Pause. Take in the moment. Appreciate it. Rinse and repeat.
Unfortunately, this isn't a realistic routine for many parents. Between shuttling kids to various schools and activities, running a household and, you know, earning a living to afford these things, parents today have plenty of distractions. In an effort to step out of this race, two friends started a photography project that forced them to meditate on their lives as mothers once a week for 52 weeks.
The resulting book is appropriately titled Stop Here This is the Place, and it acts as a compelling argument to follow suit.
Photographer Winky Lewis and writer Susan Conley are the creative forces behind the project, which chronicles their parenting experiences in Portland, Maine. Each week for one year, Lewis would snap a photo to capture the lives of their respective children -- Lewis has two sons and a daughter, and Conley has two sons. Lewis would send the photo to Conley, who would write a few lines of accompanying prose.
"Parenting is a blur of days, but then the years fly by," Conley told HuffPost Parents. "We all know that, but how do we account for it?"
The book's striking cover photo features a child's legs clutching a stop sign. It's meant to be a "gentle imperative" for parents to take their own pause, Conley said. The beautiful snapshots within the rest of the book depict unremarkable interactions, but she said that it's in these quieter moments -- rather than birthdays or holidays -- where she's been able to feel closest to her own children.
"I think most mothers that I know are living that, too," Conley said. "You have to wait around for the good stuff to catch you by surprise."
For parents, the "good stuff" can be extracted from the most banal complaints. One page of the book features a photo of Lewis' daughter playing a board game with accompanying prose describing a child whining about how she wants a new mother, one who's less involved. Conley said that many of the passages in the book, including that particular line, were airlifted tidbits of conversations with her 12- and 14-year-old sons.
"That was a classic moment when my son said those very words to me,'I just want a mother who's not so involved!'" Conley said. "As a mother, that was a wonderful moment, where you keep a straight face but you're so glad that you're actually involved and that they are mad at you for being involved."
See? Good things do come to those who stop and appreciate. Check out 11 more shots from Stop Here This is the Place below. You can see more of Lewis' photos of motherhood in Portland on Instagram and Facebook.
When I jump in, I can see my feet down below me,
whiter and skinnier than real life.
My brother asks me to count
how many seconds he can hold his breath underwater,
and it doesn't feel exactly
dangerous, but like I'm in a movie
treading water and counting,
and looking at my feet when I dare to.
When will all the parts of me reconnect?
I, Liddy Millspaugh, solemnly swear to love you and honor you til death do us part.
(But that doesn't mean I won't run loose on the island and hunt seagulls.)
And I, Lolie Millspaugh, solemnly swear to cuddle you and bathe you
(even though I hate the baths when you smell like dead seal).
Sister I never had. Keeper of the family truth. My witness.
The movie I play inside my head is always in color,
and the soundtrack is me humming underwater.
Today the ocean is blue like a galaxy in outer space
where you swim through stars and black holes
and the forcefields of moons, and it never ends.
If I think too much about infinity, I have to close my eyes.
Down here the earth is chained like a little dock to the rocks.
We spin and spin and we don't ever let go.
Sometimes the question is how we fit into the picture. Head, shoulders, knees and toes.
If you were here, I'd try to tell you how some days I can float above my body.
It's not quite like flying. And I've never been able to put it into words.
It's as if everything becomes available at once. Everything says yes, this is your life.
Then the leaves sing on the trees. I can hear them. And the clouds and all of my cells -- they all say yes.
I'm in my body but outside at the same time. If I want to, I can touch the sky.
This is the part after the beach when the sun still feels like it's burning my brain.
It was such a good day but now I say things I don't mean and need you
to figure it out for me. I want you to come closer when you're standing right there.
Come closer please. But all I say is go away. When I was little, you told me
I found you in the yard and put my arms around your leg and asked
"Where are you Mama? Where are you?" And you said, "I'm right here."
You'd think I'd stop testing. You'd think I'd believe you by now.
It's different with you because when I'm with my brother
I can't see outside of him and me. It's like we're swimming
in the same water all the time. But you're over there trying
to get the baby doll to wake up so we can go tell the queen,
and I don't have to say anything. We just think it the same
and maybe that's better than brothers.
I think the earth from outer space is like this. Some kind of watery, Indigo blue.
Dark lines for rivers. Lighter blue for oceans.
Did you know water tells the story of everything?
Did you know how much there is of it?
And then the green trees painted around the sea.
The trees are harder. The ocean talks to me
and tells me prehistoric things. The trees just whisper not yet.
We slept in canvas tents on wooden platforms at night,
and I could reach my hands up and poke the sides
where the rain pooled. I liked that tent.
I liked how the night sounds were all around me,
and we were almost living in the woods.
What would that be like really?
If we had to survive on our own?
Liza and Kimmy and I all passed the swim test
so we could jump off the high diving board, and this helped.
I missed my Mom so much that I knew it was better
just to swim and not talk about the missing.
I know all about imaginary friends. But Piggy is different.
You see I am Piggy and Piggy is me. I'm not sure how to spell
doppelgänger, but my brother said it means double.
So this is Piggy. My good shadow.
My eyes and nose and lips.
We live near the river with the tug boats and the drawbridge
and the oil tankers. It's a small city. I'm eleven.
My age is all I have. Plus your word. So don't lie to me.
I can always tell when you're lying. At night I have to keep
the covers over at least half my body, even when it gets hot outside
and I'm sweating. The is how I become invisible.
This is how I know I'm safe.