Why Memory-Keeping Matters for Moms
By transforming our memories into tangible projects, we both determine and preserve their significance.
Whether you've been a Mom for twenty-five minutes or twenty-five years, I believe memory-keeping matters for you.
You don't have to be a scrapbooker or have a ton of extra time to take this on.
Never done anything with your photos? Not sure this even applies to you?
I've been right where you are, and I'm convinced this issue is relevant, timely, and particularly important for Moms.
What image comes to mind when you hear the phrase “memory-keeping?”
If you’re under the age of fifty, there’s a good chance you don’t associate this phrase with anything remotely modern.
Or maybe you feel a pit in your stomach because you haven’t done anything with your memories, and the thought of it is totally overwhelming.
I hear you.
"I'm not a scrapbooker"
I used to think memory-keeping was just a fancy phrase for scrapbooking, and I definitely never considered myself a “scrapbooker” or anything close to it.
Scrapbooking seemed like a tedious, expensive, time-consuming hobby.
Frankly, I preferred to think I’d be too busy living my life to take the time to document it.
However, my perspective began to shift a few years ago when I faced a major life change and got some really great advice.
When I got pregnant with our first baby at age thirty, a friend of mine gave me what would become my favorite baby book.
It's written by two female pediatricians (both moms) and filled with practical advice.
In the final chapter, the authors suggested considering what you’ll do with all the photos you’ll take of your little one.
They even mentioned having a plan for which photos you want (and don’t want) to capture in the delivery room and some idea of who would capture them.
It was such brilliant, simple advice, and for whatever reason, it really resonated with me.
After all, we were about to have our first baby.
We’d bought a “fancy” camera, and whether we realized it or not, we planned to take thousands of photos of this kid.
Here’s the thing: up to that point, I’d never really done anything with my memories.
Over the course of thirteen years since leaving home, I’d put together precisely one photo album.
I documented my semester abroad in Australia because it seemed like such a significant experience at the time, and I’d wanted to preserve those memories.
Even though that album is kind of silly and I'd never do something like it today, it's so valuable! If not for that album, I would have no idea where those photos had gone.
But the summer I spent in China? Nothing.
Our honeymoon in Costa Rica? Nope.
Deployments, moves, our home, birthdays, holidays? Nada.
Zip, zilch, zero.
I barely knew how to track down the photos from my twenties, some of which I’m pretty sure are gone forever, let alone flip through some kind of album or book documenting them.
I had such limited experience “memory-keeping” or “scrapbooking,” and the thought of it was totally overwhelming.
So I started Googling to figure out what to do with all these photos we'd be taking of our new baby.
Finding a Fresh Approach
To be honest, I started with a bias: I thought memory-keeping meant cutesy, fussy, cluttered, and old-fashioned, none of which appealed to my own minimal design aesthetic.
But as I researched how to document our son’s first year, and this was back in 2011, a few things struck me:
There were lots of modern ways to approach memory-keeping, beyond traditional scrapbooking.
My approach could be really simple.
These projects could be beautiful.
One other thing struck me:
If I wanted to do something with our family’s memories, I would have to be the one to do it.
My husband and I are quite independent people, and over the years we’ve developed a “divide-and-conquer” approach to lots of areas of our lives.
Of course there’s overlap, and when we have big decisions or projects, we always do them together.
However, when it came to doing something with our family photos, arguably a pretty important and daunting task, I realized I would be the one to take it on.
Becoming the Family Historian
So why me?
Honestly, I was the one who knew where our photos were, I'd taken most of the photos, I'd be home with our son, doing our days together, and I was interested in taking on this role.
Plus, I realized my future son's memories were in our hands. He wouldn't be able to do anything with them.
I could neglect my own memories, but someone else's? I felt a sense of responsibility.
Making it My Own
Rather than feeling overwhelmed by this new responsibility, I recognized it meant I could do whatever I wanted.
I could do something really simple, like put together one photo book documenting the last ten years.
I could do something more elaborate, like document our son’s first year week-by-week (worked for the first kid, not so much for the second!).
I could just move photos to a hard drive to deal with them later and print new photos for the house in the meantime.
These projects could be mine - my approach, my aesthetic - and completing them would be a way to bless my family for years to come.
The Benefits of Memory-Keeping
Uncovering What Matters
One of things that happens when we look back through our memories - photos, calendar entries, journals and the like - is that the important moments start to jump out at us.
They’re not always the best photos.
They’re not always the most significant memories.
But the ones that personally matter to us jump out from the pack.
And here’s the thing:
If we transform those important memories into something tangible - a printed photo on the wall, a page in a photo book, it doesn’t matter what format we choose - we are deciding what will matter to our family, our kids, ourselves in the future.
Something happens in our brains when we write something down, as opposed to, say, typing it in our phone or hearing it.
The thing we write down sticks with us.
We assign it importance by writing it down.
The same is true for our memories.
Preserving What Matters
When we document our memories, however simply, not only will our ability to recall them increase, but in the process we will also assign meaning to moments that otherwise might get lost in the shuffle.
These days, we can capture thousands of moments on our phones, but memory-keeping goes beyond simply capturing a photo.
Memory-keeping is the act of processing our most important memories in some way that they can be shared with, enjoyed by, and preserved for the people to whom they will matter.
The Bad News
Maybe you still think this isn't for you, but hear me out.
If we let our photos accumulate without ever doing anything with them, we risk losing those memories.
If we only post to Facebook and Instagram and never put those photos in a format our kids, spouses, parents, or we ourselves can enjoy, we will be documenting our family histories for a bunch of people who only care about them for a moment.
I'm not sure my boys will care as much about their history as I care about mine, but I can't be sure of that.
These are the moments that have shaped them, and I believe they matter.
Our Memories Matter
A few years from now, and certainly when we’re gone, only our kids and maybe our siblings will be interested in our history.
But isn’t that enough reason for us to do something with our memories now?
Speaking as someone who lost her Dad in her twenties, I can tell you I’d give anything to have more of Dad’s memories documented, more video of him interacting with us as kids, more of his perspective on our lives.
Maybe those memories exist somewhere.
Maybe there are home videos tucked away in someone's garage.
But I've never seen them, and I likely never will.
So, why does memory keeping matter for Moms?
Many of us, whether we're working outside the home or in the home, bear the weight of responsibility for the nuts and bolts of our kids' lives.
We make doctor appointments, enroll the kids in school, nurture friendships and schedule play dates, sign them up for sports and music lessons, and shuttle them from one place to the next.
Perhaps your partner or spouse takes on these roles in your family, which is amazing and certainly not uncommon.
Maybe they want to be the keeper of memories for your family.
In our family, and in the lives of many of the women I know, it's Mom who wears a lot of these hats, including the hats of family photographer, trip-planner, gift-buyer, and birthday celebrator.
Wearing all these hats means we are privy to the ins-and-outs of our children's lives.
We're close to it all, and thus able to decipher what small events and sweet friends are shaping who our kids become.
Like it or not, many of us Moms are also the gatekeepers of our family histories.
We take most of the photos, we are present for a lot of those special moments, we have the ability to look back in time and identify what mattered.
I took on this role of family historian for several reasons:
- I love design
- I'm around for a lot of our kids' day-to-day lives
- I believe our memories matter
- I wanted to be the one to shape our family history
I think it's okay for one person to be the leader in an area of family life, even as we depend on each other to get things done.
Preserving What Matters
If you're a mom, you know that lots of "mom advice" is for the birds. You have to figure out what works for you and your kiddo.
But one thing about motherhood is universally true: the years freaking fly by.
Memory-keeping, however simply or minimally (even if it means just taking a family photo once a year), marks the passage of time.
When we preserve our memories, we're freed up to be more present in the moment, because we're not subconsciously trying to hang onto the past.
If we've done something with our memories, then the past is already documented in some way that we can easily access, reflect on, and enjoy.
That's an incredibly freeing thing for Moms.
Even if you don’t see the need for memory-keeping, consider this: what will happen to your memories and your kids' memories?
What's the plan?
Will you let your memories sit on old devices, collecting dust, becoming digital decay?
Will you entrust them to the gods of Silicon Valley, and allow Facebook to be the keeper of your most treasured moments?
Or will you make some time to go through those memories and decide what matters for your family?
It's Never Too Late to Get Started
Whether you’re about to become a Mom for the first time, or you’ve been a Mom for twenty years, it’s not too late to tell your story.
I don't care how many photos you've taken, I don't care how many memories you've lost, doing something now is better than doing nothing.
I can’t tell you how deeply I believe this. It’s never too late to get started.
It’s possible to wade through years of memories and do something simple with them that you will be able to share and enjoy for years to come.
It really is possible!
And it doesn't have to be fancy or fussy or complicated.
You need a plan, a process, and some time, but I want to help you get this done so you can quit feeling the anxiety and guilt that comes with letting those memories accumulate.
If you’re curious about memory-keeping, but you’ve never done anything with your photos, then welcome.
You’re in the right place.
And as you’ve read, I was in the same boat.
What to Do Today
All you have to do today is one thing: decide whether this matters to you.
If it doesn't, then no worries.
Life certainly has enough demands on Moms and you don't have to waste your time on something that doesn't matter to you.
But if any of this resonates, then just acknowledge that you think your memories matter enough to do something with them.
That's all you have to do today.
You can also poke around the archives.
I hope to lighten your load, free up some mental and digital space, and help you start thinking about memory-keeping in a simple, fresh, and modern way.
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