Looking Back is an Important Part of Moving Forward in Motherhood

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Waddling into my kitchen, I carried an overabundance of stickers and paint pens. I also carried with me a strange sense of prepared pride. With one week left until my due date, I told the baby in my belly we were ready. I’d just bought all the trimmings to make a glorious scrapbook and was now officially prepared to document my baby’s favorite outing, favorite food, and favorite mama. 

Not long after our little chat in the kitchen, my husband and I became parents to a baby boy and we had a gazillion pictures to prove it. But the photos never ended up in any scrapbook because momming and napping took over. And now, eight years later, I still can’t bring myself to open that beautiful box of paint pens. I miss my son’s baby phase too much to go back. In fact, I might miss all of his phases too much. 

“Mom, please tell him to stop with the baby pictures,” my 8-year-old whined playfully.

As I watched my dad scroll through baby photos of my little guy on his phone and then show him, every picture triggered my feels. I wanted a break from this trip down memory lane, but for different reasons than my son’s feigned embarrassment. My heart was full to bursting with as many mixed emotions as Starburst candy has flavors, and I wasn’t sure how to unwrap them all. 

Holding on to the moments. 

When my son was born, I felt an instant connection to him. This bond energized and softened me all at once. And while holding my tiny baby in the hospital, I also wanted to hold onto the moment. That feeling hasn’t changed. While every childhood phase brought with it a singular set of challenges, I miss them when they’re gone. Sure, when my kid was in his only-eating-cheese-crackers phase or his must-wear-the-color-red stage, I couldn’t help but wish they would end. Then when those periods finally passed, I felt a surprising sense of loss. Am I a mom who can’t let go? 

Motherhood is a never-ending process of letting go.

My original plan was to pack away tiny baby hats, small socks, and family photos to reignite those tender parenting emotions for future rainy days. Large doses of nostalgia have always been my thing. I’m the person who saves ticket stubs and birthday cards so I can relive those happy memories. But when I look back over the last eight years of motherhood, my feelings hold an overwhelming sense of immediacy. All my major feels like joy, loss, love, and sleep deprivation are immediately accessible. I’m shocked to find that this Nostalgia Queen doesn’t enjoy looking back, because I’m reminded that motherhood is a never-ending (and sometimes tearful) process of letting go.  

“Okay, let me see that one on your phone again,” I say to my dad. 

He holds up a photo of me hugging my then 4-year-old after a lunch date. I instantly recall holding my kid close for the photo op and then kissing him on the cheek once it was done. After that lunch, we walked down the street counting the flowers on our way to get ice cream — hand in hand. Back then, his hands were smaller and more apt to find mine during our walks. I miss that tiny hand holding mine. I took a breath and practiced taking it in because all those feelings, well … that’s motherhood

Looking back is an important part of moving forward.

It may not be the easiest for my heart to sink into memories of my son’s childhood, but I do know that looking back is an important part of moving forward. I’m searching for a balance in letting go and holding on because this will keep my connection with my kid growing so I can grow with my kid. However, I still can’t guarantee I’ll get any scrapbooking done in the immediate future. Anyone know the shelf life of paint pens? 

Tags: Family, Motherhood, parenting

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Written By

Tonilyn Hornung

Tonilyn is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, young son, many furry friends, and never enough closet space. See Full Bio

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