five truths for imperfect moms who love their kids fiercely

Tonight I cried outside on a deck 914 miles from my house.

I cried because I missed my kids open house for first and third grade. I missed it because I was working. So as I stood there in much too hot and too muggy weather for my Minnesota comfort I just let the tears fall. I was tired. I was worn just a bit. And my perspective had lost a bit of truth.

I felt like I wasn’t a good mom.

I felt like I let them down.

I wondered if they thought about me and why I wasn’t there.

I forgot.


I forgot the two hours going in circles in Target meticulously checking off items from three school lists. I forgot how I searched for the elusive purple folder that my fifth grader needed for Language Arts. (Seriously. Purple. And, small rant, I think that perhaps Target should overstock in folders WITHOUT the interior prongs. Because. Get this. Every. Single Class List said “no prongs”.)

I digress.

But you see I forgot every single thing that I do for my kids. They may not see it. They may not know how I stay up until 2:30 every day working for them and then get up at 6:30 and start the day with another cup of coffee as the hidden energy that I can’t seem to muster much. They don’t see me folding clothes, counting socks, counting pennies, stirring pots of noodles, and hoping that I catch up. They don’t see me on the plane with tears in my eyes as I fly from them for work. They don’t see me in the morning before I speak mustering my courage, fixing my hair, and walking in confident even when I have those little moments of doubts. They don’t know that most days I feel like I’m sprinting a marathon. They don’t.

They’re kids.

Kids don’t see all that we do sometimes. We’re hard on ourselves. We dismiss what we do.

We lose sight of our awesomeness.

I know.

I did tonight. I forgot.


You right now have done life changing things even though it might just feel like minuscule normal things. And sometimes, sometimes life feels like this constant pressure to swim upstream with no sleep, with little ones hanging on, and a to-do list threatening to sink you. And it can be lonely. Hard. Sad. Overwhelming.

But but but…this is the but. I realized as I gathered my courage and walked inside tonight with my kids 914 miles from me that I love them something fierce. I love them with every single ounce of me that is possible. I want the best for them. I want them to live life well.

And to know that their mother loves them.


Because I love them fiercely.

Sometimes love doesn’t look like sitting at the table coloring. Sometimes love doesn’t look like bubble blowing in the backyard. Sometimes love looks messy. Like fighting hard. Like not getting sleep. Like doing the hard things. Like crying and then finding courage in the depths of self.

Love can simply be giving of you.

Love can be not having the extra bit of food because you know your kids are hungry and need it. Love can be walking into  school and fighting for the best for your child. Love can be sitting in a rocking chair with a crying baby at 3:49 am and needing sleep but rocking rocking rocking. Love can be feeling the ground leave you as a plane takes off with you inside. Love can be chopping peppers and onions and stirring rice. Love can be searching for missing shoes.

Love cannot be ranked.

Qualified. Defined.

Measured. Compared.

So if you’re feeling like you’re not making a difference in the lives of your family I invite you to stop right now and to really start to look at you and what you do. I want you to breathe and see the big life picture that often looks crazy.

You mother.

Mothering isn’t a little thing. And there isn’t one golden perfect right way to mother.

You give. You love.

You don’t have to be perfect nor have the perfect life. You just have to be you. You just have to know that your trying, loving, giving, nose wiping, car cleaning, car driving, and every single thing that you do as a mom makes a difference.


So we’re not going to stay here wondering about our difference.

We change lives. 


Did you hear that? Lives, my friends. Moment after moment. In good times. Bad times. And in those moments when you have no clue what you’re doing. In the times when you think your preschooler will be the only one who won’t be able to write their name. In the moments when the college student waves good bye. In the times when the middle schooler won’t talk to you because you took away electronics.

We all need to remember a couple things. Well, these five things.

1. Life is not, and never will be, perfect. Imperfection is often perfect.

2. There is no hierarchy determining what makes life and motherhood good and worthy.

3. We all have voices. We all make differences. Motherhood matters.

4. Having a moment of doubt doesn’t mean you don’t measure up.

5. Finding joy oftentimes means giving yourself grace, stepping back, and being grateful.

So friends.

Don’t doubt your worth. Your value. Or wonder if you’re making a difference.

I’m the one telling you tonight that beyond a shadow of a doubt you are enough. I forgot those five little truths about me and motherhood and the life journey. So because I forgot I decided to write. And in writing I remembered. And because I remembered I hope you, too, remember.

From me, an imperfect mom living a life filled with beauty even in the doubts, to you.


to join an amazing community of moms find us here on Facebook -> Finding Joy Blog 

how moms get it all done

Well, truthfully, they don’t.

Bottom for real it’s just how it is line – they don’t get it all done.

I don’t. You don’t. The mom next door doesn’t. The mom at the preschool class with the super cool treats with handmade decorations doesn’t. The mom in the Starbucks (excellent choice) line in front of you doesn’t. The mom at church, work, school, grocery store, doctor’s office, next door, driving to baseball, and all the other moms – they just don’t get it all done.

And it’s okay.

I know, you’re probably looking at that to-do list (or not if you’re simply anti to-do lists) and right now a million things are running through your brain. I know even writing that triggered a list that raced through my head – move the laundry from the washer to the dryer, fold the towels that got dumped out of the dryer and not folded, finish cleaning the kitchen, make sure you work on multiplication facts, call to check on test times, call the dentist and set up cleanings (weren’t we just there?), call the doctor and set up a recheck, get groceries, respond to emails, write post, help with science report, find something for dinner, wipe down fridge interior, go get groceries, don’t forget gluten free bread, and on and on - all of that? All I had to do was think of a list and those are the things that immediately came into my mind.

And then, then the list of everything I should have done will start to pester me. I should have read one more book, should have played longer, should have helped them clean their room, should have, should have, should have.

The truth? You and I and all the moms in the world just don’t ever get it all done.

We’re a life in motion.

A life where there are real hurdles, real bumps, real moments where we want to just throw our hands in the air and say enough. Or maybe at least ask for a fifty second pause. A mom time out, perhaps?

But, do you want to know truth?

You really do get it all done.

You get done what you can do and you get up in the morning and you keep going in a world where the list will never ever end. That’s the thing about motherhood and life – the list is like this never ending ladder of things to constantly keep doing. You think you made it to the top rung and then there’s always just one more thing you could be doing. One more after one more after one more.

Do you know that right now even if you feel like you’re flailing just trying to keep your head above water because you have that eight week colicky baby and a three year old and you’re house isn’t perfectly put back together that you’re getting it all done.

Do you know that when you drop off the little one at daycare who cries when you leave and you back out of the driveway and spill just a bit of that fabulous Starbucks coffee on your clean shirt and you answer emails and think about what you’re going to make for dinner that you’re getting it all done?

Do you know that when you sit outside a bedroom door and talk with your teen about really hard stuff and love of them in the midst and stay up late and forget about folding the towels on the floor but instead just sit and listen that you are getting it all done?

You are mothering.

It’s not about a never ending nebulous to-do list of things.

It’s about being real. Being a mother. Putting one foot in front of the other and marching forward even though sometimes it feels like you’re simply treading water.

You are getting up. You are making breakfast for your family. Taking care of them. Working or staying at home or working at home. Cleaning up. Doing laundry. Giving kisses and hugs when needed. Crying in the bathroom when you’re overwhelmed and then splashing water on your face. Buttering sandwiches. Making beds (maybe). Matching socks. Looking littles in the eye and telling them you’re the best. Trying to figure out Halloween costumes the night before (that’s me today). Giving hugs. Sharing your sandwich. Budgeting in a world where you wish you could just have a budget. Picking up the same toy again and again. Feeding babies. You’re moving.

You are moving.

Motherhood is a to-do list in constant motion.

Getting it all done doesn’t mean having a list at the end of the day with every single thing checked off. Getting it all done means doing exactly what you’ve been doing since the day you became blessed to be a mother. It means making mistakes and yet trying again. It means fighting for your family. It means smiling with tears in your eyes. It’s reading books over and over again. It’s being okay with rerunnig the wash cycle because you forgot to move it. It’s in learning to give yourself grace and the mothers all around you grace.

It’s looking at the ambiguous never ending ladder of things that we think we should could forgot to need to be doing and saying - I am enough.

I am enough when I love my kids. When I fight for them. When I do my normal every day things that often feel like they don’t mean much but in the scheme of life are the moments that will matter. I am enough even when I make mistakes and try again. I am enough when my life isn’t perfect. I am enough when we have the same dinner again and again. I am enough even when I feel so often like I’m out of breath. I am enough when I am running late. I am enough when I stay up late sitting on the floor in my toddlers room because he won’t go to sleep. I am enough.


Moms get it all done every single day.

One thing. One hug. One smile. One more pulling up of the boot straps. One more fight for right. One more reminder of grace. One more not comparing my life to the mom next doors life and using that to judge getting it all done. One more listening to the same knock knock joke and chuckling again moment in life. One more moment simply being a mom.

So if you’re asked how you get it all done every single day you can answer that’s just what moms do.

Today’s photos? All real life live from the instagram feed. Find me there at finding_joy
Images and original content are sole property of Rachel Martin and may not be used, copied or transmitted without prior written consent.

Want to read more letters to moms? Grab my ebook with 21 original letters.

Day 15: It’s all about You. #findingjoy challenge

(if you’re wondering where days 9,10,11,12,13, and 14 are — well, they’ll be coming — let’s just say life got a bit busy. Wait. Super busy. Like flying to Denver and driving to San Francisco and back in five days kind of busy for work. So, please know I’ll make it up and get the whole challenge up there and in a cool format in the future.  But, but, but, for now — all the videos are on the YouTube Playlist and on the FindingJoy Facebook Page)

So today?

Today it’s about giving back to you. Taking time out of your busy to step back and do something for yourself.

With no guilt.


I’m serious. Sometimes I’ll take a break or treat myself to something and then when I’m done I’ll get all angst ridden thinking that I’m behind and I shouldn’t have stepped back.

We’re not doing that.

We’re going to take a break. Buy chocolate. Garden. Call a friend. Or anything that is awesome for us. I mean it. When you give to yourself you recharge yourself and you then have reserves that are ready to give, fight, and do what you need to do.

So today?

Today I went to Starbucks. I know, no surprise. But, I made a special trip and went with my bff Maria. And we laughed and tried to entertain her rather precocious two year old daughter, Emma.

It was great.

And then I got back to busy.

So do it. Take time for you.

Share about your “you time” in the comments below, with the hashtag #findingjoy or on the finding joy Facebook page. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing about your awesome day.



when life isn’t what you thought it would be

I just said that to a friend of mine today on the phone.

I told her that I never thought this would be my place in life.

My story.

I think I secretly wanted Hallmark.


I know I wanted Hallmark.

I wanted the flowers on my birthday, the being the treasured one, the beautiful house with all of the perfect furniture, with kids who got to participate in what they wanted, a bank account where I didn’t go to bed fearful that the power would stay on, and just no crazy angst. I wanted some bubble gum and marshmallows and rainbows and glitter life that didn’t have the valleys and pits and mud puddles of reality.

Truthfully. That’s what I thought life should be if you’re good enough.

(No wonder I write so passionately about being enough.)

My life is so far from perfect it’s not surprising my site is named finding joy.


So some truth. Because, honestly, it is when one is raw and real and truthful that healing can begin. And in that place of exposing of one’s life does it allow others to feel the bravery to talk about their lives without hiding behind the cloak of fear, shame, or not feeling valued.

So I will finally be real.

I’m in the midst of a separation. I’m a single mom of seven kids. Some of my kids are angry at me. I work over sixty hours a week trying to make ends meet. I deal with people who simply don’t respect me and treat me like I’m nothing. I deal with people who tell me that people that treat me like nothing are no big deal. I’m tired. And oftentimes I want to put my head down on my table and cry and eat ice cream but most of the times the kids ate it so there’s none.

I don’t like to talk about it. Or write about it.

It’s embarrassment, really.

Somehow I wanted my life to be the exception. I wanted to be the one who was always loved, cared for, and important. I didn’t want to feel unimportant. I wanted holidays to be a certain way. I didn’t want stress. I didn’t want to go to bed every night with my head on the pillow and feel so utterly completely alone.

I know I’m not alone. I know I have friends. I know there are those who love me and will stand with me. I know that if I picked up the phone at any time someone would be right here for me. I know that.

But, in my house, most of the time it is just me. It is me in the morning and at lunch and at bedtime. There is no one across the table for me to smile at when the kids do something funny. There is no one to think of me on their way home and grab my favorite iced caramel macchiato (well, in the summer, as in the winter the only option is extra-hot). There is no help with bath times or when the kids are sick  or any of that.

I am not complaining.

I am just telling you my reality because I know that there are some of you out there who are in the same spot. Maybe it’s not exactly the same. Maybe it’s because there’s extreme financial issues and you always thought you’d have enough (I’m there too — holy moly — is that stress). Maybe your child is sick. Or you’ve dealt with death. Or something I can’t even articulate.


Life so often doesn’t look anything like it was thought to look like.

Except, that you know, I think our picture of life has been distorted.  Somehow the illusion that life can be beautiful if it is a certain way has been accepted and it has created this place for everyone else to live in ambiguity and purgatory of real life beauty as they stare at their life canvas. Somehow the idea that our lives look like Van Gogh’s swirls of craziness competes with the Monet’s that we thought life should be. And then, then, then it can be this sense of loss. This feeling like we’re not worth it. That life cannot be beautiful unless it is a certain way.

It’s not true.

I’ll tell you. I work harder than I ever thought one would work right now. I do because I love my kids and I believe in the message that I get to write every day. I believe in finding joy even when life is the antithesis of Hallmark.

Someone needs to stand up and say that Life is Beautiful even when it is messy.

So I will.

Life is beautiful.

My kids love me even when they tell me they hate me or that this is the worst day ever. They just do. I know it. My house may not be the trendiest, most beautiful, and awesome designer place, but it is my home. I’m getting some wrinkles and am so tired, but I have a body that is still living, moving, and has the ability to give.  I have friends that stand by me and love me when I make the stupidest mistakes.

It’s hard to let go of what we thought would be the ideal dream of life.

But it’s in the letting go and acceptance of where one is that the joy can return.

Living for an ideal that simply cannot be strips the happiness right off of the heart. Living grateful for your today fills life with meaning that cannot always be explained.

So I choose to live.

To move forward, climb the next mountain, and to see beauty.


In my messy, not perfect, working hard, life that belongs on Bravo and not Hallmark.

Which, honestly, is probably where most of us would really be. We just need to share. To admit the truth. To love those no matter where they are. To support. To care. To not judge. And to be there for the other. To look at those whose lives are challenging not with pity but with admiration for their courage.

It’s not about about perfection.

It’s about loving. Caring. Giving.

That’s community. Life.

And ultimately – joy.

From me, in my broken but yet beautiful life, to you.

You are valued. Beautiful. Worth it. You contribute great value to this world.

Even if life isn’t what you thought it would be.

Carry on brave mother. Carry on. 

~Rachel #iamenough

15 Things That Don’t Define Motherhood – and the One Thing That Matters


For real. Don’t let these fifteen things take away from your awesomeness.

Enjoy. And remember – there is no perfect – just real.

1. Making Mistakes. We all make mistakes. Many of them. Some are silly and small. Some big (like forgetting when recitals are or losing things or well, you know, those mistake things that we wish we didn’t do.) But, mistakes happen. Learn from the mistake and move on. That’s what we teach our kids. So extend that grace to you too. And sometimes, even when we make mistakes, it’s simply part of learning, being creative, and taking risks. Don’t judge the mistake too quickly as a mistake, but rather remember the heart and determination behind what you do.


2. Having an Always Clean House. I would love an always clean house. But I also have four boys ten and under who love to be creative and move through the house creating creations that I all too easily label messes. Is my house perfect every single moment? Nope. Is it perfect when someone pops over? Nope (why can’t that ever happen? People seem to pop over when chaos just erupted). So by the nature of raising children there will be times of messes. So you know what? Let your friends in even if it’s not perfect. Just be you. Proud of you.

3. Not getting frustrated. Not going to happen. Several years ago we had a fish tank and my son Elijah would drop things into the tank for fun. (He was little). I duct taped the tank. Tied it down. The day I found the $100 electronic toy in the fish tank was the last day of the fish tank. Let me tell you – Frustrated. Parenting is oftentimes an exercise in frustration mitigation.

4. Always being on time. You’ll be late. Even if you hate being late like I do. In fact, I despise being late so much that I tell people the wrong time that we need to be there sometimes just so we’re early. Oh yes, and by the way, don’t use the phrase hurry up hurry up we’re going to be late. You know why? Your target for everyone is we’re going to be late. Switch it to let’s get going so we’re early. The new target? We’re going to be early.

5. Your work situation. Let’s face it. Some of us work. Some of us stay home. Some of us do a mixture of both. Don’t let that decision define motherhood success. Ever. Motherhood success cannot be based on an external variable like that. And work on not judging – because chances are there’s a mom that wishes she had it the other way or vice versa and in that moment they just need love. That picture? Taken at 37k feet as I was traveling to Denver (and then driving to San Francisco) for work. I’ve stayed home, worked part time, and now worked full time while traveling and staying home. In all of them? I loved my kids and did my best for them. That’s what matters, really.


6. Your educational choices. Again. Truth. My kids have been homeschooled, attended a private school, attended a charter school, attended a virtual school, and attended public school. Hmm…I think I might have covered all the options there. Let me tell you this – the educational choice that you make is your choice for your family. There isn’t the perfect choice. Love your kids and know that you’re doing the best for them in this moment.

7. Wishing for a break. Breaks are good, really. And those days when we just want to eat the Ben and Jerry’s and watch television? Well they just happen. Grace, really, grace.

8. Breastfeeding, Vaccinations, or any of those other Controversial Topics that I’m not going to touch. Yep. Not going there? You know why? Too much angst in it really. I get that we all have opinions and I love love love that about us as a culture. But when the opinions become dogmatic and we forget the heart of the person with an opinion other than our own then it’s too far. Be confident in your decision. Don’t feel threatened by others. And always be willing to learn other’s point of view and to let your own be challenged.

9. The use of electronics. Several years ago there was another blogger who wrote a Dear Mom Letter about being on the iPhone. It was, in my opinion, a bit opinionated. Here’s the deal. We live in an electronic age. I don’t think that it’s going away in a short time. So we have this new variable called electronics to deal with – each family establishes different rules. Don’t feel guilt over your decision. It’s okay if your kids use electronics. And you too.


10. The perfect life. Pretty obvious, right? But sometimes it’s hard to feel like you’re good enough, smart enough, doing enough, and all of that if you’re life doesn’t match the picture of what we think life is supposed to look like. The truth is that most lives are messy and that there isn’t an ultimate perfect ideal in life. So live your life with joy and tenacity and don’t allow the myth of perfection determine happiness.

11. Having kids that don’t make mistakes. Just like you’ll make mistakes your kids will make mistakes. It’s part of learning, really. There will be times where you will be like what in the world were you thinking? But you’ll be the one to be there for them. To help them pull up their boot straps and fight. To teach them the truth in the apology. To love them when they sometimes don’t feel worthy. That matters. Greatly.

12. Bad Days. They’ll happen. Circle the good days on your calendar and start taking note of the awesome that you do every day. Challenge yourself to look at your life with a lens of gratitude and give yourself the grace to deal with the hard days.

13. Knowing what to do in every situation. Oh my word. Let me tell you there are so many times in motherhood where I have no clue what to do next. Both decisions seem to be daunting. Or I cannot see a decision. Or I feel frozen. Here’s the deal – make the best decision you can and move forward knowing that you did your best. Sometimes in motherhood, or in life, the decision doesn’t seem obvious. That’s okay. It doesn’t define you. It’s just a decision. So think it over and know that you’re one of millions of moms wondering/hoping that they’re making the right choice.


14. Feeling alone. There are times in life where one simply feels alone. It’s not an awesome feeling and it can overwhelm on those days when we just need a friend. First, be a friend for those that need a friend. Oftentimes we don’t admit that we need help or a friend so sometimes it’s so crucial that we just simply are there. During those alone times – reach out.

15. Externals. Like these: having the newest house, fresh paint, kids in trendy clothes, having kids involved in every sport, having a new car, and on and on and on. Those are externals. Chances are when we reach the end of our days that we will wish that we had spent less time worrying about the things that fade away and more time with those that we love. The moments matter more. When the externals are a determiner in happiness or success then we rob ourselves of the beauty in the moment with those we love.

And the one thing that matters?

Love your kids.


Just love them. For who they are. Love them in their crazy backwards wearing teeshirt selves.  On their good days and bad days and the times when they won’t even talk to you. Just love them.  You giving of yourself day in and day out and day in and day out is a beautiful life giving, honoring, unbelievable, and awesome thing.

That matters most.



10 Things Happy Moms Don’t Do


1. Base self worth on other’s opinions. Happiness that is dependent on what other’s think of you is happiness that will never appear. The truth is that there will be others out there that might not like you, might not like how you parent, might think you’re making the wrong education choices, feeding the wrong food, and on and on and on. So much of motherhood is being confident in your own choices that the opinions of others can simply be that. Opinions.

2. Expect the perfect day. It just won’t happen (and you’ll never be perfect anyway – motherhood is refining). If happiness came from the house staying clean, from the laundry being folded AND put away, from the kids never fighting, from dinner that was stellar without crazy cleanup, with no financial issues or relationship drama, and all of that well, you know, happiness wouldn’t come. Expect the real day. And be grateful for the moments.

3. Gossip about other moms. Simply don’t. Please, please, please don’t. Gossip doesn’t help anyone. No one. It doesn’t help you nor does it help the moms that you’re talking about. All gossip does is chip away at happiness as it makes you compare, contrast, and judge. So no gossiping.

4. Base success on the state of the home. So tough, really, but true. When you have kids in your home your home will probably look like you have kids living in your home. You can have it spotless at 8am only to look like you never clean ever by 8:15am. Kids do that. Do what you can. Keep it clean. But, you know, kids like to dump stuff out, mix paints, color on things, and create things. And that? That means a mess often. Your success isn’t based on the throw pillows always on the couch, nor is your happiness.

[Read more...]