Mothers. Moms. Mamas. We’re full of that thing they call “maternal instinct”. We’re in a constant state of nurturing, of picking up pieces and haphazardly gluing them back together with that half-dried glue stick we found under the couch.

We rejoice in our children’s successes. We feel the sting of their paper cuts and the gut punch of their heartbreaks. We breathe our life into their lungs because they are us—just the extended version, the remix. We worry about the country, the world, the universe for them. We realize that everything is beyond ourselves, death is a certainty, and suddenly that matters. So much.

We beg ourselves to be brave when inside we’re on fire—when our minds are just a pile of insecurities set ablaze. We pace and we falter. We check tasks off a never-ending list in search of some kind of deeper meaning. We inhale doubt and exhale promises.

But amidst the chaos, we are calm. We hold our babies close to our chests. We breathe in their scent as we blow up their life vests. Look at us, staying afloat.

Our identities, the ones we fought mercilessly for in our 20s, are now sinking beneath the mental load of motherhood. We naturally know how to care for our children. We pride ourselves in that. That “maternal instinct” remember? We comfort and nourish them without second guessing, we find them creative outlets and work tirelessly to grow their brains. We have this innate ability to love someone so deeply, to embrace their imperfections, to accept them as they are. Not only that, but we work at becoming better mothers. We read about it, we ask questions, we seek experts. We desperately call our own mothers. We search for soul sisters who have also dived headfirst into motherhood. We form mobs of sleepless Amazon Prime shoppers in yoga pants. We crave connection, we crave purpose, we crave tacos. We strive to be the best damn mothers we can be.

“You cannot pour from an empty cup” is the truest statement ever Pinterested. Moms, our cups are rapidly dwindling. We are the ultimate rock stars of compassion, of teaching, of understanding others. The queens of empathy. Multitasking superheroes. Why are we able to save everyone else from drowning, but it’s so hard to save ourselves?

What if (and bear with me here, this is crazy) instead of belittling and tearing ourselves apart, we just held ourselves still in one spot like we would for our children? And rocked ourselves? Gently, you know? Without judgment? What if we filled our cups with some of the encouragement we save for our children? Just some?

What if we took some time to ourselves each day, wrapped ourselves in the comforts of warm down comforters and soft music and just said—it’s OK. We’re OK. It will all be OK?

What if we were gentle with ourselves, but also determined to push ourselves full force towards our dreams? I know, I know. It’s insane. But, for just one day, I want to look in the mirror and see my daughter. I would see her skin (my skin) glowing beyond the dark circles, the way her eyes light up when she smiles. I would look right past her split ends, double chin and laugh lines and I would see radiance. I would never tear her apart. I would never tell her she’s less than.

If I loved myself like I love my daughter, I would reassure myself always. I would allow myself to make mistakes—even encourage them. I would feed myself more balanced meals and go to sleep on time every time. I’d explore outside more. I might even floss. (Probably not.)

The point is, I would experience pure happiness for the first time without thinking about what kind of horrible thing could happen next. I can’t even imagine looking my daughter in the eyes and reminding her of impending doom—but I do this to myself. Without hesitation. Every day.

If I loved myself like I love my daughter, I would have a renewed sense of pride in who I am. I would have a burning desire to see myself reach goals. I would strive for more and believe wholeheartedly that I could get there. I wouldn’t dwell on the little setbacks. I wouldn’t keep reminding myself of all of the socially awkward things I said in 2003. I would thrive in a life without fear.

When I was younger (and full of imagined wisdom), I told myself that my future children would never see me emotionally distraught. I planned to always be happy around them—body positive and totally sane. Well, well, well. What pre-motherhood me didn’t take into account was that I would have to fake it sometimes, and kids are pretty smart. They know when we’re pretending. They watch every move we make. We cannot fool them into thinking that we love and respect ourselves if truly we are barely above water.

I know this is a stretch, and I’m not sure if it’s wishful thinking. What I do know, moms, is that we have this whole heart full of compassion to pull from, and we’re giving ourselves none of it.

We deserve to be loved from the inside out. It’s starts with us. We’re so good at it. So, moms, instead of pretending, what if we actually started to love ourselves?

We don’t have to fill the whole cup at once, let’s not get crazy here. We can take one drop at a time.

Go grab one of those crusty old medicine droppers that you have lying around in your kitchen somewhere (that you definitely washed but is still sticky for some reason). Then suck up exactly 5 milliliters of love. No more, no less. Then, have two strong adults pin you down and force feed you the love medicine (because it’s disgusting and should have been bubble gum flavored but I digress). Only 2 milliliters will actually make it in; the rest will definitely stain your new footie pajamas BUT hey, that’s more love than you had before. You still with me?

Then, little by little, keep taking that love medicine. Soon it will seem natural. Soon you’ll have a whole cup full. Then when your children need a dose, you’ll have it to give. You’ll have more than enough. You can give endlessly like you’ve always done, but this time you’ll still have some left for you. Because you’re important, too. You deserve to be loved. You deserve to love yourself like a mother.

Originally published on the author’s blog

You may also like:

When You Choose To Love Yourself As Much As You Love Your Kids

Dear Future Daughter – Please Love Yourself

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Courtney Stackhouse

Courtney Stackhouse is a passionate teacher turned stay-at-home snack giver. She entered her 30s with a burning desire to give less effs. She lives for words, memory foam pillows, and all things breakfast-y. Her obsessions include spending time with her fiesty toddler Finley, coffee of any kind, tiny book shops, connecting with friends on a cosmic level and overanalyzing mostly everything. 

I Didn’t Know How Much I Needed Other Mothers

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Two mom friends smiling at each other

I read somewhere the other day that when a child is born, a parent is too. In my first few months being a mother, I’m learning just how odd that sentiment is. In an instant, I became someone new. Not only that, but I became part of a group I didn’t realize existed. That sounds wrong. Of course, mothers existed. But this community of mothers? I had no idea. It took us a long time to get where we are today. Throughout our journey with infertility, I knew in my heart I was meant to be a mother. I knew that...

Keep Reading

I Wasn’t Sure You’d Be Here To Hold

In: Baby, Motherhood
Mother with newborn baby on her chest in hospital bed

I stood naked in my parents’ bathroom. Even with the tub filling, I could hear my family chattering behind the door. I longed to be with them, not hiding alone with my seven-month round belly, sleep-deprived, and covered in pox-like marks. For three weeks, I’d tried Benadryl, lotions, and other suggested remedies to cure the strange rash spreading over my body. No luck. By Christmas Day, my life had been reduced to survival. Day and night, I tried to resist itching, but gave in, especially in my sleep. At 1 a.m., 2 a.m., 3 a.m., the feeling of fire ants...

Keep Reading

5 Things Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher Wants You To Know

In: Kids, Motherhood
Child raising hand in kindergarten class

I am a teacher. I have committed my life to teaching children. Of course, before I began this career, I had visions of standing in front of a group of eager-eyed children and elaborating on history, science, and math lessons. I couldn’t wait to see the “lightbulb” moments when students finally understood a reading passage or wrote their first paper. And then I had my first day. Children are not cut out of a textbook (shocking, I know) but as a young 23-year-old, it knocked me right off my feet. I was thrown into the lion’s den, better known as...

Keep Reading

God Has You

In: Faith, Motherhood
Woman hugging herself while looking to the side

Holding tight to the cold, sterile rail of the narrow, rollaway ER bed, I hovered helplessly over my oldest daughter. My anxious eyes bounced from her now steadying breaths to the varying lines and tones of the monitor overhead. Audible reminders of her life that may have just been spared. For 14 years, we’d been told anaphylaxis was possible if she ingested peanuts. But it wasn’t until this recent late autumn evening we would experience the fear and frenzy of our apparent new reality. My frantic heart hadn’t stopped racing from the very moment she struggled to catch a breath....

Keep Reading

To My Wife: I See Your Sacrifice

In: Marriage, Motherhood
Family of 3 sitting on floor together at home

Selfless. No other word more clearly depicts your commitment to your family. Motherhood is drastically different than you dreamed of your whole life—the dreams of what sort of mama you would be, of how much you would enjoy being a mother even on the tough days. Since day one of our relationship, you’ve been selfless. Since day one of being a mama, you’ve been selfless. Your love for your family shines through on the brightest and darkest days. But on the dark days, it shines the brightest. I can’t count the hours of sleep sacrificed, the tears cried, the time...

Keep Reading

To the Extended Family That Shows Up: We Couldn’t Do This Without You

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Family visiting new baby in a hospital room

This picture—my heart all but bursts every time I see it.  It was taken five years ago on the day our daughter was born. In it, my husband is giving her her very first bath while our proud extended family looks on. It was a sweet moment on a hugely special day, but gosh–what was captured in this photo is so much more than that. This photo represents everything I could have ever hoped for my kids: That they would have an extended family who shows up in their lives and loves them so deeply.  That they would have grandparents,...

Keep Reading

Please Don’t Tell a Couple Trying to Conceive to Just Relax

In: Friendship, Living, Motherhood
Black-and-white photo of medical supplies

This is a plea. A plea to those who know someone who is struggling with infertility. So, if you’re reading this, this is directed right to you. Please, for the love of everything, when someone tells you they are struggling to conceive, do not tell them to “just relax.” I know it’s the cliche, default term most blurt out because they don’t know what else to say. It’s awkward to discuss for some. I’m 10000% positive it is coming from a good place and is meant to be calming and reassuring, and you really do believe it’s true because a...

Keep Reading

You’re Almost Grown, But You’re Always Welcome Back Home

In: Kids, Motherhood
Teen in room studying with computer and smartphone

Dear child, In the days before you could walk or talk, there were times when you would wail—when my rocking and shushing and bouncing were seemingly futile—but it didn’t matter. Each day and night, multiple times, I always picked you up and welcomed you back into my arms. As a toddler and a preschooler, you had some pretty epic meltdowns. There were times when you would thrash and scream, and all I could do was stand by and wait for the storm to blow over. Eventually, you would run to me, and I would welcome you back with a warm embrace....

Keep Reading

My Last Baby Rarely Gets All of Me

In: Motherhood
Mom and toddler snuggle on bed

Ever since you came into being, you heard the chaos of your future. You felt the jostle of your siblings climbing onto my lap and the hugs of each of their arms as they said goodnight to you for nine months. You are here now, and you are cherished by us all. Your cheeks are constantly kissed, and you are never alone. RELATED: To the Mom of a Big Family, Your Heart Was Made For Many And then, at last, your siblings are tucked cozy into their beds, and it’s just us. I stop everything and look at you. I know now...

Keep Reading

That Mom at the Playground Could Become Your Best Friend

In: Friendship, Motherhood
Young mother sitting on bench looking at playground

I didn’t realize I was that mom at the playground. That mom who always smiles at the other moms even if she doesn’t know them. That mom who often makes small talk while she pushes her toddler on the swings. That mom who strikes up a conversation while sitting on the bench watching her older kid play. That mom who can often tell whether you are interested in talking to her or not. And if you don’t seem interested, that’s okay. Because maybe you’re preoccupied with other things going on in your life right now. Maybe you’re overwhelmed with the...

Keep Reading