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.

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