To the Mom Who Can’t Keep Up

Jan 15, 2013

He came in the door with his typical 5-year-old enthusiasm. Another good day of school. Excited about movie and homemade pizza night with the family. Hungry. Always hungry.

After putting his backpack and shoes away, he circled the corner of the kitchen with a new library book in tow. Uh-oh. Library day. He must’ve taken the old book back that morning, then picked out a new one at school.

I forgot. Once again, I’d missed reading last week’s choice before he had to return it. Each week I try. I promise I do. But there’s so much to do. So much to keep track of.

Mom fail #3,580,496.

As he climbed onto a kitchen stool, I hustled to put away groceries, sort through the mail, and go through each child’s homework. “Homemade” pizzas from Papa Murphy’s sat near the preheating oven. I didn’t have it in me to make another meal.

Mom fail #3,580,497.

“You foh-got to weed my whybary book, again.” He interrupted my pity party. I responded by whipping my head around like something from The Exorcist.

“Excuse me?”

“You foh-got to weed my book. I gotsa new one.”

I felt heat color my face. He didn’t mean anything by it. Five-year-olds don’t know how to judge. He simply stated the facts.


I bit my tongue, but fumed. Why don’t we talk about all the things I remembered this week? Like breakfast. Sack lunches. New tennis shoes. Math homework. Reading assignments. Pigtails in pink hair ties. Dinner. Brushed teeth. Clean clothes. Baths. Carpool. School forms. Bus fees. The groceries I’m still putting away!

I might have bruised the bananas.

Mom fail #3,580,498.

One moment I’m cataloging my failures. The next I’m spewing a defense with spinning heads. This mood swing should be banned from the playground.

If you’re an overwhelmed mom, you’re not alone. I’ve been parenting since the 90’s, and even with all this practice, I can’t keep up. The teachers say we’re supposed to do math facts and read every night. College counselors say we’re supposed to plan and save. The USDA says we’re supposed to serve enough vegetables and calcium. The dentist says we’re supposed to brush and floss their tiny teeth. The Sunday school teacher says we’re supposed to review their Bible verses. The coach says we’re supposed to practice their skills. The pediatrician says we’re supposed to make sure they get 12 hours of sleep a night.

As if anyone can get that much sleep with this much to do!

When it comes to motherhood, success always seems just out of reach. The list of supposed-to’s never stops growing. And the weight of our failure suffocates. We’ll never keep up. And trying might kill us.

Unless we quit. Not motherhood, but trying to measure success according to a checked-off list of unrealistic expectations. Motherhood is less about supposed-to’s and far more about get-to’s:

  • I get to say “Good morning!” and smile at sleepy faces with crazy hair.
  • I get to say “Welcome home” and “How was your day?”
  • I get to listen to stories of recess and circle time while dipping cookies in milk.
  • I get to hold hands, tickle ribs, and wipe tears as often as possible.
  • I get to teach them how to share, talk nice, and encourage each other.
  • I get to explain that mistakes and “I’m sorry” are part of life.
  • I get to say “I love you.” Every. Single. Day.
  • I get to remind them that the God who made them will never, ever leave.

Maybe you spaced the library book, served take-out, and lost your cool while handling the bananas. There’s always tomorrow.

But today? If your child knew your touch, your wisdom, your love and your God, you’re a good mom. Hands down.

Even if you can’t keep up.

What is one thing you do well as a mom? It’s okay to brag a bit. I give you permission. 


  1. Kelli Wommack

    I really needed this reminder today. Thanks. I am constantly trying and tiring to live up to everyone’s expectations of parenting. But my children need me and my love more than all that other stuff.

    • Michele

      The expectations are exhausting and never ending. You’re definitely not alone, Kelli. P.S. You’re a GOOD MOM. Celebrating you today.

  2. Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg

    Hi Michelle. Great post. As a great-grandmother (what?), I look back and still really relate and feel some of those emotions you shared. Some of those moments became “flashbulb memories,” moments of pain and shame that I can now describe in detail…where I was standing in kitchen next to the pre-heating oven while the Papa Murphy’s sat nearby…thirty years ago! I was very mentally ill when my children were small. I missed lots of my son’s bowling tournaments because of unendurable anxiety attacks. I didn’t advocate enough when my daughter was diagnosed with a learning disability. And yet I knew one thing. That thing was that I wanted to give them the love and affection I never got as a child. I was consistent about that…that and my out loud, hand on their foreheads prayers every night at bedtime. And guess what..I grew a new family. Three adult children who love me like I’m the greatest mother who ever lived…nine grandchildren who love me like I’m the greatest grand-mother who ever lived, and a great-grandson who is learning to (he’s very little yet). All the mistakes, the fail #’s, even the all out, “I didn’t feel like its” dont’ compare to the love and joy a child sees in his mother’s face. Oh…that and rules and boundaries. ;o)

    • Michele

      “Three adult children who love me like I’m the greatest mother who ever lived …” I love that, Linda. Brought tears to my eyes. Good for you.

      • Lisa

        me too

    • Trish

      Where is the giant “Like” button for this? Thank you. It is hard to let go of those emblazoned memories (flashbulb memories – that’s good) of our failures. But you’re right, I have 4 kids in college who all love me and want to spend time with me, despite my (even continuing) failures. That’s worth more than a fortune to me, it’s the richest thing I have.

  3. Gail Hyatt

    Bullseye! Excellent. Mom success #300,580,499.

    • Michele

      Tracking success is far more fun than tracking failure. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your mom wisdom with us.

    • Amy @ MomsToolbox

      Wow, both this post and your comment speak volumes.
      Just like Michele, I see so many of my mom failures and beat myself up over them.

      Your ‘tally’ of the successes really made me stop and think. And you are so beautifully right.

      Thank you, Gail, for that reminder.
      And thank you, Michele for sharing this truth. and your own reminders. This afternoon, I get to say hello, smile and pass out more hugs. 🙂

  4. Brianna Wasson

    So timely for me. I can’t tell you how often I forget the “I get-to’s” as a mom and just focus on the 400,000 failures I see. Thanks for the insight. And the perspective correction.

    • Michele

      The failures are so much easier to see, aren’t they? Thanks for your comment, Brianna.

  5. Joanne Viola

    As a mom & now a Mimi who watches 2 little girls FT, this was a great reminder. Beautiful & touching.
    “But today? If your child knew your touch, your wisdom, your love and your God, you’re a good mom. Hands down.”
    My prayer? May they KNOW today & every day!! Thank you for sharing this!

    • Michele

      My children have a Mimi, too. Nothing better!

  6. Erin @ Home with the Boys

    This is me and this is what I needed to hear this morning! So thankful for all the “get-tos” and trying to count only blessings along this journey! Thank you for this post!

  7. Jenny Mosier

    I arrived late (as usual) to the parenting class at church one night & took my seat in a corner. The video was all about how our imperfections point our children toward their perfect Father. I sat there bawling my eyes out, trying to take deep breaths to suppress the sobs. It was such peace for my weary heart!!! Yet why is that so hard for us to remember? And why do we remember all those books we never read, while they can shake it off & skip into the sunset? Parenthood is not for sissies!!!!

  8. Christy Fitzwater

    This is WONDERFUL! Just last night I was feeling like a failure with my teenager -and why do I rarely think of the things I do well? Thanks for this!

    • Michele

      As a mom who parented three teenage boys … I don’t think I felt like a failure as much as I did during those teenage years. I loved having teenagers, but it wasn’t exactly peaceful. 😉 You can do this. And, Christy … You’re a good mom.

  9. Rachel

    Amen, sister. Thank you.

  10. Denise

    My kids are grown and married now. I, too, have a laundry list of failures especially when they were little. I didn’t have patience or parenting skills. I’m really behind, but am making up for lost time now.

    Something I do really well now is listen, as in Hear Them. I’m there for them in ways I never knew how to before. I continue to learn better ways to engage and to be present, but not judging. Just listening. I’m not perfect, but I am good. (Wow, that last sentence was hard to write!)

    • Michele

      Well done! You wrote it! Yes, you’re a good mom, Denise. You’re teaching them that mistakes don’t have to get the final word in a person’s life. It’s never too late to do something different.

  11. Melissa Milbourn

    so. very. good. Thanks for putting things in proper perspective

  12. Loretta Oakes

    I’m reading this while driving… 🙂 Only you will understand this…

  13. Ellen

    Great reminder!! I try to remember that being with my kids and taking care of them, is more important than the house always being picked up and everything getting done!

    • Michele

      The truth is the to-do list will never be done! Might as well play a game or read a book. 😉

  14. Sarah Beckman

    great post as always! I think I am good at trying not to fix things. This is something I’ve worked really hard at remembering especially since our recent move. I can’t fix it, but I can listen, empathize and be there for them. Being fully present with them is another thing I work hard at, much better at in the later years than when I was overwhelmed multitasking mom.

    Hardest thing? to put my own agenda on the back burner in honor of theirs. And my downfall is the dirty counter, forgetting to put lunch money in the account (TODAY!) and forgetting that poster board for the project at school – not to mention clean gym clothes etc. BUT – they do know I love them, and the Lord. And in the end, that’s enough.

    You rock. And you’re changing their little lives for the better – EVERY SINGLE DAY!

  15. Mike

    When trying to juggle stay at home jobs while balancing difficult allergies (making the take out nearly impossible), it’s just nice to hear that other people are struggling to keep it all together. Sometimes we need the reminders to look at the little successes. Thanks, you did this stay-at-home dad some good today.

    • Michele

      Mike, THANK YOU for reminding all of us that dads struggle to keep up with it all, too! I know my husband would agree. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  16. Lisa Bergren

    Excellent, excellent words, sister. Even after 17 years of this momming biz, I still tend to deride myself more than I pat myself on the back. Thank you.

  17. Allison

    What a great post. My friend posted this on Facebook and I felt compelled to read it, just when I was feeling pretty low. As a working mom with two kids, I feel like a failure a lot of the time, like I’m never doing enough. Thank you.

  18. Amy Thedinga

    Love this Michele. And I’m pretty sure every mom can relate. I love that you asked us to post what we’re good at. For me, I’ve found that it is about priorities. Mine are praying with and over my children and good nutrition. If I get those things right and some others slip through the cracks it’s still a pretty good day. Thanks for your wisdom and encouragement.

  19. Miranda martin

    Hi! I am a teacher…not a mom…but I feel like I have 20 kids who call me “mom” on accident. I needed to read this post! I can get bogged down on all the things I don’t do “right” as a teacher– paperwork, lesson plans, saying a sharp word to a child. Reading this reminded me that showing my kids they are loved everyday is sometimes more important than the lesson plan no one heard or the papers still laying ungraded for one more day. Thanks!

    • Michele

      You make a great point, Miranda. I think feelings of failure bleed over into so many different areas of our lives, not just motherhood. BTW, thank you for loving our children. Your heart is clearly seen in your comment.

  20. Kim Cottle

    All these years later and I’m still blown away by your loving heart and your way with words. Thanks for reminding this tired momma of a very important truth. Still love ya, my friend.

  21. Theresa

    This is an awesome post!!! Oh, I have been there and felt like such a failure and even taken it out on my kids because there was just too damn much to do…between dance class, gymnastics, Brownies, library books, meals, Sunday school, school forms…I don’t know how other moms keep up. I am glad to know that I am not alone.

  22. Amanda

    Hi Michele,
    This is my first time here — my MIL sent me a link to your post, and told me I’m a great mom. 🙂 #loveher! I love your perspective and could definitely use more of celebrating the successes. I’ve struggled with anxiety for over a year, and need to re-train my mind to give grace (to them & myself). Blessings and grace to you, mama!

    • Michele

      I love her, too! 🙂 I’m with you on the grace thing. Daily trying to make that my legacy, not all the to-do’s.

  23. Matt Larabie

    Ok, so I am the random man who stumbled upon this blog post and couldn’t help but reply. As much as I was excited to read it so I could share it with my wife I wanted to share that I appreciated this write-up because it reminded me of how much my AMAZING wife does and deals with everyday. We have 3 year old twins and they are a handful…and awesome gift of God in a handful! This just reminded me of the importance to encourage, support and help my wife as she experiences the ups and downs of motherhood. She is an amazing mother! Thank you for sharing this.

    • Michele

      Hi, random man. 🙂 So glad you dropped by here and left a comment, Matt. Thank you for the way you spoke about your wife. You honor all of us when you honor her. There’s a whole community of women here that are now cheering for you!

  24. Sherri

    I so enjoyed this Michele, my kids are grown and I have Grands now! But while raising our kids I was far to serious and have always thought I could have been more fun! Wanting to do everything so right! (Fail)
    I made this comment to my kids one day and they said What? We had great lives, we always felt love and lots of cared for! We had lots of fun!
    I was reminded of a comment I heard once from a close friend, ” people don’t always remember events clearly but they do remember how you made them feel!”
    Thanks for reminding us to stay focused on what we get to do! That’s “Good Stuff!”

  25. Melissa

    Thank you! I so needed to read this today. Thanks for making me smile. 🙂

    • Michele

      So glad it encouraged you, Melissa!

  26. Alita

    As mothers, we spend an inordinate amount of time feeling guilty of the things we aren’t or “can’t” do, that we miss out on realizing and recognizing all the things we are and can do. Reading your post made me realize that I need to give myself permission to enjoy the accomplishments of my mommydom! I have a happy and well adjusted 6 year old who is very confident in self and knows exactly where she belongs in her world. I have a sweet and loving 30 week old who wakes with a smile on his face and enjoys the fascination of every new day with his family. It takes a special kind of person to let go of all the things that we aren’t able to give or kids. The only thing they really need is our love and attention. I am so glad I read your post because my children always have the most essential thing from me, and I needn’t fret so over the things that, at the end of the day, aren’t going to affect their character or growth. Thanks for sharing and reminding me that it isn’t what you give materially, but what you give emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I am better as a mother today for reading your enlightening take on being a mother!

  27. Bronwyn

    All I can say between my tears is “thank you” for writing this. And the smiles, and the reminders of things I get to do. Thank you.



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