I threw a pile of dirty clothes over my shoulder as I searched through my son’s closet for his left tennis shoe.

If you would just put your shoes in the right spot when you come inside.
If you would just use your dirty clothes basket.
If you would just listen.

We had 30 minutes to get to the pediatrician’s office, a 20-minute drive away. And I hadn’t even gotten myself ready.

I’ll get up earlier than usual.
Then someone gets up with me and I’m sitting on the toilet with a toddler in my lap.
I don’t need to take a shower the night before, I’ll do it in the morning.
Day three of dry shampoo.
I’ll pack our bags and lay out their clothes.
But I forget to lay out the shoes.

So here I am on my knees in my 6-year-old’s closet 10 minutes before we have to leave while my toddler is sitting on top of the kitchen table spilling the milk from his brother’s cereal while the dogs lick the sticky floor.

Why didn’t he put his cereal bowl up?
How could I forget to put the dogs out?

Some days, I embrace the chaos. I laugh it off. It’s fine.
This was not one of those days.

I locate the shoe with five minutes to spare and turn my attention to the hallway mirror, where I see that my unbrushed hair sits on top of my head in a bun and my glasses cover puffy, tired eyes on a bare face.

I’m hit with the reality that I’ll walk into the doctor’s office looking like an ogre inevitably sitting by Miss Presentable-and-Put-Together with the nuclear family kids dressed like Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

I slump through the hallway and walk into my bedroom, followed by four feet and a mantra of can-I-take-my-toys/mama-mama-mama.

I quickly step inside my bedroom and shut/lock the door. I stop the feet but not the whines.

I can feel the tears welling from my own eyes but I don’t have time for that today.

And once I’m alone, I sink into a familiar downward spiral.

I’m not organized.
I’m bad at time management.
I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I suck at my job.
Why did God choose me?
They deserve so. much. more.

I buy myself two minutes as I talk at the closed door.
Let mama throw on some clothes and put some makeup on.

I grab my hat and my mascara to hide my hair and my puffy eyes.

But you’re pretty enough, mama.

The words that came from the other side of my bedroom door stopped everything.
I stopped frantically searching for a bobby pin. I stopped my self-hate monologue. I just stopped.

I opened the door and hugged both of the little boys who had no idea what they had done to make me smile when I had just been yelling. They had been standing there ready and waiting.

They weren’t sighing at my lack of focus. They weren’t frustrated. They didn’t care what I looked like. They didn’t guilt me for slamming a door right in front of them.

They whine. They repeat themselves. over. and over. and over. Because that’s what little people do.

But they don’t judge and they don’t hate. So why do I?

I loaded the car with no mascara. (But with a hat, let’s not get crazy with that postpartum hair loss.)

With 20 minutes to spare for a 20-minute drive, I force myself, for once, to think of all the things I did right this morning.

I made eggs and toast. I packed two bags with snacks and extra clothes. My kids woke up with clean sheets and are now nestled into safe car seats.

These mundane Monday tasks may not prove merit to anyone else. I didn’t publish my first book today. I didn’t start my day with a killer workout. I didn’t cross out anything on my ever-growing home improvement to-do list.

But you’re pretty enough, mama.

For one moment, I stop thinking

I’ll do better the next day, and then the next day. Tomorrow, I’ll be more put-together.

And realize that I already am.

Every time I accomplish a task, no matter how small, it doesn’t mean I need to raise my standards.

Instead, motherhood has taught me that it’s OK to lower your standards for yourself every now and then. Because your standards aren’t just about you anymore.

They’ve doubled, tripled, quadrupled.

And if you’re like me, you expect yourself to cope just the same. Not just cope, but master. Knock it out of the park. every. time.

Today, I reversed my downward spiral into a pep-talk as I parked at the pediatrician’s office right on time.

I walked into the lobby with my hat and my glasses and my gratefulness.

Because children aren’t always our audience and mamas aren’t always the messengers.

And you’re not just pretty enough, mama, you are enough.

Originally published on the author’s blog

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Whitney Ballard

Whitney Ballard is a writer and mom advocate from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, where she writes about motherhood, marriage, mental health, and more. Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holing a Master’s degree; she writes about that journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens. When she’s not writing while on her porch swing or cheering/yelling at the ballpark, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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