dear mom who feels like she is failing her kids

Tonight I cried.

Big fat heavy ugly tears.

I felt like I was failing my kids – those kids I love with all of me.


I always wanted to be the mom that did all sorts of stuff with them. I wanted to take them to DisneyWorld. I wanted to take them to get new clothes before school. I wanted to go places on Saturday. I never wanted to ration food to them. I never wanted to have to work so hard to provide. I never wanted to have to choose between working and time but knowing that if I didn’t work we wouldn’t do what we needed.

So I sat on the rocking chair, with the marker stained cushion, in my living room and cried.

An ugly ugly cry.

I was stuck in this world of comparing.

I was looking at my life and seeing everything I really didn’t like. I was looking at everything I thought I was missing out doing. I was looking at my kids lives and thinking that because I couldn’t do all the things that I thought would make a great childhood that they would end up feeling ripped off. I looked at me and got simply super super super mad at myself for not doing more, being more, and so on.

Why can’t you be better? Why don’t you play with them? Why did you have to take that nap?

Thought after thought after thought.

I’m stubborn, my friends. Super stubborn.

And a terrible perfectionist.

I wanted to stay in my own world of pity and not look at the good. I wanted to sit in my own woe is me. Well, truth? Life is hard at times.  It just is. Yes, yes, yes, I know there is much good and that I forgot perspective. There is much awesome and many many opportunities. But there are also somedays of me just giving, giving, giving, giving, giving, and giving and feeling like instead of treading water I’m racing backwards and tumbling head over heels forgotten.



Deep down I have a fear of letting people down. Letting my kids down. Letting my friends down. Letting my family down. Just not measuring up. And the funny thing is that I have had so many people let me down in my life – over and over and over again. And yet, yet my deep fear is of letting others down and being forgotten. So I overcompensate. I think I just need to do more, be more, and not ever really express how I feel.

I think deep down I fear being alone too.

So I write about it.

Often.  (Why Being a Mom is Enough, Dear Mom Who Feels Like She is Failing, and so on…)

Yet, somewhere, somewhere in the midst of it all I feel like I’ve picked up this false chart of motherhood awesomeness. And in it are these parameters of success – do this, look like this, teach this, own this, drive this, bake this, create this, wear this, believe this, love this, this and this and this. And then, I will look at life and see how many places where I just don’t fit this false mold of motherhood.

But, friends, do we need to fit?

What happened to being awesome even when life sucks? What happened to celebrating each others’ successes and being there when we trip and fall? What happened to the barn raising days of motherhood where we just linked arms and loved each other for who they are? What happened to celebrating the trying? What happened to loving those even when we don’t understand even why they’re upset? What happened?

Motherhood can NEVER be defined by all of the external things that one could hypothetically be doing, giving, being, creating,  or going.

It just cannot. It cannot be defined by Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook status updates. It cannot be defined by books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. It cannot be defined by what the other moms in our sphere of influence are doing.

Motherhood is a story unique to each family.


And it’s defined by only one person.


Not what anyone else says you should, could, should have, could have, or must be doing. Not by what your mother or grandmother or friends are doing. It’s defined by you doing your absolutely very best in the moment and giving yourself grace for those inevitable stumble and trip but always get up moments. Because, trust me, you’ll need a whole bunch of grace for yourself to get through motherhood. It’s defined by you loving your kids. It’s defined by not the stuff, but the heart.

You see, I forgot that tonight when I sat in the living room and sobbed worrying that I was failing my kids.

I plain and simple forgot.

I forgot the times where I sat at the table and worked on spelling words with my first grader who barely can write but yet was working so hard. I forgot about the $1.29 window clings that I fight into my $40 grocery budget. I forgot about the mornings making sandwiches, cutting apples, and writing little I am proud of you notes for my kids’ lunch boxes. I forgot about the messages I send my teenage daughters. I forgot about the times sitting on my Samuel’s bed reading books. I forgot about setting up the tents in the backyard and making our own get-away because I couldn’t drive the breaking truck of mine. I forgot about how hard I work and how little sleep I get because I want to provide. I forgot how deeply I love my kids and would do whatever I needed for them.


I only saw the holes.

I missed the entire fabric.

And the hidden beauty of my imperfect life.

Maybe life has those holes in it. We all have them. We all have places where we wish that hole wouldn’t be there. We all have places where we wish we could do it different. But even with all of that we all have love. But maybe, just maybe those holes in the fabric of life make the rest of life so much more beautiful. We see the connections, the threads, and the bonds that make the rest of the space extraordinary.

A mother’s love.

And that can never ever be qualified, quantified, measured, ranked, or compared.

Do you realize that?

You, right now? Do you realize that even in those moments that you feel like you’re failing your kids that chances are that you are not? Do you realize that in the scheme of life that the thing they need most is you loving them? Looking them in the eyes and telling them I’ll be there for you? That is what matters.

Not stuff. Places to go. Things to do. And all the times where you trip. Because we all do.

So I love my kids.

And they love me. Their imperfect forgetting perspective worrying that she was failing them mom.

Love your kids, sweet mom.


That’s what matters most.

From me, journeying through this crazy world of motherhood to all of you.

Carry on.


[Tweet “Maybe the holes in the fabric of life make the rest of life filled with more beauty. #motherhood”]

21 Responses to “dear mom who feels like she is failing her kids”

  1. September 6, 2014

    Sarah Reply

    Thank you so much! Your words always hit me right in the heart. You are such an amazingly strong inspirational woman. I strive for this every day. I’ve been having a rough few months and it seems like every time I pick up the broken pieces I get knocked back down, but your words and the words of other encouraging women help so so much. That’s what women, what mothers need, because this, life, and raising little people to be good and kind and decent and STRONG, it’s really hard. It feels good to know there’s Simone in your corner, telling you that you’ve got this, even when you’re not at your best. That at least you’re showing up and trying. Your kids are so lucky to have you, and I’m sure they’re so proud of you. Thank you again

  2. September 6, 2014

    Julia Charles Reply

    Thank you once again for your amazing words. My son is only 20 months old but I already worry & compare myself even though I know I shouldn’t. It’s so hard not to sometimes, I have a few mommy “friends” who when I come away from seeing them always leave me with a horrid toxic cloud of guilt with their comments like “going back to work is so wonderful, I don’t know how you stay at home all day everyday” or “sending x to nursery was the best thing we did, she’s so advanced & independent” (which in my mind has the added extra of “unlike your son” even though she probably didn’t mean it like that at all). So I must remember to start reminding myself how awesome I am just for being able to be with my son every day & that while I may not have money & material things right now, I get to be the primary educator of my son at such a crucial time in his young life. Thanks for offering some perspective & sorry if I rambled

    • September 7, 2014

      Angela Y Reply

      Julia enjoy every moment you have home with your son. He is getting so much out of being there with you. I had friends that said they couldn’t wait to get back to work after being home a few weeks with their child. How sad. Don’t let their toxic ruin the wonderful you are doing for your son. I know the sacrifices of staying home and living on one income. You can do this and you are, and I am certain you have a sweet little boy to show for it all.

      • September 7, 2014

        Julia Charles Reply

        Thank you for your kind word Angela. We do what we have to do, don’t we? Personally I think if you want to work then that’s okay but with the income I was on 99% would have gone on child care (all my son’s grandparents work full time so no help there). It hard but I wouldn’t change these precious years with my son for all the world x

  3. September 7, 2014

    Life Breath Present Reply

    Another beautifully wonderful post on the truth of it all. Yea, we all struggle and sometimes lose perspective. Finding or remembering that perspective when things are really tough is definitely a hard thing. I know that’s when I get depressed, when I struggle the most and lose my perspective. Those are the times when the not enough bear attacks me with its harsh words and thoughts, with its disbelief in my ability and choices for what is right for our family. So, true, real, soulful mana hugs to you for I understand that place. 🙂

  4. September 7, 2014

    Rae Hilhorst Reply

    You and you as a mum rock, sending you hugs xxxx

  5. September 7, 2014

    Elizabeth LaPan Reply

    Oh Rachel, please do not forget YOU ARE ENOUGH ! I am adjusting to a mostly empty nest, and the accompanying changes of wondering what my “mom job” is now. Your blog has supported, inspired and reassured me since I found it. Know kind thoughts and love are sent your way.

  6. September 7, 2014

    Irena Reply

    Thank you. Wish i had someone like you when i was a young mother. My parents lived overseas. So just me and my husband. As you say we do the best we can. Enjoy your time with your children they grow up so quickly. Am a grandmother. Now. Do so enjoy your. Blog. Never to od tolearn and i can pass words of wiadom to my Adult children so they can benefit for my grandchildren

  7. September 7, 2014

    linda Reply

    What a post! Such a fantastic commentary about being a mum, about stressing on the small stuff and missing what is really important in life. I so needed to read this! Thank you of posting it.

    • September 8, 2014

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      You are welcome, Linda. Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.


  8. September 12, 2014

    Julia Charles Reply

    What do you do when it’s your own mother who makes you feel like a failure? My son is 21 months old & a late walker, we’ve had him checked & he’s fit & healthy but he just won’t stand & walk on his own (he cruises on furniture, will take a couple of steps without holding on & can climb stairs & slide ladders, he also walks holding our hands) just not on his own. Anyway, my mother turned round to me tonight & told she felt like her grandson was being left behind & it was so frustrating for HER to watch. Does she think it doesn’t frustrate me to see kids half his age already walking!?! So I went from what was a great day with my son to feeling like a big fat zero again, all thanks to a stupid comment

    • September 17, 2014

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      Hello, Julia.

      First, thank you for reaching out to me. I appreciate it. Second, do not let anyone define your worth as a mom — even your own mother. I am sorry that she isn’t supporting you in that encouraging mother way. I want you to know that you are doing a great job and that those things that she is saying do not define you.

      With joy. And sending a hug.


  9. September 24, 2014

    Jane H Reply

    Your writing always truly touches my heart. I am a grandma now….I was so very critical of myself as a young mom and others criticized me as well. The truth is that I really was not a very good young mom….lots of issues and stuff happening and I really was sick at heart with all of it. But God has healed so much and has given me opportunities with my grandchildren to be loving and kind and fun and all the things I wasn’t with my own children. And by loving their children in that way, they are able to get some of the love I was able to give them so long ago. God does heal and we really do all do the best we can with what we know at the time. Dear Julia, your words make my heart hurt for me….you are doing the best you can for your little guy. This grandma in Michigan thinks he has a great mom….just the one he needs. You will both be fine….just fine.

  10. December 9, 2014

    Kate K. Reply

    I’m a 30-something mom of three young kids, 8, 5 1/2 and 1. I have had your ‘dear mom letters’ link pinned for almost a year now and I read them almost weekly. Thank you for your honesty. Thank you for saying what all of us moms are thinking. Thank you for giving me an outlet when I am feeling terrible and the HOPE and STRENGTH I need at that exact moment. You are an extraordinary woman and mother. Thank you.

  11. I need this today. I have had several big ugly cries over the past 10 days. More than I care to admit.

    Thank you for being honest.

  12. April 23, 2015

    Gabriela Reply

    Ugh, I cry ugly cries all the time, especially after my divorce.

    But I have more compassion for myself because I’m truly trying every day.
    Thank you!

  13. May 26, 2015

    Connie J Reply

    Thank you so much Rachel for your words. I found your website by typing in what to do when you feel like youre failing as a mother. I cried while reading the blog :…( It really hit me. It is nice to read some words that are not only encouraging, but real; especially in a world I feel is so full of expectations and rules. I am a mother to a wonderful and sweet delightfully chunky 14 mos old. He is my whole world, but I am so often plagued by fear that I am failing and as he gets older he will see what a failure I am and be disheartened. He is such a blessing that brightens every part of my day. It is so hard when others are critical and shaming with their words and actions. I want to raise my son to be a strong and free spirit, not bound by the ways of this world and society’s expectations. I want him to know what freedom feels like. I know what it is like to be raised in bondage and walls, where being yourself isn’t an option. It is so hurtful when as a grown up, I still feel so childish inside and afraid; always feeling that voice over my shoulder saying “nope, nope, nope” sneers and cut-downs. Sometimes I want to whimper like a puppy, but I don’t. Haha, I try to hold to the truth that I am free, even though it is something I am learning….:) Thank you for your honesty and words.

  14. October 10, 2015

    Sarah Reply

    I really love this. Thank you x

  15. October 11, 2015

    Lisa Reply

    Dear Rachel and other mums feeling this way – I promise you, your children will not recall their childhood and deem you a failure. While you focus on your perceived shortcomings and feel guilty and remember what you *didn’t* do or couldn’t provide, they will remember these years very, very differently.

    I sat down and had a conversation with my mum when I was about 22 years old. She broke down crying and told me how much of a failure she felt as a mother – that we struggled so much financially after her and dad divorced and she felt terrible for not being able to provide us with better food and take us out for dinner, for being unable to buy us more or better Christmas and birthday presents, take us on holidays, for being unable to heat the bedrooms in our house – or even the house when the gas got cut off because she couldn’t afford the bill. She felt terrible for having to spend so much time at work just so we could get by, and despite working full time still not being able to “provide” all this stuff for us. It had me in tears to think she had felt this way for so long. As I told her, my childhood was wonderful. I don’t ever remember being hungry, or disappointed, or going without anything. I loved the cakes she made for us from scratch for our birthdays, and that we all got to take a day off school & work to celebrate the day. I loved snuggling up together under a doona on our couch watching tv together and camping in our back yard under a tent made of blankets. I loved our “vacations” to my grandparents house on school holidays and playing board games or cards on a weekend. I actually enjoyed taking over doing the weekly shopping while mum was at work when I was about 12 years old – I felt important and responsible and respected to have such a job. I saw how hard my mum worked, and as an adult the example of her work ethic has influenced my own. Understanding now the pressures and stresses of everyday life when you’re struggling, let alone those things on top of raising two children by yourself while working through the emotional wake of a divorce – I have nothing but such incredible respect for my mum. She is the strongest, kindest, most selfless person I have ever met. She may not have been the textbook definition of a great mother – the type you also compare yourself to – but if I can be half the mother to my son that she was to me, I’ll be pretty damn happy 🙂

    That stuff that Rachel forgot? THAT is what your kids will remember – not the other stuff. I guarantee it.

    Love the daughter of a perfectly imperfect mum.

  16. September 4, 2016

    Kirsten Boic Reply

    This is a wonderful read. I am a mom to a 2 and a half year old girl and a 6 week old boy. I am my own worst enemy and forever beating myself up or not doing this and other doing that. For not having the energy to do the things I need to do. I feel guilty when sending my 2 year old to gran so I can have a break… I live in a constant world of guilt lately and I’m so tired that I’ve completely forgotten me…. sigh… it’s all normal I know, and it’s good to know that I’m not alone and that there are other moms out there that are just trying their best and we need to start learning that our kids love us unconditionally. … and that we need to be a little more forgiving with ourselves… i work full time so i have to sacrifice time with the kids to be able to provide for them and my husband is in the same boat. Im still learning so I have no advice on how to not be so hard on myself but I’m trying…. good luck to Lloyd the other moms out there.

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