Lain on becoming a better mom

Scrapbooking has made me a better mother.

photo of mother and baby

It’s kind of strange to think that a hobby, the process of putting photos on paper, could change me so much as an individual. But in the decade-plus that I’ve been scrapbooking, I’ve noticed that I’ve most definitely changed as a mother. I could be really witty about this and say, “Yeah, I spend a lot of money on paper!” And sure, I do own more paper than the average person. But there are some deeper-rooted changes that have taken place since I started documenting my family’s life. Here are just a few:

1. I know my family better. As I moved through the stage of scrapbooking events (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) and into the realm of scrapbooking memories, I started to look at my family differently. It was like I was Jane Goodall living with the chimpanzees (in more ways than one!). I became a scientist charged with observing their behaviors and foibles, and recording them for the future.

I noticed the certain expression my daughter would get whenever she was confused; I noticed the way my son held the bat before he went to the plate in a baseball game. To use a poker terminology, I started seeing their “tells,” the little quirks and habits that make them unique. And as I discovered them, I started knowing my family as individuals. And I started knowing more about what was happening on their insides because I’d paid attention to what was happening on their outsides.

2. I am calmer. Indeed, the process of documenting my family has made me less impatient. Now, I’m still the person honking and yelling (at least in my brain!) when the car in front of me sits through two green light cycles without completing the left turn, but I live in Boston, so that’s pretty much expected. But traffic aside, I am a lot less quick to get riled up.

I now have a kind of detached observer’s mentality about what is going on around me. The kids are late coming down for breakfast? It’s because they’ve created an obstacle course for the Zsu-Zsu pets on the bedroom floor, so I’d better get the camera out and take a picture. My son forgot his lunch again? I think I’d better write this down — including my temptation to deliver his sandwich to the middle school in a “Hello Kitty” lunchbox. No, I’m not always patient (my kids will be the first to tell you), but if you could have seen me before, you’d know the new version is much improved!

3. I know how I feel. One of the biggest gifts of scrapbooking is the way it forces me to reflect on the events of my life. In order to create an authentic page about my daughter’s first day of kindergarten, for example, I have to think about how I felt about it, and that includes the mixed emotions of seeing my youngest child take this big step, the bittersweet sadness of time passing, and the anxiety about her ability to move through the world without me.

Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” And while I don’t completely agree with his statement, I do agree that by examining my life through scrapbooking, I’ve created more of what I focus on. And I’ve created a life very much worth living — and worth scrapbooking.

About the author: Lain Ehmann lives a very examined life in Boston, with her husband and three children. An author, scrapbooker, and chocolate chip cookie-dough addict, she helps women make their scrapbooking fun, fast and fabulous. Visit her blog for scrapbooking ideas and inspiration.


  1. So inspirational! I wish that scrapbooking as we know it today, and digital cameras had been around when my children were young! I think the act of observing would have helped with my impatience when life was a zoo, and helped me appreciate the everyday more. Fortunately, I kept a journal and I can go back and scrap some of those memories with how I felt at the time – and not through the rose colored hindsight glasses it’s so tempting to use! :)

  2. I am so glad I’m in the era of digital cameras and embellies! If I had to do this all with just film and cardstock, I’d hardly have any pages done. And I love Lains LOAD classes. :)

  3. these are the exact sentiments i’ve tried to explain to my friends and family before, but couldn’t seem to make myself clear. lain articulated perfectly what i feel. thanks so much, lain, and thanks stacy, for this posting. :)

  4. Now, if I could just boil this down into the 30-second “elevator” speech to give to friends who don’t “get” why I scrapbook. Until then, I will say, unabashedly, that scrapbooking makes me a better mom. It’s so true! And then I’ll give them a link to Lain’s brilliant reflections. Thanks for sharing some Lain with us, Stacy!

  5. Love this post! Timely too, as the other day I was looking through my LOM and I was overcome with a feeling of pride, not for how great my layouts were, but for the fact that I had communicated so much through them. Scrapbooking helps me to “see” the members of my family and myself better and record this in a tangible and meaningful way. At that moment looking at my books, I thought, “This is really important work, and I am so thankful to do it!” Also felt so thankful for discovering “The Big Picture” one day at Jo Annes, changed the way I scrap and the way I look at life. Love it!

  6. So awesome! Just what I needed to read tonight. Thanks Lain!

  7. Thanks to Lain for such a thoughtful article….what a GORGEOUS photo! Thanks Stacy for sharing this!

  8. I LOVE this post, Lain and Stacy. It made me feel so good about what I do as a scrapbooker! Thank you for sharing.

  9. Love Lain! I can so relate to this.

  10. Lain, What a beautiful post…very well-written. It’s a keeper. It’s also timely. I’m leaving for a 3-day scrapbooking weekend on Friday. I’m excited to go, but a little nervous about the trip itself. I’m also overwhelmed by what to take. Thanks for helping me to focus on my projects by so eloquently describing the “whys” of scrapbooking. I find it also important to remember who will be the ultimate recipients of my scrapbooks–my son and the family that he will have–so I follow Stacy’s advice to “keep it simple”. They will be less interested in fancy embellishments than the photos and memories I pass on to them.

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