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Family Traditions That Bind You Together! Guest Jessica Smartt. Episode 76.

Family traditions

When you hear the word “traditions” do you feel a buzz of excitement?…..Immediately smell a freshly cut Christmas tree? Or a pumpkin pie heaped with whipping cream, and hear, in your mind, a crackling fire?


Do waves of nausea and/or anxiety (Work, Work, Work, and for what? A display of  ineptitude?) immediately wash over you like a bucket of cold muck?

My traditional reaction

For me, it depends on my hormone levels, exhaustion level, hunger level, and how tight my clothes feel at that moment.  In other words, it’s kind of a toss up. It also deeply depends on how much I compare myself to others.

For instance, if I compare myself to Beth (who has a superpower when it comes to traditions), I break out in a cold sweat.  Compared to Beth I look like the Grinch before his heart grew three sizes!  Beth celebrates the very IDEA of celebrating (and has a fun-filled tradition to go along with…..celebration about celebrating).

Christmas?  9 months of celebration and tradition leading up to it!  

Halloween?  Decor goes up in September!

Cinco de Mayo?  Ole senor!

June 11?  Why not! It can be a thing!  Right?!

On the other hand, if I compare myself to someone more reasonable, say….the abominable snowman, (his family traditions are pathetic) I look and feel pretty fantastic!  I really do my best and have quite a few traditions that my family and I really love. So, why do I freak out at the very mention of traditions?

The “why” behind the cold sweats

I know that one of the reasons is the constant fear that I’m not going to do it well enough and I’ll let my family down.  They are the people I love the very most, after all, the people I have given my entire existence to.  I deeply want to NOT screw up this mom gig!

Another reason is that I know that my life is chaotic and busy.  I feel incredibly accomplished on any given day when I can actually shower and get dressed so I don’t emotionally scar the kids when they come home from school. Heaven knows they are all going to need counseling for so many things as it is.   How on earth am I going to add into my life:

stuffing easter eggs,

carving pumpkins,

wrapping presents,

baking cakes,

hosting parties full of hyperactive children,

decorating trees,

putting up decorations,

taking down decorations,

singing songs,

basting turkeys,

costuming children, and

stuffing and swinging a pinata?

ALL WHILE keeping 6 kids, one husband, one needy little dog and two geriatric chickens alive????  It doesn’t seem that it would be possible.

Enter Jessica Smartt

Jessica Smartt is the author of the book “Memory-Making Mom: Building Traditions That Breathe Life Into Your Home.” .  Jessica wrote the book because she knows the deep importance of traditions for families and for children.  Family traditions give children a sense of “belonging” within their family. Jessica wanted to share this knowledge with other moms and wanted to let them know that traditions are not as hard as we sometimes make them out to be.

There is no reason, apparently, for me to break out in hives and start popping antacids like a junkie when I see other moms’ stories of their family traditions on Instagram!  So often, we overlook the things we are already doing as “not important” and only feel terrible about our shortcomings when we see others “succeeding”.

The everyday mom

I read a quote of Jessica’s that I felt was specifically aimed at myself:  “I don’t want a book that paints this unattainable picture of super moms and “Miss Perfects”. I want the everyday mom—you there, you with the oatmeal-crusted bowls in the sink, and the snotty-nosed toddler, and the husband working late, you from a broken home and a lonely neighborhood—you, the real moms, I want you to love this book.”

Well, take it from one mom with oatmeal-crusted bowls currently in my sink…I do love it, Jessica!  My favorite part of the book and the podcast interview was just how down-to-earth Jessica is!  Her book is filled with so MANY easy ideas of ways that we can turn WHAT WE ALREADY DO into traditions!  The book is divided into chapters based on how we celebrate such as: Food, Spontaneity, Service, or the Sabbath.  There really is something in this episode for everyone ranging from Beth to me to the Abominable Snowman.  

Just like Jessica said, “What moms need to know the most is that they can do this!” (Crazy life, 6 kids, 2 old chickens and all!)  After listening to this episode you will have so many ideas of ways that you can easily be (and continue to be) a memory-making mom with all of your family traditions.  After all, at some point the kids do grow up and it would be wonderful to have some good memories of these days of chaos. (Or so say the grandmas of the world.)  I’m not 100% positive, but for now I’ll take their word for it.

Enjoy this fun episode with Jessica Smartt and remember that you’re doing better than you think.   Also, it’s not you….it’s them.

You’re friend in the mess,


Mom Squad Challenge:

  1. Download a social media timer on your phone so you are on it less.
  2. Try to do something crazy with your kids that you don’t want to do.

To Learn More About Jessica Smartt

Jessica studied English at Grove City College, taught middle school literature, and now homeschools her three kids in sunny North Carolina. She began blogging eight years ago so her brain wouldn’t turn to mush. Jessica loves hiking with kids (mostly), steaming coffee in the afternoon, family bike rides, and anything that’s ever been done to a potato.

Follow Jessica’s homeschool adventures on Instagram at @jessicasmartt.blogger

You can learn more about Jessica’s book and find terrific tradition ideas at

You can also read Jessica’s blog at

Resources  We Discussed In This Episode :

Memory Making Mom

The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance

The social media app that Jessica uses to control how much time she is on social media is called Kidslox. To learn more about it click here.

If you enjoyed this episode, check out these similar episodes we’ve done:

Wisdom from Parenting Survivors: Regrets and Tips from 400 empty-nesters – Guest Dr. David Schramm. Episode 73.

3 Ways Moms Can Avoid The Comparison Trap – Guest Sara Payne. Episode 71.

How to Have the MOST Stressful Christmas Ever: Take 2 

The Family that GIVES together…Creating a family culture of service- Guest Merrilee Boyack. Episode 56

Doing Less to Have More- Guest Jillian Johnsrud. Episode 47

2 Comment

  1. I’ve listened to every one of your episodes & this is one of my favorites! I didn’t grow up in a family with a lot of traditions but have always longed for them and the connection they bring. I definitely want to add more memory making moments even though Ive already been parenting for 20+ years. It really is never too late and this episode gives me hope and a good place to get some ideas. Your podcast helps me get perspective and laugh at the rough patches. THANK YOU❤️

    1. Anne,
      Thank you so much for listening and for supporting the podcast! I can’t tell you how much we love to receive feedback. Jessica was absolutely terrific as she laid out doable ideas for creating traditions! Her book is fabulous as well. I’m so glad that you found worthwhile ideas as you listened. Thanks again for being part of our Mom Squad!


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