It’s so simple.

Monday is my grocery day.  It has been for years.   But it’s MONDAY, as I mentioned, so things are usually crazy, cranky and chaotic. I barely get the kids to school without losing my mind or doing the demon-mommy arm grab while talking through gritted teeth, then I bring Asher home and let him have a little Curious George time while I menu plan and list create.  I have about 30 minutes to do the list, grab my cash and my re-usable bags (I live in Oregon, people) and head out the door.  I can do my shopping and get back to the school for kindergarten pick up, then bribe the younger two with some snack from the store (that we surely ran out of last Friday) while I put the groceries away.

Have I mentioned I hate grocery shopping?  Just do not like it at all.  Especially with kids.  Bless them.  But I hate it.  In the summer when they are all home, I often go at 9pm rather than take all three.  No matter how I prep them and myself, create elaborate “help mommy” games and put my creative parenting hat on, 99% of the time it ends in tears and whining.  And that’s just from me.

My youngest is notoriously NOT good at sitting still for longer than 30 seconds.  So taking him shopping is almost as frustrating as all three.   I am just used to it being an exhausting 40 minutes, with him whining and yelling and grabbing things off the shelves and climbing out of the cart, me buckling the buckle and him immediately unbuckling it.  (Locks and buckles are a joke to this child!)  In his defense, he is an energizer bunny and it’s got to be boring as hell for his active body and mind to sit in that cart doing the EXACT SAME THING we did 7 days ago and not getting to swim in the lobster tank or sift through the bulk food candy like he wants.

This last Monday was no exception, and as we checked out, I did my usual juggling act of bagging my groceries, calling out instructions to Asher (“Sit down please.  Hands in.  Please sit down.  Put the bread back.  Put the bread back in the cart.  PUT THE BREAD BACK IN THE CART.  We don’t throw.  No throwing.  Play with your toy! You have a fun toy!  Don’t throw the toy.  I have to take the toy now.), and walking back and forth between him and the food.   Then he tried to crawl out of the cart again, but he got stuck and started to scream in pain.  I dropped my food and ran over, trying to figure out where he was wedged between hip/knee/ankle/toe and try to calm him down.  It took about 10 seconds, which felt like an eternity.  He was crying sad tears, and so I cupped his face and quietly told him I didn’t want him to get hurt and he needs to SIT DOWN IN HIS SEAT.    Life with this kid is a loud whirlwind, so it honestly wasn’t anything extra crazy or stressful, just normal crazy and stressful.  I was irritated, but didn’t freak out.  Yeah, me!

But I don’t think I realized how high-strung I was until the older woman on the other side of the bagging lane just picked up her groceries and smiled at me, looked straight in my eyes and said “You’re a good mama.”  And she left.

And hot tears started streaming down my face.

It’s not that no one has ever told me that.  Dear people in my life have encouraged me.  But it’s just in the bone-weary, day-to-day work of pouring into these little guys that sometimes it feels a little bit like a losing battle.  It’s so much easier to notice how I’m failing to live up to the mom I want to be than it is to notice the times when I actually AM the mom I want to be.  Maybe it’s also that my measure of success is pretty skewed.  If my children’s behavior and my level of inner peace and calm is the barometer for “good mom” then it is quite rare for me to achieve that coveted label.

And I know I’m not alone!  Fortunately I am surrounded by honest moms who express many of the similar struggles to live up to our own ridiculous standards.  Most of us admit that at least one or more of our kids are in really challenging, exhausting seasons.   Over coffee and muffins and park benches and juice boxes we talk about how crazy we are about our kids, how we never knew a love could be so strong it physically hurts.  But we also admit it’s harder than we thought.  We don’t want to mess up these precious lives.

So when that lady in Winco rocked my world with those four little words, I thought: It’s so simple.  We need to be told we are doing well.  We need to tell each OTHER that we are doing well.  I want to notice small ways that the mamas in my life are pressing in to their children, doing hard work when easier is an option, and continually striving to be molded and crafted into the mom our children need us to be, the mom God has created us to be.   The other moms in my life do things differently than I do–we make different parenting choices.  But we ALL are doing the best we can to love and guide our kids into healthy, well-adjusted, kind people.  And we need all the encouragement we can get.  So today I make a promise to be better at telling those in my life:

You’re a good mama.


  1. I wrote this post. Except I didn’t. But I totally could have!
    Sweet mercy, we are in the trenches of motherhood together my friend! I, too, was reminded this week (Spring Break here in TX) why I shop at 9pm during the summers as I wrangled all three of my busy boys through our grocery store (the glorious HEB). It’s in those moments that I also remind myself that they cannot be expected to know how to conduct themselves out in public unless they’re actually out… in public. 😉
    You ARE doing a good work, mama. I didn’t need a blog post to tell me that — it’s in who you are, in who God has created you, and through the love that He gives you.
    Rock on, sister!!

  2. Oh man, I needed to read this today! I was just asking a friend of mine how we can be more encouraging of each other as mothers, how we can be more REAL with each other. This is it! Thank you!

    And boy, that grocery experience with your little man is exactly mine with my little guy. Whew!

    And you ARE a good mama!

  3. I’m in one of those seasons. And I genuinely don’t feel, look or act like a good mom. I’m ready to give up, because I don’t know what else to do with Jack. Ever since we moved he has been everything I never wanted in a child. And we have tried everything to reverse that trend. The more I pray, the worse he gets.

  4. I’m impressed that you planned meals, made a list, had cash AND remembered the reusable bags! I’m lucky if I can come up with a rough plan many times and never remember the bags. My boys are 21 and 18 and gone and I miss when they were little. I know it is so tiring and so hard at times, but it is gone so fast. And now I have a 3 yr old girl, who I have carried out screaming more than once, but I don’t care if everyone is staring because she is such a gift and will be grown way too soon.

  5. Why just this morning I was grumbling in my mind about how tired I am with the potty fight! We are either fighting about whether or not she needs/wants to even try to go, when I KNOW she has to, or I am giving the WHY DID YOU GO IN THE OTHER ROOM TO HIDE SO YOU COULD POOP IN YOUR PANTIES WHEN YOU COULD HAVE JUST WALKED INTO THE BATHROOM AND POOPED IN THE TOILET??!! speech for the 89th time. It’s so, so, so tiring! I know God sees these things and that He thinks we are doing a good job, but boy is it sure nice to have a person notice too. Thanks for this. And also, YOU’RE A GREAT MAMA!!

  6. Amen!

    I find that society has so many expectations (especially in Christian circles, unfortunately) and we can be so quick to judge others or condemn ourselves when our kids don’t meet particular social or behavioral standards. My daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder and we didn’t identify it until she was 5, but even before I knew what was going on, God started showing me (the hard way) that I CANNOT base my identity as a mom on the real or perceived perceptions of other people. We need so much grace! The more we understand how much grace we have been given in Christ, the easier it becomes to extend grace to ourselves, our kids, and other parents/ teachers/ random observers. =)

  7. Oh Jen. This is so encouraging. I am constantly discouraged by facebook posts of friends posting how much they love every minute with their munchkins. I love mine more than I can say but I am overwhelmed and my patience is so stretched by toddler behavior day in and day out. I need to be reminded of the big picture and adjust my perspective. Thanks!

  8. Great post, Jen. I’m Heather and I was hoping you would be willing to answer a question about your blog! Please email me at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com 🙂

  9. Brought tears to my eyes! It’s not easy to parent a toddler. I taught toddlers in preschool and could say, “See you tomorrow,” at the end of the day. It’s one experience that made me decide not to adopt a toddler. But, no one told me that a toddler and a teen are the same, except for different sized-bodies. Ha! God pours out His mercy on all of us moms, doesn’t He?! It sure is encouraging when we hear those words!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *