3 Steps To Avoid the Making Memories Trap

Dreading that upcoming family vacation, which you scheduled under the guise of making memories?

Confession: I really don’t enjoy traveling with little kids (under four years old). It involves a ton of packing. It means giving up the childcare we’ve painstakingly set up at home (which we already lose too often). It shakes up their sleeping routine and schedules, which usually results in worse sleep for everyone. And the trip ends up being not all that relaxing for the adults because we’re constantly chasing down children and dealing with tantrums from overtired kids. 

I’m fully aware this is a personal preference. I have friends who travel with their small children and love it — and more power to them. If it’s truly fun for you making memories this way, wonderful and keep doing it! 

But this article is about doing things you don’t want to do, under the guise of “making memories” for your kids — and how to change that so you can actually build memories that you want to look back on.

Whose memories matter more?

Daily Mom Parent Portal Making Memories

When you’re doing things like making memories, whose memories exactly are we talking about? 

Are we talking about making memories for the kids? If they’re under four, your kids aren’t likely to remember — personally, I barely remember anything before second grade. 

Are you making memories for yourself? It sounds like they’re not great memories for you when you’re doing things you don’t want to do.

So, whose memories are we talking about that are so important that we spend significant time, money, and energy doing things we don’t actually enjoy?

Time to consider a new model for making memories

Daily Mom Parent Portal Making Memories

I’ve always been skeptical of anything that’s justified by making memories. To me, it’s usually said when someone doesn’t actually enjoy what they’re doing and what they’re doing is something that “should” be fun.

We understandably cherish having wonderful memories of our lives – especially with our children – but that assumes that the memories are good ones. If you’re forcing yourself to do things that you don’t want to do, none of that makes for happy memories. 

So, how do you go about making memories that you’ll treasure?

First, stop assuming making memories requires elaborate events or trips. They certainly can, but not exclusively. Making memories – and wonderful memories – are also made in everyday situations. Being present with your kids on your living room floor as they make your brain explode with their hilarious sayings will be far more special and fun for everyone to look back on that trip to Portland when you were stressed out and tired from packing and traveling before you even walked through the AirBnb door. 

Similarly, if you are coming up on your child’s first birthday and the idea of a big birthday party stresses you out (especially after a year of sleep deprivation and dealing with the loss of free time to yourself), don’t do it. (Again, if you truly want to, go for it! But I’m talking about the people who force themselves to do it to make memories or because they think that they “should.”)

Read More: 8 Fun Indoor Activities for Rainy Summer Days

Instead of spending a month or two planning and coordinating an event that you actually dread and your little one won’t remember, consider celebrating by singing about it more or getting a store-bought cake for you to enjoy with your little one (and maybe grandparents and two close friends) or even getting a sitter and going out yourself to celebrate your first year of parenting. Listen to yourself about what feels good, fun, and exciting.

You don’t have to plan your memories around the traditional milestones other people celebrate if they don’t bring you joy. Figuring out clearly the memories that would be the most fulfilling to you is key here.

Making time for memories you want to enjoy

Daily Mom Parent Portal Making Memories
Read More: 13 Tips for Planning An Awesome Vacation with Grandparents

For the things you truly are excited to do, let’s talk about how to make them the most enjoyable and least stressful for everyone so that they are actually fun to look back on. 

To start, get out your calendar. 

Let’s say you want to have a special one-on-one date this winter with your three-year-old where you try making memories like ice skating or going sledding and then getting hot chocolate at a spot you love. 

Pick a day and time to do this and block it on your calendar. If you need childcare for other kids, line it up now in advance. Aim for a time when you (and whoever else is joining) will be well-rested. Figure out where you’re going, and also calendar the windows of time for driving to and from (including any stops for food on the way). Given the driving times, does the time you picked still work? If so, awesome. If not, adjust.

Next, also think through the prep time. Consider making sure they (and you) are well-fed before you venture out. Also, consider blocking time the day before to make sure you have all the snow gear you’ll need (and in the right sizes for these growing-like-weeds kids). Calendar it all out – partly to protect the time and partly to remind Future You to do those things in time. 

Additionally, think about recovery time – for both of you. Think about whether you and/or your kids are going to be tired after the adventure. In addition to plotting out any naptimes, consider also blocking the afternoon from other social events. Put in something like “quiet afternoon because of winter adventure morning” to remind Future You not to fill it. Not all kids need this, but if yours does, you’ll be grateful for the reminder to not overbook your weekend and end up with total meltdowns by 4 p.m. 

For you to be making memories you actually want to make and experience them fully, you need to protect your time and energy so that you can look back on things with a smile on your face. 

It is okay to slow down. It is okay to live more simply when you have little kids or other obligations that make the big, Instagram-worthy trips/events/etc. more difficult and less fun. It’s okay to stay home, enjoy childcare, and spend money and time on going on a local adventure or out to a fun meal.

It is okay to choose easy – even if easy isn’t as shiny. Do what you ENJOY. And the memories will just come.

All of a sudden, you will realize you have been making memories to last a lifetime.

Want some ideas to make memories you actually enjoy? Check out 21 Of The Best Summer Trip Products To Kick Off Your Sunshine Getaway



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Photo credits: Image by 5540867 from Pixabay | Image by Neil Dodhia from Pixabay | Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay



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Kelly Nolan
Kelly Nolan
I’m Kelly Nolan, an attorney-turned-time management strategist and mom. Using realistic time management strategies, I help modern working women (especially moms) manage everything on their plate with less stress and more calm clarity.
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