Yesterday I got out of the house AND took a shower! Double win! I spent my time out getting myself a 2018 planner because I’ve been without one for over a week now and I’m barely surviving (type A personality problems). When I am out on my own, I feel like I can breathe again. Lilah needs so much from me that sometimes I don’t even realize that I’ve neglected myself until there’s someone else watching out for her and I can just take a minute to be fully in my body. I don’t know whether it’s my own personality, or the pressure of our culture, or just this overall sense of fear that these moments will disappear and I won’t be able to get them back, but I often feel mom expectations strangling me.
It started when I was pregnant. The pressure to adorably capture every single week with a bump picture was suffocating. I never remembered, and part of me just didn’t care about doing it. But I would see other pregnant friend’s posts on social media and I would immediately panic because I wasn’t doing that. Was I missing something? Was I neglecting to capture these memories for my baby girl? And now she’s here, and the pull to capture every little moment, and document every smile, is even stronger. Sure I take a lot of pictures (have you seen that sweet little face?), and I journal most days and include Lilah milestones in that, but not a lot of planned memory capturing going on here. Of course I had high hopes going into this mama thing that I would create an organized online photo album and write all about Lilah’s day every single evening. But instead, our pictures of Lilah are hanging out somewhere in the cloud, and sleep is much more important to me at night than anything else.
Yesterday afternoon, after a particularly panicky moment in regards to my failure to organize my daughter’s memories, I found myself thinking about what is important to me from my childhood. My amazing mom kept journals and calendars for us and it really is fun to see what I was doing 2 weeks after birth, but honestly I can count on one hand the amount of times I have looked at those. But that picture of me running down the beach in my duck bathing suit? I look at that all the time. And that blanket I slept with until I was 10? It houses more memories than I can even explain. And above all else the most important things have been the things my parents taught me. The hours and hours a day my mom spent teaching me to read and write my name. The evenings when my dad would come home and wrestle with us until we could barely breathe we were laughing so hard. Those things above all else, I hold onto. The other stuff, while sweet and fun to look at, isn’t a must. I don’t have to do it, and Lilah will be okay, I will be okay.
When wrestling against a certain expectation, I always ask myself if this would be important to the Ingalls family (you know, Little House on the Prairie). And what I mean by that is, was it something that they needed to survive or be happy? It’s my favorite way of bringing myself back to the basics. What do I need here? What does Lilah need here? Is this thing I am obsessing over really all that important? Did Ma and Pa keep endless memory boxes for Laura and her siblings? Nope. They didn’t even have photographs then and yet no one cared that they didn’t know what they looked like as a baby. And I bet that Ma spent way more time experiencing and way less time documenting. And hey, that’s not to say that I’m not going to bask in the beauty that is modern technology, but I’m sure I can learn a few things from the way that they lived their lives.
While I know I will forever battle these expectations of momhood- which bottles to use, or if co-sleeping is safe, or should you really give an infant Tylenol before shots-I am working every day to create experiences whether I capture them forever or not. Documenting events will not be my obsession, but experiencing them. Lilah may not have a neat little picture album, and the journal of her first year of life may be filled with her mama’s own struggles and insecurities, but I will make sure that she has beautiful, challenging, comforting memories to hold onto for her entire life.