to the mom who fears she is failing

I fear that too.

Sometimes I go to bed at night and worry and think that my motherhood journey doesn’t look like what I thought it would be like and that I should get the award for the worst mom ever. At least for the day. I make this tally list of when I was too short, too crabby, too impatient, too distracted, and where I mess up.

It’s a long list, friends.



Let’s just put this on the table and be real. No more elephants in the room.

We compare.

We compare our lives with our friends with the lives of those we see at Target whose kids are behaving and not begging for the $2.99 impulse toy at the checkout.  And all that comparing manifests itself in a crazy motherhood list of expectations, rules, and perfectionism.

Now, let’s just put this on the table and be real some more.

We fear failing too.

I know that. Maybe we don’t say words like I’m failing (or maybe we do), but rather sit in our homes feeling like we’re not enough or that we’re not doing enough. You might be just like me and have those moments when the kids are fighting and you sit in your living room wondering why you’re kids are the only ones who can’t get along. (I know, ridiculous, right? Yet, I do.) Sometimes the fear of failing is cloaked in trying to keep the illusion of perfect there and mumbling I’m great and I’m fine when inside you just want to say that you feel so alone.

Somehow we believe the fallacy if life isn’t perfect then life is thus failing.

And sometimes we don’t talk about how hard motherhood is or that we are so sick and tired about dealing with kids who fight over things like iPod time use, who got more ice-cream, and think that it’s the end of the world when we tell them to pick up the napkin that didn’t make it to the garbage can but should have.  Or that it’s so frustrating to walk into a messy room that was just clean. Or that sometimes playdates aren’t that fun. Or that we don’t want to work and we feel like we’re not as good a mom if we work. Or that we miss working but would never confess it. Or that there are days where we just said yes to the television just so we could catch our breath. Or that there are days where the kids just don’t like us that much.


Do you know that on the last day of  school my son Brennan was given the option to purchase a $5 teeshirt celebrating the fact that he was moving from grade school to middle school? And that I never saw the email because I was traveling for work and then when I did that I went to his school desperately trying to find a teeshirt for him? And then I cried thinking I was the worst mom ever because I didn’t buy a teeshirt and that I was so frustrated that they didn’t order extras for us moms that don’t read emails. (And the irony of me, the social media person, not reading an email doesn’t escape me). All of this angst over a teeshirt, friends. A teeshirt that probably would have made it to the washing machine, been forgotten about in there, and been one where I would have had to rerun the load before moving it to the dryer.

Here’s the truth. I bought him a new white teeshirt from Old Navy and he didn’t care that it wasn’t the $5 teeshirt that cause me to text my best friend Maria with the words I’m the worst mom ever. Over a teeshirt. What in the world was I getting worked up over a teeshirt for when there are real more difficult problems to be dealt with? How did that teeshirt define motherhood success?

You know what? He didn’t care.

In fact, he was just excited about getting a silly white teeshirt with nothing on it to wear for the last day of school. Yet here I was getting  after myself for missing that one thing. I was cutting myself down for working, for not being as present as I thought I should be, and for being the only mom (in my mind) that didn’t buy the shirt.

I can list you all the places that I feel like I’ve failed as a mom. All the cookies burnt, clothes left in the washing machine, times we were late, homework lost, times I’ve yelled when I wished I had whispered, messes tucked away, frustrations over milk spilled, and on and on. I’m sure you could too. I’m sure we could sit together in Starbucks with the kids running around a bit and talk about our real lives. With times where we sat in the car and cried just a bit for no reason why. With lives that don’t look anything like Hallmark. With our worries, fears, and insecurities about being enough as a mom.

I would tell you that so many times I’ve feared failing as a mom.



And again. And again. And again.

It’s not failing to forget to buy the teeshirt. It’s not failing to have moments where you sit in the bathroom and cry just a bit. It’s not failing to feel like you’re not doing enough. It’s not failing to have living rooms that are messy at times. It’s not failing to not have your kids wearing the coolest clothes. It’s not failing if you have to work or stay at home but wish you could work. It’s not failing to serve hotdogs for dinner. It’s not failing to not know what to do at times. It’s not failing to feel frustrated and lose your patience when the four year old refuses to stand up in the grocery store because you wouldn’t get the big blue police car cart. It’s not failing to not know what to do next with the teenager who won’t talk to you. It’s not failing to be behind in laundry. It’s not failing if you’re life doesn’t look like a Hallmark movie. It’s not failing to make mistakes. It’s not failing if you didn’t do a birthday party for your kids. It’s not failing if you never go to Disney World with your kids. It’s not failing if your child doesn’t get straight A’s. It’s not failing if sometimes you wish bedtime was earlier. It’s not failing to go to bed at night wondering if you’re enough.

It’s only real.

Real is blurred in this world of instagram filters, photoshop edits, pic monkey airbrush tools, and culled photos that don’t really show the mess that can happen within 8 minutes of waking up.


Do you realize that for every photo put up anywhere there are probably a dozen photos that didn’t make it? Do you realize that 90% of the status updates probably never hit the Facebook feed? That most Pinterest projects involve carefully editing, placement, and lighting? That somehow in the crazy digital world the basics, the foundation, the guts of who we are has been painted with images of moms and parents who seem to have it together 24/7 in their 25 hour days?

Not being perfect doesn’t mean you fail.

Not being perfect makes you real.

And the truth is that when one fails, or thinks they fail, that is where you learn. One of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, from Momastery posted a selfie of herself in the morning seconds after waking up next to a picture of her after three hours of prep for a photo shoot. I love her for doing this. It was real. She stripped the layers of perfectionism away and in a way said hey look I’m normal. It’s okay to be normal. It’s okay to not have everything together. It’s okay. 

I want you to see you through the lens of all the awesome that you do and not through the lens of fear. Fear of failing is paralyzing and distorts the truth of motherhood.

I want you to see you for the awesome that you do that so often feels just completely normal.

I want you to see motherhood beauty at it’s core and not through the filters, touch-ups, and perfectionism that has painted motherhood today.

I want you to see you and love what you do. Even if you fail. Don’t fear failing.

That doesn’t make you a bad mom. A not enough mom. A mom not worthy to be celebrated.

It makes you real.

Do you know what makes a difference in this world?



Working hard. Loving your kids. Messing up. Trying again. Crying sometimes. Laughing.

Motherhood isn’t a journey to see who can be the most awesome mom in the world.

Motherhood is simple.

It’s failing and trying again and gradually learning that it wasn’t failing, but was rather living.

Living your story, living your life, and seeing that you are, in fact, mom enough.


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27 Responses to “to the mom who fears she is failing”

  1. June 11, 2014

    Sofia Reply

    Hi Rachel, you just saved my day. Thank you, thank you.
    Let me get up and try again!

  2. June 11, 2014

    Gen Reply

    Well done and said! Good reminder! Sounds like what my friends would say to me! Hope your friends cherish you! Enjoy your journey…..

  3. June 11, 2014

    Bethany Reply

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I had a breakdown moment yesterday—complete with sobbing into a pillow asking God why did he give me kids because I obviously wasn’t cut out to be a mother! But this….this post made me feel “normal” again. And realize that each day of failure is just me living a real life.
    Love to you!!! So very grateful.

  4. June 12, 2014

    Lynn Reply

    I’ve definitely had some “not buying t-shirt” days with my kids. As you found out…they still love you!
    Know that you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers!
    Psalms 86:5-7 For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, O LORD, unto my prayer; and attend to the voice of my supplications. In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.

  5. June 12, 2014

    Jackie Lee Reply

    What a beautiful and inspired post. Thank you for sharing, it’s definitely a message I needed to hear. 🙂

  6. June 12, 2014

    Kristi Reply

    Thank you so much for this. I had my own “t-shirt” moment today when I forgot to send the kids with somthing special to take for an activity at camp. This came right on time to reassure me.

  7. June 12, 2014

    Angie Reply

    I needed this one today for sure! Thank you!!!!!

  8. June 12, 2014

    Life Breath Present Reply

    Fought back tears throughout this piece. Just today I repeatedly said to another two moms (2 wonderful moms, and 1 who is a mom-figure to me) that I’m not a good parent. That I yell at my 13.5mth old. That I can’t stand the mess. That I don’t do enough activities. That I let him play most of the day by himself. That I don’t know what to do or how to do or when to do or whatever. I said it over and over. And you know what their response was – “you’re doing great. I did that, too. I know. It’s hard. You’re doing a good job.” Over and over I heard this today. And I needed to hear it. I needed the understanding, love, and acceptance that it’s all ok.

    I’ve been struggling a bit for a couple of weeks and it meant so much. I didn’t probably fully hear it each time, but I did hear it. And I needed it.

    And this post. This post said the same thing. So, thank you. Thank you once again for saying what I needed to hear, when I needed to hear it. Because, yes. Motherhood is hard and every day I’m trying and I’m working hard and I’m here, right in the mix doing the best I can. And that best is full of love. And that best is all Baby Boy cares about, because to him, there is no other perfect! 🙂

  9. June 12, 2014

    Andrea r Reply

    Thank you for this post! As the mother of four under age 7, at the days end, I’m usually exhausted, frustrated and unhappy with how I handled every obstacle /tantrum/ mishap of that day. I try telling myself that tomorrow is always a fresh start !

  10. June 12, 2014

    Lynn Reply

    Really surprised there aren’t more comments on here.. Know that pretty much every mom has felt this way…a lot!
    Psalms 86:15-16 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth. O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.

  11. June 12, 2014

    Laura Reply

    Rachel, I am new to reading you, and while I should have gone to bed hours ago, my work is never done. As a mom to 11 kids ages 2-18, your post touched my heart. The constant feeling of inadequacy in meeting the so many and varied needs here can be overwhelming, and usually I am so busy I cannot even think abut it. Homeschooling, which we love, along with the house never cleaned up enough, clean laundry never put away, recipes never made, never enough attention given to the kids, feeling life is a blur, and running all day and never catching up….this is life. Thank you for telling me I am mother enough…even if just for giving my all to motherhood. Thank you, my friend! I will make time to continue reading your posts! God bless you.

    • June 17, 2014

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      Thank you, Laura, for your very kind words.

      Bless you. And you know what? Motherhood is often simply a blur.


  12. June 13, 2014

    Terri Reply

    Wow. Wow again. Rachel, you know how to speak to my soul. Thank you. Blessings over and over and over again.

  13. […] To the mom who fears she is failing | Finding Joy […]

  14. June 14, 2014

    Lynn Reply

    Always praying!
    Psalms 46:1-5 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.

  15. June 15, 2014

    Laura Reply

    Thank you for this post! We are moving and my children keep feeling let down because we are so busy. I keep telling myself that I can make it up to them but your right, it’s living. I feel like I never do enough but I think I am not alone with these thoughts. I often wish society was more supportive of families.

  16. June 16, 2014

    Lynn Reply

    What comfort we receive knowing God is our refuge no matter what we’re going through! Praying!
    Psalms 46:7, 10-11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.(10-11) Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

  17. June 16, 2014

    Stephanie Reply

    I INTENTIONALLY ignored spring picture day because, seriously, who needs school pictures twice a year? The day of spring picture day (unknown to me because I forgot about it), my son argued with me that he wanted to wear his rattiest t-shirt because he LOVES it, even though some kids make fun of him for chewing his shirts (a habit he finally broke). When the pictures came in i was so glad I could just send them back.

    Then came the email toward the end of the year about the office having extra class pictures. Damn it! When did that happen? My husband ran over to the school and purchased one. Does our son care that I forgot to order a class picture, or that I let him wear a ratty t-shirt to be forever immortalized in the drawers of 25 other parents (c’mon, we all have THAT drawer!), or that I was at work so his dad had to go get it on his day off?

    Nope, he loves that we got him a picture that he’ll remember forever as awesome first grade with an awesome teacher. And every time i see his shirt in that picture, I’ll remember that he was brave enough to stand up for his own tastes, even if others might make fun of him.

  18. March 5, 2015

    Julie Reply

    I never post back…but this time I had to. You brought tears to my eyes. I have twin toddler boys, armed with masters degree emphasizing children behavior and well being; everyday I feel like I have failed as a mother. I have failed from what I learned from my patient mother, who did it all from scratch. I have failed my education which had taught me one thing and my reactions have proven otherwise. Most of all I feel like I have failed my children…who deserve a more patient, organized, confident and capable mother.
    Having said all that, each day I dust myself off and try again, knowing no one loves them like I do.
    Just sometimes we need to hear its ok and we are not alone in this struggle.

  19. March 5, 2015

    Dede Reply


  20. March 17, 2015

    Ashley Reply

    Today is only Tuesday!!! Today I posted on FB I wish someone else cared about my house and it’s cleanliness (or lack of) especially my husband. We have 3 children 7,6,& 11 mo. My laundry is everywhere literally from cloth diapers to bras and underwear ( yes even my kitchen) legos everywhere oh and we have 3 dogs:-/ I can not relax until my house is clean if it is a mess I’m usually annoyed. Your post is so real and true and I want to take it all in and remind myself daily of what you said. My biggest fear as being a mother and anything in life is failure to raise my kids right. I pray for every mom put there who know this post is speaking right to them and still can’t just let it go. The struggle is real. One day God will show me how to handle it all and put in my super cape until then we need more wonderful post like yours.

    • March 17, 2015

      Rachel Marie Martin Reply

      Bless you Ashley. You are in one of the most busy stages of motherhood ever ever ever. It’s so hard to keep up and it’s okay if the to-do list isn’t done. Just do your best. Love those kids. And make sure to take care of you. Even if it’s an extra 92 seconds in the shower. 🙂

      With joy.


  21. May 1, 2016

    Marianne Reply

    Wow, where were when I needed this? I was a single divorced mother of three and feelings of failure was the norm for me, even after everyone told me I wasn’t, now I look back, my “kids” are 31,23 and 20, and it has only been the past year or so that I can look and think to myself, I wasn’t perfect by a long shot, but my kids turned out ok! No arrests, young parents, no drugs, drinking, besides the normal stuff, all in school to further education, all working, I must have done something right after all! They all still love me and all is good in our world, thanks for reaching other mothers who need to hear this, but honestly, I don’t think those feelings go away til later when they are grown, and you finally “see” for yourself………I love when they still ” need” me, but ,now,They now look after me, when I need them, they are there! Now, if only I can find my car keys, ” Oh, kids!! “

  22. May 4, 2016

    Shannon Adams Reply

    Very good article! Made me reflect on alot of the small things I felt that I failed at, It was ME that matters to them! It is me being the best mom I can be!

  23. June 13, 2017

    debbie Reply

    needed this post TODAY. So down about where I am as a mom and where my kids are and my house and our budget and everything else. and as I’m reading your post, the lightbulb went on and I heard “Velveteen Mom” whispered to my heart – and now I am crying at work but i feel a little lighter and less bound – so thank you for writing this when you did so I can read it when I needed it!

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