A mama in the Mindful Return course recently asked a fantastic question about the logistics of journaling as a working mom:
Many people talk about the importance of writing in a journal. From what I’ve heard, it can enhance skills around gratitude, perspective, combatting the anxieties of parenthood, etc. I always have a hard time remembering to journal, though. And I’m usually awoken in the morning by a crying baby…which doesn’t really allow me to sit and write first thing in the morning. If you’ve found journaling useful, do you keep it by your bed, or in your work bag? How do you remember to do it?
My answer? Yes, I’m a deep believer in the power of journaling. AND I’m a self-admitted life-long sporadic journaler. Yes, I sometimes wish I had a more regular practice. AND I’m a mama committed to letting myself off the hook.
Since childhood, I’ve taken the time, now and then, to write down memories, sort out problems, and reflect on life in a journal. The practice helps me actually see and articulate my own thoughts. And helps me process them in a more concrete way than just thinking them.
I’ve been able to look at things from different angles and explore different solutions when I journal, that I don’t think I would have gotten to had I not taken the effort to write things down. But ah, remembering and making time for it is a challenge.
Rather than not starting any journaling practice because you can’t commit to it daily, why not commit to dabbling? And just see what happens? Here are some ideas to get you started.
5 Journaling Ideas for Busy Working Mamas
- Keep a gratitude journal by your bed. By far, the most success I’ve had with a regular journaling practice is keeping a gratitude journal for the past few years. My gratitude journal is just a blank journal (nothing special, though I bought it because I found the cover soothing). I keep it right by my bed. At night, I write down 5 or so things I’m grateful for from the day. Not only does this practice have the benefit of reframing my day in a more positive way and helping me fall asleep faster, but it also reminds me to record the crazy, crazy things my kiddos say. Example from a recent entry. Youngest says to me: Mommy, guess what I had for dessert! Me: A donut? Him: Nope. Me: Ice cream? Him: Nope. I’ll give you a hint, Mommy. It starts with the letter “Hersh”!
- Take a journal with you on work travel. To be honest, I journal most when I’m out on work travel. I always pack a journal when I go and use downtime to write when I’m at the airport, in a hotel room, or on a plane. When I’m away from my family and my office, I find it easier to have a different perspective on things. I love taking that time to step back and reflect.
- Use journaling prompts (i.e. let someone else come up with your topics!). Stuck on what to write about and don’t have the bandwidth to think about what you might reflect on? Let others do that work for you. You can find journaling prompts in any number of places. For a wonderful daily journal with prompts that have helped me immensely, check out The 5-Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day. In thinking through issues related to money and finances, I love the journaling prompts in Kate Northrup’s book, Money: A Love Story. I started a new journal just to write based on her suggestions. If you’re a new mama heading back to work after maternity leave, the Mindful Return course has daily prompts to help you parse out your concerns. The writing prompts help you think through your own feelings about the return to work, how you’re going to tackle logistics, and figure out what stories you’re telling yourself about your return.
- Try stream-of-consciousness in the morning. I first learned about the concept of “Morning Pages” in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. The idea is that you fill three sides of paper by writing, stream-of-consciousness style, as soon as you wake up every day. Now the thought of waking up before my kids is still a non-starter for me. But I’ve done a similar exercise while waiting for the metro in the morning, and I’ve really gotten a lot out of it. Writing on loose sheets of paper that you can easily throw away can also make the activity less daunting than writing in a journal where you might fool yourself into being more restrained (for posterity).
- Use a wall calendar to record baby milestones. Okay, so recording your baby’s milestones probably doesn’t count as “journaling” in many books. But as a new mom, writing anything down counts for me. I couldn’t manage to keep a milestone journal for my boys, so instead I took a wall calendar, put it on the dining room table, and wrote things like “ate apricots”, “got his 3rd tooth”, and “clapped!” on the date he started doing those things. Then, when I (finally, a few years later) got around to making a photo album of his first year (thank you, Shutterfly), I was able to annotate it with notes about what he was doing at various ages. I also know folks who swear by Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project One-Sentence Journal for Mothers for milestones. Apparently, you write one sentence per day (under a given date). And the book holds space for 5 years, so you can see what you were up to on that date in the prior years.
Is there one of these ideas you’re eager to try, mama? If you’re curious to see how writing might help you, don’t be afraid to explore a bunch of different ways of doing this journaling things. See which one feels best to you. Then, do more of that. As will all things life and parenthood, there is no one right answer.
Do you swear by a particular type of journaling practice? Tell us more in comments below!
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave