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The One Thing You Need When You Feel Like a Failure

I'm not going to lie to you, I feel like I suck as a stay-at-home mom.

I know it's the ages my kids are at right now and a little bit of the winter blues setting in, but every day starts out as a mental battle for myself to slap a smile on and tackle the endless day of cleaning and diaper changes.

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And the truth is, every morning at approximately 10:32 a.m.—when nap time feels so far off, the dishes are done, I'm avoiding laundry, and it's just me, a toddler and a threenager—I feel like I am stuck in some kind of warped time zone. Minutes pass like hours, but I also feel the pressure of knowing that when I next blink, my kids will be waving to me from a stage and heading off to college.

Every part of my maternal being knows that I need to get my act together and realize all of the wonderful things I have going for in my life—a warm house, more food than we need on our table, money in the bank, the privilege of being home with my kids and never having to worry about who will be the one to pick them up from school.

On a daily basis, there are about 18,471 different ways I feel like I'm a complete and total failure as a mother.

But then the baby poops through her diaper and I get a bill in the mail, or the toddler pees the bed the exact second I needed him to get up to make it to school in time, or the 7-year-old sasses back in a tone I'm certain she learned from Disney Channel. And I snap.

I sigh. And slump. And sigh. And bang pots and pans. And sigh again.

I pick fights with my husband, raise my voice to my kids, bang my head on the basement floor when I wish I could be doing anything but playing Barbies for an hour straight because honestly, for whatever reason, I would rather clean toilets than play with Barbies.

In those moments, I kind of hate myself. Why can't I just be better? Why can't I love every moment of my life? What if my kids grow up remembering a grumpy, frazzled, always-stressed mother? Why can't I appreciate the pure joy of being home on a December morning with my babies while the sun shines and the snow falls out of our windows?

And actually, while we're at it, let me count all the rest of the ways I sincerely feel like I'm failing:

In getting my body "back,"

In being a better, more loving wife,

In being a friend (does anyone else genuinely feel like they have no time to hang out because even taking one night "off" means the entire world at home falls apart and you will be swimming in laundry for weeks as punishment?),

In actually ever doing my hair and make-up,

In being a grown-up woman who actually has nice nails and not just paints them one day and rocks chipped polish for three weeks straight until she picks them off in the shower.

I don't mean to depress you, but all I'm saying is that on a daily basis, there are about 18,471 different ways I feel like I'm a complete and total failure as a mother.

I sincerely wonder if I made a mistake and I'm not actually the woman for this job. But on those days when I feel like I am failing the most, I remember one thing:

The smiles on my children's faces.

I can instead choose to focus on the thing—even if it's just one, very small, teeny, tiny thing in a whole day of failures.

The truth is, even in those moments when I am begrudgingly playing Barbies or stifling a scream when the 3-year-old acts like a limp noodle when I'm trying to stuff him into his snow pants, even in those days I dream mightily of actually finishing a cup of coffee before it goes ice-cold, the smiles are still there.

Because I'm here.

I'm showing up.

I'm doing it.

It doesn't matter that I fail on a daily basis. I will always fail, that's a given. Life as a mom will, in general, not be a 24/7 fun fest of joy and happiness. It's work. It's rewarding work, but it's work nonetheless.

So instead of focusing on the myriad of ways I am failing and will most certainly fail again tomorrow and the day after that and the next day after that, I can instead choose to focus on the thing—even if it's just one, very small, teeny, tiny thing in a whole day of failures—that I am doing right.

It may just be the one time I made the kids giggle with my dance moves, or that one genuine belly laugh we all shared when the baby put her brother's hard hat on, or the pride I saw on my daughter's face when she showed me her 100 percent on the spelling test she studied so hard for.

It may be a fresh batch of homemade blueberry muffins I got up at 5 a.m. to make. It may be a pizza I begged my husband to pick up on his way home after a day when I couldn't even fathom having the energy to dial an order for pizza myself. It may be doing absolutely nothing at all but laying with my kids on our living room rug before the chaos of bedtime begins.

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It may be something big, or it may be something so small that I almost let it pass without noticing.

But when I take the time to notice the smiles on my children's faces—even one small, small smile in a day that is otherwise is full of my own disappointments, I can realize ...

I'm not so much of a failure after all.

Photograph by: j&j brusie photography

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