I almost quit motherhood today. I forgot something. Something big. Something I didn’t know how to recover from.

“Hey bud. How was your day?” I called as he came in.

His tears had me running to wrap my arms around him. He was so upset it took him several minutes to tell me what the problem was. “Come on, bud” I coaxed. “No matter what it is, It’ll be OK.”

“You.” Sob. “Forgot.” Sob. “My birthday,” he gasped out the last words before burying his face in my shirt. I held him close, tears pouring down my face in horror.

I’d spent almost a week planning a special dual birthday celebration with his best friend at school. They had celebrated at each other’s houses over the weekend, but this was the school party. His friend’s mom would bring drinks and chips while I brought individually iced cookies. I even borrowed fall themed cookie cutters for the occasion. Everything was planned out and perfect.

Until I forgot the whole thing.

I didn’t even realize it until he walked through the door crying. Then I cried too and couldn’t stop. All I could think about was my little man waiting at school for his mom who never showed. How he must have started every time the door opened, hoping it was me. Believing until the last I would come. How disappointed he was when I didn’t. Because it’s never happened before.

I failed my son. He waited for me. Expected me. And I didn’t come. I forgot. I could sit here and give a million excuses – busy schedule, mom brain, head cold. But excuses don’t make it hurt any less.

I’ve always been a huge perfectionist. Always striving for the A, the flawless piano piece, the perfectly baked dinner, the meticulously arranged decor. I want to be the perfect mom, the one who remembers everything and never makes any mistakes. I want to be a constant for my kids. The thing they can depend on when the world lets them down. I want to be. But I’m not.

This was the first time I was overtaken by my humanity, although I’m afraid it won’t be the last. He’s only nine and he has a younger brother. I still have several years of this parenting thing left to go. There’s no way to be perfect all of the time, and I have no idea how to accept that about myself.

Or how to move forward when I fall horribly short. Because that’s all there is. Forward. Until someone invents that time machine for imperfect mothers everywhere. There’s forward. There’s I’m sorry. And, hopefully, there’s forgiveness. Forgiveness and understanding.

Forgiveness from my son, (bless him!), who cheerfully brought in the cookies the next day.

Understanding from the other mom, who not only held up her end of the snack bargain so our kids weren’t left hanging, but let me off for mine. Who dismissed my colossal failure with a laugh and an “it’s just mom brain.” And who was brave enough to share that the same sort of thing had happened to her.

Grace from his teacher, who said: “If this is the worst thing you ever do to your kid, you’re doing OK.”

And unconditional love from my husband, who continues to believe I can do this job better than anybody and refuses to accept my resignation.

I’m overwhelmed by grace, and I want more of that in my life. More people who wrap my imperfectness in love, because I have a feeling I’m going to need it. I want to be a perfect mom. But I’m not. And the truth is, nobody expects perfection from me, but me.

I will always love the mom who gets her to do list done, who successfully juggles all the schedules and doesn’t make any mistakes. She’s a rock star, and I need days when she’s running things.

But I pray for grace to love the mom who doesn’t get it all done, who forgets sometimes, who is late, who messes up, who falls short. And I pray for people in my life who can love that imperfect me. Who can extend grace to her. Who don’t let her quit, even on the days she really, REALLY wants to. Who remind her, “You ARE a good Mom and you DO have the strength to keep going. It won’t be perfect—but I promise you, it will be enough.”

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover that this flawed, forgetful woman is even stronger than the one I viewed as perfect. Strong enough to be human. Strong enough to say I’m sorry. Strong enough to fight on.

You may also like: 

Thank You, My Baby, For Loving Your Imperfect Mama

Dear Busy Mom, Church Isn’t About Perfection—It’s About Showing Up

I Don’t Want My Kids to Remember Perfection—I Want Them to Remember Me

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Shannon Pannell

Shannon Pannell married her childhood sweetheart 16 years ago, and is a stay-at-home mom to three boys, 10, 8 and 4, plus one daughter in heaven who would have just turned 12. She is currently living in North Mississippi, far away from her beloved Virginia beaches; and, despite a BA in English, has just started writing things for non-family (other people) to read. In her spare time, you can find her reading, binge-watching Numb3rs, and enjoying quiet wherever she can find it.