I have been an avid record-keeper since I started my first “Jernel” at age 7. That yellow binder is filled with crayon scrawlings of some of my deepest thoughts and questions, such as “Today we are going to a picneak. What will I eat there?”
This journaling habit continued into my teens and young adulthood, and, fortunately, my entries became more meaningful over the years. I have spent hundreds of hours and hundreds of pages chronicling the greatest joys and the greatest sorrows of my life. From meeting my husband on a blind date (yes, there’s a journal entry!) to watching my mother suffer with breast cancer, it is all included in my journals.
Since becoming a mother, however, it is much harder to find blocks of uninterrupted time to sit, reflect, and write. It would be easy to let journaling become a thing of the past, but it is so important to me that my children have a record of the beautiful moments in their lives, as well as a record of who their mother was and how I grew and changed throughout my years of parenting them.
If, like me, you want to keep a journal but struggle to find the time as a busy mother, here are five tips:
- Type your journals.
This isn’t as “personal” as a hand-written journal, but, for me, it is more convenient. I can type much more quickly than I can write. This also gives me the opportunity to paste emails, blog posts, and other correspondence that I’ve written or received into my journal document. I also title my journal entries in bold, right under the date, so it’s easy to scan through my typed journals and find certain entries or themes across the year.
At the end of every month, I print my journaling and put it into a three-ring binder. Then I hole-punch anything that I would like to save from that past month—a nice note from my husband, a drawing from my son, a copy of the talk that I gave at church—and put it into the binder right behind that month’s journaling. This is a way to keep the mementos of my life visible and in context, instead of just tossing them in a dusty shoebox. I add journaling to this same binder every month for the year, and when the new Year comes, I start a new binder.
I don’t always have access to a computer when something that I want to journal comes to mind, so if I find a few minutes to write while I am waiting at a doctor’s office or sitting in a boring meeting, I get out a plain piece of paper from my planner and write a quick journal entry or gratitude list. These sheets get hole-punched and included at the end of the month with the other mementos. I’m glad that my handwriting will be included for future generations to see, amid all that typing.
- Keep a note of memories in your phone.
As busy moms, we experience moments every day that we’d like to capture immediately, but we simply can’t sit down and write a journal entry in the midst of a crazy afternoon with the kids. To make sure that I don’t forget the little things, I keep a note in my phone of funny quotes that the kids say or perfect moments that I want to remember. I will sometimes just jot down one word to “trigger” the memory. When I eventually find an hour or two to journal, I pull up the note on my phone, and it is such a relief to know that those moments weren’t lost and forgotten in the shuffle of life.
- Find a routine time.
Try to find a time when you can make it a habit to journal. My sister used to do this during the communion portion of her church meeting, when it was quiet and she could reflect on her week and her blessings; it is much harder for her to do this now that she has a busy toddler climbing all over her during the service, so as soon as he has gone to his Sunday School class, she will often take the first few minutes of hers to quickly jot down a few thoughts and memories from the week.
You could set aside an hour on the last Saturday of the month and write it on your calendar as an appointment—or even get in the habit of writing as you sit next to your husband on the couch while he watches a weekly sporting event. Whatever your routine, try to make journaling a convenient and consistent part of it.
- Use a one-sentence journal.
If you are not much of a writer, and you wouldn’t enjoy journaling for an hour even if you did have the time, perhaps consider writing one sentence per day. This is the idea behind a “five-year journal,” and it gives a surprisingly thorough overview of your life, one day and one sentence at a time. I would suggest being as specific as possible in your one sentence, capturing a favorite quotation from one of your kids or describing a particular moment from the day, whether it was a magical moment or a terrible one. My favorite gratitude journal is formatted this way—with a small space to write one thought each day.
- Just keep trying.
Above all, don’t worry about your words or your system being “perfect.” You don’t have to be a beautiful writer to keep a meaningful journal. And if you miss a few months of writing due to a very busy or difficult time in your family, don’t get bogged down trying to “go back in time” and recreate everything. Just start from today and move forward with the commitment to capture as many feelings, moments, and life lessons as you can, for the benefit of yourself and your children.
I love flipping through my journals at the end of the year. Reading the bolded titles of my entries often sparks memories that I might otherwise have forgotten; seeing the cards and mementos I have collected fills me with gratitude. I am more able to recognize my growth and my blessings as a result of keeping a journal, and I hope I will never give up the habit, no matter how busy I become as a mother.
QUESTION: How do you chronicle your memories and growth as a mother?
CHALLENGE: Start a note in your phone to record precious moments with your children. You can refer to this note when you have time to write a more detailed journal entry, or you can simply email this note to yourself and print it out.
Edited by Sarah Monson.
Image from FreeDigitalPhotos/grauer codrin. Graphics by Anna Jenkins.