You’re allowed to be a participation-trophy mama. You don’t have to win it all: maintaining a flawless nap schedule for the baby, packing strictly organic snacks for the toddler, traveling to every away softball game for the preteen, keeping screen time at a minimum for the adolescent.

In fact, you can’t win it all. While it’s in your maternal DNA to do anything and everything you can for your kiddo, it’s also in your human DNA to get tired, grow impatient, and drop the ball (a time or ten). This gracious truth is hard to accept, though, when technology has created a debilitating comparison trap for mothers. Only five minutes on Instagram reels will leave you feeling defeated, wondering . . .

Why can’t I get my entire house clean during that one-hour naptime window like her? She managed to unload the entire dishwasher, wipe down both bathrooms, and pick up all the toys off the living room floor. All I did was sit in the rocking chair and stare at my mess, too overwhelmed to know where to start.

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How does she have more than five minutes to herself in the morning? Somehow, she isn’t bombarded in the bathroom by both husband and child, so her hair and makeup are perfectly done. Meanwhile, she doesn’t have a day job but is sporting a Lululemon jogger suit and lighting a $50 soy candle. My ratty T-shirt is covered in my kiddo’s granola bar crumbs, I can’t even remember the last time I washed my hair, and I work 40 hours a week to barely afford that organic play mat.

I’ve tried convincing my kid to sit still and make that craft, but there’s never a finished product. The only thing I have to show for it is a messy dining room table and a child pitching a vicious fit because I won’t let them eat the craft paint.

Though I want to win at motherhood, earning the right to hear my sweet son say, “Ma-ma,” I must accept that social media has devious editing features, filters, and retake photos that never showcase motherhood’s round-the-clock wear and tear. I can’t do all the things all the timemy sanity can only do so much with minimal sleep, nutrition, and adult conversation.

And that’s not only normal but okay, acceptable, enough. Being a participation-trophy mama, showing up unable to do it all, counts for so much. This not-so-gold-star effort shows our children that love and laughter can live in an imperfect, messy home. It teaches them to aim for contentment by means of resilience rather than perfection. It teaches them to live in the skin and bones of an imperfect body and extend empathy to others.

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You see, God never made mamas to win gold trophies. We were never meant to cycle through social media’s ruthless rat races, secretly loathing each other for misleading highlight reels. Instead, we were designed to try and fail and try again at a love so fierce that we define winning as asking for forgiveness, taking personal time to hide in the bathroom and breathe, and trying that stinkin’ craft again the next day.

Mama, it’s okay to accept that participation trophy. You can even display it on your dusty living room mantel beside the empty bag of Goldfish. You can be proud of showing up for your children and yourself on this motherhood journey even when you know you won’t make it to the end of the day without snapping, rolling your eyes, or, dare I say, reminiscing on your pre-kids life.

But mama, no matter how far away from the podium you feel you landed today, you’re a winner to me. You showed up. You’re here. You’re trying. And that’s everything.

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Peyton Garland

Peyton Garland is an author, wannabe farmer, and proud boy mom, sharing her heart on faith, mental health, and eastern Tennessee life. Follow Peyton's journey on her blog, Uncured + Okay, and on Instagram @peytonmgarland.

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