for 35 years. Wild peacocks wander the surrounding neighborhood. My 7-year-old loves all the old-timey weirdness and wonder as much as I did and do. – Cheryl Klein


Q: How long does it take to buy onions from the corner store?

A: As long as it takes to consider buying everything you don’t need.

Q: How long does it take to put your shoes on?

A: As long as it takes to find the other shoe.

Q: How long does it take to find the red Cadillac with George stuck on the roof with Blu Tack when your son won’t stop crying until it’s found?

A: Forever.

Q: How long does it take to live in the moment?

A: One second. – Jessica Bell

Cover photo by Kai Dahms on Unsplash.

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Exploring real-life motherhood, from every angle, at every stage.

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