dear mom a letter about all of the stuff

To you, the mother, across from the screen wondering about all of the stuff. The toys, the crafts, the holidays, the birthday parties, the cooking, the doing, and the expectations.

There are words that I think you need to hear. Words about motherhood, worth, and value. Words about how amazing you are as a mother even though sometimes you might not feel that way. In fact, sometimes you might struggle with feeling like you don’t measure up, that you’re failing, and that you just want to quit.

Those feelings don’t define you as a mother. They are just feelings, sweet mother. It’s easy to race through life, and race through motherhood – even though on those days where everyone is puking or everyone is screaming you could bet money that the clock was moving backwards – and miss out on everything you do accomplish everyday. We live in a culture with expectations to do, be, perform, and look a certain way and after we achieve all of that with a smile on our face then we’re considered to be successful.

Motherhood is no different. In fact, motherhood has been put in the pressure cooker of expectations. Where we once were expected to just prepare dinner with the grace of what we’ve been blessed with now there is the expectation to create amazing pinterest worthy meals inspired by Food Network that the entire family will love using brussel sprouts and fresh herbs picked from your window herb garden in under twenty minutes. There are books about getting your prebaby body back within months of giving birth. There are classes upon classes upon classes that our children could be doing. Simply walk into Target or Walmart and it feels like you are missing out on doing something. Seriously, the feature aisles of necessities for holidays and seasons and birthdays has grown bigger with each progressive year. Do you want to know something? I do less each year. Less Easter basket stuff, no Valentines, no none of that stuff. And my kids are okay – they’ve in fact, learned to not expect all sorts of stuff all the time throughout the year.

But, it’s pressure. I’ll wander through and think that I need to get this or that or the latest video with the Disney Jr character celebrating Easter. It’s marketing, but it’s gone straight to the mother’s heart. I’ll see carts bursting with stuff – stuff that is loved for a moment and then will need to be managed the next. All of that stuff and doing it doesn’t define motherhood. Here’s a secret: we color our eggs – with Paas egg dyes. Would I love to try the cool natural egg dye thing? Yes, but it doesn’t determine my level of value or creativity. I’ll do a basket for my kids – with candy not all the presents – and I’ll hide it somewhere in my house. Instead of adding more things, I’ll take time and write out clues – not fancy, not typed out on glittery paper with sweet little ties – it’s just simple paper with my handwriting on it and a number on the outside. That’s it. They love the time given, not the stuff.

You see, sweet mother, I just want you to know that the world often wants us to think that we are good moms when we do x,y, and z and especially when we purchase all of these things. You know what? There have been years where I’ve stood in Target with a very specific list of what to buy and I’ve seen all of the stuff to buy for whatever – it could even be summer, Memorial Day, whatever the next event – and I’ve felt my heart well up with discouragement because I couldn’t afford the sidewalk chalk, glitter, t-shirt with the flag on it, special cookie cutters, themed glitter, you name it. I would start to believe the lie that my kids were missing out on life because I didn’t put those things in my cart.

That’s not true. And that’s what I want you to hear today as well. Here’s the reality – all of the things, the crafts, the amazing pins, gourmet meals, activities in Family Fun, amazing and super cute decorated rooms, super birthday parties, great toys, etc…they are just options, just things that we could do. But you don’t have to do them. And they do not define success. Success isn’t defined by a cart full of stuff, but it’s in keeping our cool when we say no and the toddler throws a fit in the store next to the stuff. It’s not the physical things, but in the giving of self.

Motherhood is so much more. Motherhood is waking up at 2:30 am and holding a child with a fever. It’s in making meals with food in a pantry that is beyond bare. It’s in counting to 100 with a five year old over and over and over. It’s in wet mittens in a pile by the doorway. It’s the toddler with the shirt on backwards and the mismatched socks that you let go because they dressed themselves. It’s in smiling in the morning when the preschooler gets up too early. It’s in scrawling notes on paper just to tell them you love them. It’s dirty dishes in the sink, laundry waiting to be done, toys spread on the table, and you sitting on the couch reading to them instead.

It’s an exercise in patience, strength, creativity, tenacity, joy, sorrow, worry, hope, optimism, and drive.

The stuff that we could do? It’s extra. A bonus. Somehow I’d like to pull the definition of motherhood out of all of those expectations. Redeem it, I guess. We’ve got motherhood, and the list of amazing real life things that we do, and then we have the other stuff. Let’s keep pinterest, Target’s holiday aisle, super birthday parties, and all of that – it’s all good. It’s not bad. It’s just not required to be a good mom. All of those things, if you do them, are like extras. You can make a fabulous Easter egg hunt, or cute birthday crafts, or amazing meals. In fact, if you love it – do it.

But did you hear that? All of that, the extra bonus stuff, is not required to be a good mom.

Motherhood is a tremendous exercise in patience, loving others when they don’t seem very loveable at the moment, creativity, and no sleep. Sometimes there’s only energy to get up, wash the dishes, change the diapers, drive here and there, work, vacuum, pick up the living room for the what feels like a millionth time in the day, wipe up spilled milk, pouring coffee, sorting toys, listening to reading, and giving of self. Those simple everyday normal things matter.

Hug your kids. Make your meals. Drive. Read the stories.

I guess today, what I really want you to hear, and I know some of you need to hear is that you are a good mom. You’re a good mom if you do the stuff and a good mom if you don’t. You, in the trenches of motherhood, giving of your self today matters.
Remember that truth today. Motherhood matters more than the stuff.
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23 Responses to “dear mom a letter about all of the stuff”

  1. March 29, 2013

    Liane Reply

    Wow! This is amazing and so true. So so true. I needed to be reminded of this today. Thank you x

  2. March 29, 2013

    Rachel Martin Reply

    Bless you, Liane. Have an awesome day!


  3. March 29, 2013

    Mom Reply

    Pinky, that is you! Valerie, that is you, Chrissy, that is you and Yvonne, the favorite aunty, that is you! Great Moms!

  4. March 29, 2013

    Tiffany Reply

    I just want to wrap my arms around you and say thank you over and over again! You always speak to my heart at just the moment it is in need of encouragement. You have a gift and I am so thankful to be reaping the benefits with each post you write. It’s the moments, not the “stuff” that is so important in this motherhood journey. I have to remind myself of that quite often. Have a blessed weekend with your family. Thank you for the inspiration and love you radiate to your readers!

  5. March 29, 2013

    littlemisswordy Reply

    Well said and a great reminder! Thank you for sharing!

  6. March 29, 2013


    I agree wholeheartedly. But often my pressure is not from the retailers and advertisers, but from my own children. They want to “keep up with the Jones'” so badly that it doesn’t matter if I couldn’t care less about the “stuff” – my own kids will remind me how “so-and-so’s mom does this, or that” and “why don’t you do X, because so-and-so’s mom does.” Seems as much as I remind myself and THEM that we don’t compare ourselves to others, (never mind the fact that we just don’t have the resources to do all the things some families do), it still leaves me feeling guilty that I can’t give my kids the family events and ‘stuff’ they want. I guess I just can’t deal with the “gimmes.”

  7. March 29, 2013

    Rachel Martin Reply


    I completely agree. It is very hard to not do all the stuff, buy the stuff, etc… I really believe our society has created this posture of entitlement right now. We’ve lost the gratitude for the simple things – food on the table, a roof over our head, and friends to visit with. I love your comment and am nodding along with you.


  8. March 29, 2013

    Rae-Leah Reply

    The stuff can really be so overwhelming, for Easter I tend to give me 2 kids a few things they might need or use, for instance I have summer sandals and swimming masks and a movie they wanted…. Few things I know they will use and not a bunch of stuff I will end up throwing in the garbage…. And I will get some small eggs for the joy of finding them but that is it…… And again Rachel you are always so real and true and timely with your posts, I love them all and look forward to the next one like a little child on Christmas morning 🙂
    Thank you

  9. March 29, 2013

    Just us Jacksons Reply

    Big, tension-relieving sigh from me. 🙂 Thank you. These have been my thoughts this week, and it’s great to hear someone else reaffirm them.

    For Easter this year, my kids are each getting a watering can, a shovel and a box of Raisinettes! Ha! Seriously. Nothing cute about it. But they were excited about gardening this year, so that’s what they are getting.

    Love your blog!

  10. March 29, 2013

    Nichole Reply

    I needed this. Boy, did I need this! As I planned my son’s 2nd birthday party set to happen tomorrow and began panning my other son’s first birthday party in May, I have been so tired and stretched. Thank you for the awesome reminder that the “stuff” is SO not necessary and that I am still a good mom when my sweet boys don’t have it ALL and the BEST. Your words are such a huge blessing to me and so many other mom’s Rachel. Thank you. 🙂

  11. March 29, 2013

    Emily's World Reply

    Thanks Rachel! Again you talk right to my heart and the heart of so many mom’s! Sunday’s Easter and I’ve done nothing for it for my kids and I do feel kind of like a bad mom but like you said it’s not about stuff…it’s about time together!

  12. March 29, 2013

    thelocallens Reply

    You are 100% right…It’s about what we do with our kids, not what we can buy them and no parent should feel like a bad parent because they don’t (or can’t) give into the consumerism of today. In this house, we deemed most of the special days of the year ‘Hallmark holidays’. Gifts have been eliminated from the equation and replaced with family time; reading stories about the day, seeing a parade or doing special crafts. As a Christian, Easter is extremely frustrating for me, because it’s supposed to be about Jesus. Egg hunts and visiting the bunny are fun, and we do them as a way of welcoming spring, but they’ve been so blown out of proportion that they shadow the REAL reason for this religious holiday. Christmas is also a real pain, but at least it’s easier to talk about Santa Clause when he was just St. Nick; a real person who did a whole bunch of good, and comparing that to baby Jesus, how he would one day grow up and do even more good. A giant fuzzy bunny, though, on the day that Jesus gave his life for us? That’s irrelevancy at it’s finest.

  13. March 30, 2013

    myshelomitashop Reply

    Beautiful Rachel, love this post a lot!!

  14. Thank you! I am always so encouraged my your posts. I have a 7 1/2 month old daughter and I was wondering if it was “okay” that I wasn’t doing anything for her for Easter. This was just what I needed to hear. She’s too young to remember/enjoy baskets and eggs and that isn’t something I NEED to do no matter what age she is. Thanks for the reminder!

  15. March 30, 2013

    Misty Reply

    I’ve read your letters to moms in the past and have always loved them. But this one really hit home. Especially at a time when we’ve filed bankruptcy a year ago and bought a new minivan after saving for a year(we’ve been a one car family of 4 for 3 years). Money is tight and time with my little boys is so very precious. Its nice to hear the reminder that they are not hurting from a lack of stuff because they have me and my time.

  16. March 31, 2013

    Noe Reply

    Yet another great post from you Rachel. Happy Easter to you and your family! 🙂

  17. March 31, 2013

    lmworley416 Reply

    Vivit! He lives! We have hope because He lives! Praying!
    John 11:25-27 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
    My email address

  18. March 31, 2013

    Mary Reply

    Fabulous post! Thanks!

  19. April 1, 2013

    Rachel Bueckert Reply

    I haven’t left a comment in awhile, because my life has been turned upside down. I find myself now a widow, at 33, with 4 children to raise alone. In the middle of February, we found out my husband had cancer, and he died on March 1. I am sitting here at 5:55 a.m., having just cleaned up vomit splattered all over the bathroom from my 8 year old who ate too much on Easter. Sitting here, feeling overwhelmed with ‘how am I going to do this all alone forever?’, I opened up your blog, read this post, and was encouraged that what I do matters and to hang in there. My kids need me now more than ever and I have to be a good mom. No, I am a good mom, because I love them. Thank you for your encouragement!

    • April 3, 2013

      Bethany Reply

      I just want to say…I am praying for you and your kids as you find your new normal. I can not fathom the grief you all are experiencing. May God give you His peace.

  20. April 1, 2013

    Tanya Runkle Reply

    I am reading this today, the day after Easter and so thankful that I didn’t make baskets this year. I probably will next year, maybe. But we just had fun together, played in the backyard. Made a mess, and watched little feet get muddy. It was a great day, we thanked Him for His Son, and I woke up content this morning. Thank you for sharing your heart, you inspire me!

    xo, Tanya

  21. April 3, 2013

    Rachel Bueckert Reply

    @Bethany….I just wanted to clarify that I am a different Rachel than the one who writes the posts for Finding Joy. I am just a reader, who finds a blessing from Rachel Martin. That Rachel did not lose her husband, so I just didn’t want you to be confused. Thank you, though, for your kind words and thoughts. God bless you. Rachel Bueckert

  22. April 3, 2013

    Kristin K Reply

    Love this post – Yes, you are a good mother and we are, too <3

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