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Be a better mom - Through journaling

Carolyn Dekat is a homeschooling mom and freelance writer living in Oklahoma City with her husband and two sons. Her writing credits include several homeschooling articles published both online and for a variety of journals and newslette...

Find your center by keeping a journal. By recording moments and thoughts, we keep our creative centers alive, and provide an opportunity to tie past and present together for a more controlled and balanced future. The benefits of the quiet time spent exploring and feeding the soul benefits not only the mother, but her family as well. A woman can take better care of those she loves when she has taken care of herself.

Feed your soul

Mothering is a profession with rewards that are unequalled. However, it is also demanding, consuming more than just time or energy. At times nurturing others can deplete a woman to the extent that she begins to forget who she is -- what her likes and dislikes are, what things she enjoys doing for herself, and just what she needs in order to be able to continue giving of herself in behalf of her family. In her book, Gift From the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes: "What a circus act we women perform every day of our lives. It puts the trapeze artist to shame. We run a tight rope daily, balancing a pile of books on the head. Baby-carriage, parasol, kitchen chair, still under control. Steady now!"

One way to find your center is through keeping a journal. By recording moments and thoughts, we keep a creative center alive, and provide an opportunity to tie past and present together for a more controlled and balanced future. The benefits of the quiet time spent exploring and feeding the soul benefits not only the mother, but her family as well. A woman can take better care of those she loves when she has taken care of herself.

What are the ABCs and 123s of journaling?

A is for Attitude
If you're thinking in terms of the rigid daily calendar diary or travel journal you kept in grade school, it's time for an attitude adjustment. Think of it instead as a means of discovering a new friend. To become acquainted, you will engage in active, purposeful communication. You will play together, write, sketch, doodle, whine and giggle, until you reach a level in which you can speak without inhibition, both for pleasure and for guidance. The friend you find on this is you.

There are those who insist that journaling is best done daily, and that the discipline of making yourself carve out the time to write every day will turn the writing into a habit that will come easily and that you'll looking forward to. For others, this approach turns journaling into "one more thing to do" after feeding the cat and folding laundry. Some need a stretch of time in which to lose themselves in the writing, and can only achieve this once or twice in a week. Either method is fine. The one thing there is no room for is guilt over how often you write. It is important to stick with journaling long enough to discover what works best for you and then use it to your advantage. Always remember that the journal is a tool and you are the one using it to achieve the ends you have chosen for yourself.

You have the most to gain if you can approach journaling with flexibility, an openness to adventure, and a willingness to experiment, play and take chances.

B is for Beginnings
The structure and design of what you choose for a journal can influence how you use it, so it's important to give it some thought. Tristine Rainer (The New Diary, Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1978) strongly recommends blank books: no lines (so you can right vertically if you want and/or draw pictures), no pre-printed dates, and one that is small enough to be carried with you easily. However, if you decide to combine the diary with sketches or photos, it may be wise to use material that will preserve the momentos over time. Acid-free paper and photo-friendly ink pens are widely available.

Rainer encourages a balance between "any old thing" and something so beautiful that it is intimidating to write in. It may be that for you, the ideal medium is your computer. Again, all that matters is that it suits your needs and you look forward to using it. If you do go with a book, don't limit yourself to a black ink pen. You may want to keep pens of several colors handy. If the child in you wants to write in crayon, indulge!

Okay, so you have a place to write and the means, and you're ready to start. Where? Here are a few ideas:

  • Now: Describe the room you're in. Name all the bits and pieces that you've surrounded yourself with, like the photos on your dresser, the frames they're in and why. Or the stuffed panda bear in the corner gathering dust that your grandpa won for you at the fair the year before he died.
  • A self-portrait: Start with physical attributes and see where it takes you. Use details. Compare and contrast the person you are now with who you were a year ago, a month ago, yesterday. What do you see in yourself that brings unexpected delight? What did you expect to see that you don't?
  • The day: If "old diary" habits die hard, go ahead and tell about your day. Try to bring depth to the writing. "I got the kids off to school" can become, "and of course Jeremy's pants were too short, but I didn't even notice till he was running down the driveway for the bus. We just went through his closet to weed out all the outgrown pants. That was before he started eating like he won't get another bite for several days. He still loves peanut butter!" Don't just relate events; describe how you felt about and reacted to the day as it unfolded.
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