Shop the fall collection ➔

She dumped the Aveda dry shampoo into her greasy hair, added some mascara to yesterday’s, and rubbed the eye cream into the dark circles letting everyone know she was tired.

Just as she finished rubbing it into her skin, one of her two one-year-olds threw his dad’s book into the toilet with a splash. She stomped her foot and yelled at him for being in her bathroom when she asked him nicely to play in his room for five minutes.

She carried him down the carpeted hall, set him in his room next to his busy brother and closed their door to a crack. Half-way jogging down the hall, she landed back in her bathroom and stared at herself in the mirror.

This isn’t the mama I wanted to be. This isn’t how I wanted to mama.

I stare back into her eyes, the one in the mirror—me—which are deep blue and so tired. Her toddlers are going through a sleep regression again. How many of those do they go through anyway?

The thing about her—about the one staring at the mirror—is that she wanted to be a mama so desperately. Deep in her bones, she ached and longed and waited to become a mama. And when she finally did, she became a mother to two not even five months apart. Miracles—she is raising miracles.

Hard seasons come and go and shift and change.

She is in a hard season, and it is not because of her littles. It feels as though the weight of their whole world rests on her shoulders, as she works full time as a stay-at-home mom. It is her job to pay the bills, and feed her babies, while her husband cannot work. In this season she must work harder than she ever has and it is beginning to wear her thin.

More than usual, she has snapped and yelled at the two who made her mama. Who knew the pressure of solely providing was so heavy?

Staring back into those tired eyes with poorly covered up bags, she envisions what grace might look like for her. She wonders if the grace she so deeply wants others to experience was also available to her. Of course, she knew it was—but the real trick was learning to grab hold of it. The real challenge was to not punish herself for being imperfect, for being human.

This isn’t how I wanted to mama.

The thought terrorizes her. It grips her and tells her of all her flaws and weaknesses, reminding her how much she is failing. She looks at other mamas on Instagram, mamas with actual twins, even, and sees them flourishing. Smiling. Laughing. The temptation to compare her whole life to other mamas’ tiny frames is detrimental to her joy, a thief. It belittles and degrades who she is, this comparison.

She never feels like enough, this one. But you know what she is beginning to uncover? She doesn’t have to be enough. She doesn’t have to be it all. The bills have always gotten paid, her babies have always eaten, and in being okay with being not enough she is more than enough.

When she realizes it’s okay to not be perfect, to not do it all, to invest in the current moment being presented to her—that is when she becomes far more than enough.

Grabbing hold of grace for ourselves is one of the trickiest yet simplest of acts. But it’s the choice that will save us, day after day, moment after moment.

There is grace for you. mama.

There is grace to sit in, to walk in, to relish in. It is worth noticing and embracing. Grab hold of the grace to be exactly where you are today.

Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty. You can love Jesus or not, go to church or not: she'd love to have coffee with you. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a wanna-be runner. Connect with her at and join her email list. 

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading

Teach Your Kids to Be Kind to Those Who Are Different from Them

In: Kids, Living
Little boy with Down syndrome in pool

On the eve of Zeke starting kindergarten, I have many hopes for my youngest child, mostly that other kids treat those who are different from them with kindness. Or maybe with a slightly sassy, “SO WHAT?” to those who may be being unkind. This summer while on vacation we were having a great time swimming at a pool. There are few places that top a swimming pool in Zeke’s mind. He is SO happy in the water. Zeke was playing in the kiddie pool by himself while I sat at a table nearby. As he played, kids would enter the...

Keep Reading

Your Kids Are Exhausted by the Start of the School Year—Go Easy On Them

In: Kids
Child with tablet on couch

In the first weeks of school, your child has been a rockstar.  They have faced brand new situations—daily—multiple times a day. New people, new friends, new teachers. New schools, new classrooms, new procedures.   They have remembered a billion things. Which bus to ride. Which room to enter. Which hall to turn down. What their schedule is. Which class is next and what book they need for that class. When to be quiet. Where to sit. How to sit. Where the bathroom was. Where to line up. What the directions were. Thirty or so new names. They have been quiet for...

Keep Reading