I've always been nostalgic. 18 being my lucky number, when I was in my early twenties, travelling the world, I'd use the 18th of every month as a reminder to stop and anchor myself in the moment. I'd complete a journalling exercise, poring over the days that had passed: the people I'd met, sites I'd visited, food I'd eaten, men I'd kissed. Making sure I wasn't taking for granted all the things I'd been so privileged to experience. Back then, a month truly had 31 distinctive days. It was hard to choose from so many memories. But at least it it was easy to remember. Now, as a parent, oftentimes I can't tell two days apart. The monotony sets in, and I can't remember if I ate my child's leftover porridge or Weetbix for breakfast. Was that even today? Have I eaten? Someone asks on Monday morning how my weekend was: "Great thanks", I insist. I don't know whether I'm lying. But then I glance at a photo from a month ago, and see how much my two little humans have transformed. Yes we have our same routines, same dinnertime battles, same kisses and "I'll miss you while I sleep"s before bed. They all blur together. Yet somehow all these ordinary moments, far from the streets of Europe or South America, have given my life its real substance.
When my first daughter was born, almost four years ago, I started a new tradition. On the 18th of every month, from the time she was 11 days old, I'd write a letter in this now-finished notebook. Filled with short stories of what we'd done together, what she should be proud of, and what I don't want her (or myself) to ever forget. Onto a second notebook now, and writing for two daughters, I find it much harder to complete these letters than it was to write reflections in my backpacking days. For one, I often don't realise its the 18th until 5pm creeps around. By the time I get through dinner-, bath- and bed-time, I'm usually bone-weary, so making that concerted effort to sit and be contemplative feels too hard. Often my entries admit it's the 20th or 21st by the time I've gotten to them. And at times I've miss months in a row. When it comes to choosing what to write about, it's difficult to ascertain where that month's worth of moments even began. What milestones were reached? What words were learned, or funny things were said? I always have to look back through my photos to gauge time, and I scroll through my phone messages with my Mum and best friend to help piece it back together.
After a year of completing the practice in November 2020 (the month I conceived my second daughter), I wrote: "Although a sombre thought, sitting down to write today’s letter, I’ve realised how precious this detailed collection of memories will be if Daisy loses me before my time.
I can’t imagine what it would have been like to grow up robbed of my mother’s guidance, so I’ve decided to prepare a lengthy, love-filled guide for Daisy’s future, just in case... I'll share my imaginings and dreams for her lifetime, and all the advice I planned to give along the way. Then I’ll leave a copy with her godmother, to surprise her with congratulations as she experiences important milestones, my advice on challenges that may arise, and my forgiveness for mistakes she might make."
That is when The Love Mum Project was born. It got its name because I quickly began collecting cards for Daisy's future birthdays, and signed every one of them "Love, Mum". If I got through nothing else, and tragedy did indeed strike, at least that was something.
Although I say its' a 'project', it probably doesn't quite meet the definition, in that it can't ever be completed. As long as I'm alive, and learning more every day, there'll always be more I can add. I'm sure the advice I have to offer now for Daisy as a ten-year-old, isn't quite as nuanced as the advice I'll have for her in five years' time. That's why I don't seal any of the cards or letters, and I've chosen big envelopes so I can fill them with additional love and wisdom as time goes on. Which hopefully it will. In fact, hopefully going to these lengths ends up being so unnecessary, because I'm there to deliver every single envelope myself.
Really though, even if I live to see my girls off on their overseas adventures, and I'm by their sides as they become mothers themselves, working on this project won't ever have been time wasted. Because just like sitting down to write those 18th journal entries many years ago, it always anchors me in the now. It allows me to seek lessons and wisdom from my past, and simultaneously inspire wonder for my girls' future. It refreshes my thankfulness for the amazing privilege that is motherhood, and the incredible gifts I presently have in my healthy body and sound mind. I know in any second, one, or indeed all, of these things could be taken away from me.
Some might say it's morbid or 'tempting fate' to contemplate the fact I might not be there for the big moments in my girls' lives. But to me, this isn't about dwelling in fear or sorrow. By acknowledging life's uncertainty, I've inadvertently created a bridge that links my love for them today, to the wisdom they might need tomorrow. It's my way of ensuring that even if I can't physically be there, a piece of me - my hopes, thanks, congratulations and condolences - will always be within reach.
There's also an unexpected joy and almost meditative quality, in imagining my girls' futures: their dreams, the challenges they might face, and the joyous moments they'll no doubt experience. By capturing my thoughts on paper, I'm gifting them tangible reminders of our mother-daughter bond. In a way, The Love Mum Project has become more than just a collection of cards and letters. It's become a testament to the unwavering love of a mother for her child. It's my heart, immortalised on paper.
Some may not understand the depth or intention behind such a project. But every time I add a new reflection or a piece of advice, I feel even more connected to my girls, and my own inner child. My past, their future. Our present. To me, this project isn't about the end, but about the journey, and the timeless love that fuels it all.