First, a preface of caution: Let this tale be not the excuse you were looking for to wallow in the lies. Do not allow the trap of Mom-Guilt to befuddle you for one moment. Rather, my hope for you is that you choose to own the fact that you are human and if you just let yourself be that, then the little humans you are raising will realize they are human as well. A simple, yet, profound gift for your babies. It only requires you to be yourself and do your best. It’s a simple truth I’ve come to embrace about parenthood; one that has saved me from the trap of not really being anywhere or anyone wholeheartedly.
I only tell my story because it’s true and we should always speak our truth.
So, here’s my story…
Once upon a time, I was a woman who had things…how should I say? Let’s call it “together.” I had things together. I’ve always been the organized type who feels immense satisfaction from a checked-off To-Do List, or a clutter-free drawer. I may be addicted to the peace I feel when I reorganize my closet then open the door to this renewed space and see everything in its place and everything placed just so. I can find anything I desire. I do not worry anything is missing. The chaos is managed and I feel like I’m floating on my back, relaxed on top of the vast sea of life. Can you see me there? Can you feel me? Can you hear the ocean waves and meditative music emanating from this airy, clutter-free vision of my past?
Now, let’s imagine me with kids.
Let’s go ahead and throw in to this imagining a full-time job.
Then, inevitably, the acquiring of stuff. (Babies need lots of stuff — like bottles — and kids want lots of stuff — like toys)
Commence the juggling act.
Imagine the days get shorter. Less time to manage.
The years go by quicker. (They told me this would happen, but I just didn’t believe it.)
The chaos ensues. Cue the noise. The diapers, the toys, the sleepless nights, the interruptions, the puke (I can’t!), the pure utter exhaustion like you’ve never felt before.
I remind myself that yes, indeed, I signed up for this.
Now, (deep breath) the beauty.
Those moments that remind you why you did, so willingly, take imaginary pen to proverbial paper and sign up for the quandary that is parenthood.
Finn’s sweet gummy smile, Conor’s silly baby laugh, the dance parties, the choo-choo trains, the potty-training triumphs, the books, the pretend play (I am often the Captain of the spaceship), the Hot Wheels, the Legos, the weekends at the baseball fields, bare feet at karate, oh, and how can I forget baby toes. I mean, what is it with baby toes? Dang it, I love me some baby toes.
It’s the reciprocity of parenthood, am I right?
Give into the chaos. Get the beauty. Or is it, give into the beauty. Get the chaos.
Can you see it all? Imagine a montage of quick snaps. It’s like your kids are the celebrities and you’re the paparazzi stalking their every move. Our phones click incessantly. It’s like some weirdo version of the Truman Show, but the twist is they know we are documenting them, and they kinda like it. Did we unwittingly create little monsters? (Note to self: discuss with therapist.)
Imagine what all that produces: all the photos. All the videos. Imagine the piles. Because while it’s somewhere on a device or in that thing they call a cloud, it’s still piling up. It takes thousands of files to document it all.
But, I don’t have time to deal with it. We’ve already established, while there are beautiful moments to experience (and capture), I’m also wading through the sea of chaos called Life with Kids with a snorkel.
So, it’s just there.
It’s in the cloud-thingy.
Or is it?
Look, I don’t get things done except those that make the V.I.L. — the Very Important List. This is usually a colored Post-It that is awarded special real-estate inside my planner to remind me what absolutely must get done that day. Colorful reminders and those that ding on my phone get my attention. All else is unrelated to today’s V.I.L. and has been relegated to the list I like to call the M.S.L.-the Maybe Someday List. You know, the one residing in the back of your brain. Dealing with piles of photos? Well, that made the M.S.L.
But, as my kids grew older, the questions came. They came random and curious and searching. They want to understand. They want to know their own unique story.
Questions like: When did I get my first tooth? What did I look like when I was baby? Giggling: Did I really pee on Dad’s face one time? (Anyone who has a boy knows this is inevitable.) What was my first word? I used to love Elmo, didn’t I? What was my favorite book?
Most of the stories I could conjure, but those moments I snapped in a effort to document it all so that my kids could actually see them? Forget it. I couldn’t find them quick enough to enjoy the time reminiscing together.
The moment passes too quick, the boys are off doing something else (creating mischief) now, and my anxiety spikes. I worry those photos I snapped, those videos I captured, are lost forever. Where did I save them? Are they in that cloud or this one? That flash drive or this one? Did I pull them off that old computer? That old phone? I can’t remember.
Out. Of. Control.
[Thought bubble time: What happened to me? I used to love to put together a photo album. Scrapbook the hell out of a year. Yes, indeed, it was like opening the door to that closet I mentioned earlier. Remember, I was a woman who “had things together.” Oh, those three-ring binders with the sticky pages and the semi-fancy covers — remember those (circa 1993)? The younger, simpler version of me thought it of the utmost importance that I document every year among those plastic covered pages. Then, I just stopped. I stopped around the time I got a digital camera and a phone. I stopped and never began again because now there was more to deal with and it was all so overwhelming.]
So, back to my anxiety. It festers and boils as I try to figure out where all the photos and videos are — it seems almost ludicrous I can’t locate everything.
This is where the guilt comes in. This is where I start to feel like because I didn’t tackle those photo books and because I don’t know where all those memories actually are, I have failed as a mother. Yep. Never mind anything else that may qualify me otherwise. No baby books equals bad mother.
So, in an attempt to solve that problem and battle the guilt, I start looking for a solution to my problem — a place where I can learn how to get my photos in control because they are all over the dang place. A place that will save me time because that’s still in short supply. A place to make me the type of photo books that look beautifully styled in my house because gone are the days of the three ring sticky-paged binders and now I want some “shelf harmony.” Don’t you know, I’m adulting now?
And, well, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I decided to build it myself: Memory My Way was created because our memories should not be tossed to the “cloud” just to become photo clutter lost among a sea of files.
Don’t you think our stories were meant to be told? When you want to remember your best adventures, don’t you think it would be fun to pull a photo book off a shelf and gather around it, instead of another screen?
This got me super motivated. Now, I ask myself questions like: How can I make this easier? How can this be less of a task? What is the actual problem here?
[The actual problem, by the way, is that we don’t have a PLAN to deal with all this content and in order to actually solve it, we need to start here, with a plan in place, at the very beginning. But, I digress.]
I want to help other families out there who, like me, want their memories styled on their shelf in beautiful photo books, but don’t want to spend their invaluable hours to get it done. I want families to know their cloud provider has their back and actually cares that they are in control of their own unique and precious content. I want to build tools that make this all easier so we can just get back to the fun.
And there it is: Fun.
Fun is the secret weapon.
Oh, you didn’t know?
Allow me to explain: If you’re having fun, then you’re in the moment. If you’re in the moment then you’re not thinking if it’s enough. You’re just living. You’re just enjoying it. You’re just grateful for the joy of the moment. And guilt can’t live here.
So, get out there and snap away, my friends, be the paparazzi of your family’s life, heck, grab a pizza tonight and give yourself a night off! Let that chaos flow and find the beauty there (even if it sometimes takes effort). Then know, I’m here, with a battle-tested and wholehearted mission to help you enjoy those memories again and again...
Nichole Healy is the Founder of Memory My Way. The modern family is overwhelmed with all the photos on their devices and in “the cloud.” Memory My Way helps to organize all those photos and pairs families with a designer who custom makes a photo book for them. This saves tons of time and family memories are now styled and accessible not lost in “the cloud.”