Hi! Felicia here, I’m happy to be part of the Ampersand Mother tribe. I’ve known the creators since before motherhood and I’m so thankful to be on this journey of life knowing them. My life on the daily is spent playing with two little boys, hopefully by a body of water in the Pacific Northwest. Though, in the rainy season we’re inside in our PJs just trying to make it to nap-time. Lifestyle photographer by trade for 10+ years, I specialize in birth & family photography with a nice dose of brand photography on the side. I believe motherhood is a beautiful chaos with the ability to change and shape who you are and who you will be, all while raising tiny humans.
Now that you are caught up on me, I want to share about one of my favorite topics... telling your family narrative!
Two thousand seventeen was, without a doubt, the hardest year for me. It wasn’t the best year for a lot of people nationwide and I’d wonder how many would find this statement true in their personal lives. In short, there were a lot of emotions in our home and it was very hard to see through the fog. As the year came to a close, I watched a few friends post videos of their year. Watching them hit something deep and tender inside of me and I begin asking why? And this is what I’ve discovered in my curiosities...
Gratefulness emerges from recounting story.
These weren’t my kids or my family, but I could see our story in theirs.
Rewind to 2014: driving away from the hospital with a newborn was probably one of the most terrifyingly joyful moments. I remember looking at Ty saying giddily with big eyes, “They’re letting us drive away with a baby!” I took at least 100 photos a day that first year of his life. I still have moments I finally get to myself, or alone time with my husband, and we’ll look at photos of our kids because we miss them! (Full disclosure though: I also have those times that I forget I have kids for half an hour.) I believe motherhood is living in the tension of needing a break and not wanting to miss any part of our children's lives.
When the going gets tough (i.e. the whole of 2017) it’s easy to forget what your spending all those minutes changing diapers, negotiating bedtimes, eating chocolate in the bathroom for (no, just me?). What I saw in the year-in-review slideshows and amongst my own photos was a big picture look at growth which stirred gratefulness within.
Looking over your family story via photographs or videos is like letting the dust settle and seeing what is actually being created. We now have a screen saver on our TV showing photos I’ve taken on my phone. You’d be surprised how often I glance up while picking up the living room for the buhgillionth time and see a goofy face or family photo and almost take joy in picking up another hot wheel. (I said almost people.)
Does your family have a motto? Like how on This Is Us they have the BIG THREE chant. We often say TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK which is cheesy, I know. I have a friend whose family went through a traumatic even last year, their’s was WE WILL NOT BE SHAKEN.
Sheryl Sandberg, in her book “Option B,” underlines family mottos and nostalgia as a step of healing after tragedy. I’d add, telling your family’s narrative builds resilience and strength in our children before tragedy.
In his early teen years, my dad's family home burnt to the ground. While they all were at work & school, a tree near their house had been struck by lightning, caught fire and took his home with it. My grandpa was the first to the scene. The house was already engulfed. He ran in anyway to save the photo albums and our family bible. Now these photos are all that remain of my dad's early childhood and he shared that they helped give them the courage to rebuild after devastating loss.
Just this year there were many mandatory evacuations and natural disasters what felt like every month! Hurricane Harvey, The Thomas Fire, Flooding in Houston & Puerto Rico— just to name a few. Among the first items grabbed were often canvases of family photos and family albums. Photographers were getting called, sometimes before clean up crew or insurance, by people asking, “Do you still have our family's photos? That’s all we have.”
Family photos, a slideshow, and notes written to your children, build resilience so when rough times hit they have reminders of what was and why it’s worth rebuilding in a new way.
There’s a laundry list of things that —often falsely— validate us as mothers. A good school, a clean home, healthy food, a Montessori home set-up, making sure we play with our kids enough while also taking care of ourselves, and the list goes on. The last thing any of us need is one more thing to add to the list. AmIright? I offer to you that automation and delegation is key. Most of us are already posting on social media, taking video’s for our IG stories or Snapchat. Why not let that roll into a book or a short slideshow?
- Chatbooks - Is a service that pulls photos from whatever you’d like: Instagram, Facebook, Shutterfly, Dropbox. You can even use specific hashtags! And sends you a small 6x6 book every month. If posting photos on social media isn’t your thing, you can manually use the app like a photo journal of sorts!
- 1secondaday - Is an app that had a beautiful story behind it underlining the importance of remembering your days. The app prompts you to video a second of your day everyday and by the end of the year you’ll have 6minutes of footage that sums up your year.
- Hire a Photographer - Yes, this is a small plug, for good reason. Once a year, every two years or for milestone events, hire a photographer (doesn’t have to be me!) to capture your family together. Then make a small photo book (or better yet, pay the fee for the photographer to do it!). I know your phone takes great photos, especially in that portrait mode, but a professional photographer, with the knowledge to navigate human connection, can not be replaced.
Capturing the magical chaos of motherhood & your family's story as it unfolds is important, fosters gratitude and opens your eyes to "big picture" thinking when it's hard. Those memories have the power to build resilience in our own family's lives in addition. Utilize the tools above so as to not add another thing to you to do list. I hope you discover the beautiful way reflecting on memories align us with gratitude.