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Oh Mama, That Was Not a Mom Fail

Oh Mama, That Was Not a Mom Fail

A few weeks ago, one of my mom friends put up a social media post saying she hadn’t taken a picture of her kids on the first day of school. She hashtagged it “#epicmomfail.” 

Um, no. That’s #beingtoohardonyourself.

I know this mom and she is amazing. She cares about her kids. She’s enthusiastic and involved. I’ve never seen her when she wasn’t smiling. (Note to my children: No, you cannot have her instead of me.)

I also get that she probably wasn’t really being that hard on herself. But maybe she was? The pressure to be the best moms we can be is huge because we know a terrible, wonderful truth: THIS JOB MATTERS. And because it does, we want to get it right. Or, at the very least, we want to try to get it right most of the time.

My struggle–and it’s one I know other moms fight against–is that getting it right can get out-of-control. In Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul, Angela Thomas warns, “The ‘right thing’ can be good, and then it can be oppressive and consuming. The ‘right thing’ can become more about keeping rules and performing for others.”

With God, there is grace. But if never failing as a mom becomes a goal we pursue at any cost, it is an idol. And Jonah 2:8 is starkly clear that grace and idolatry cannot live together peacefully in the same spiritual house: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

I don’t want to give up grace that could be mine. I don’t want you to give up grace that could be yours.

Missing a kid photo-op, whether it’s the first day of school, the last day of school, or some day between, does not mean you have gotten motherhood wrong. It doesn’t make you a failure as a parent.

And I, personally, don’t think these other supposed mom-misses qualify for the fail hashtag, either:

  1. Not serving a vegetable with dinner once in awhile.
  2. Letting your kids quit piano lessons. Even if they “show promise” and could be amazing. And play at Carnegie Hall. And perform a song they dedicate out loud to you.
  3. Being glad when your kids get old enough that you don’t have to do school holiday parties anymore.
  4. Sometimes telling your kids “not right now… I’m reading a book” when they ask you to play a game with them.
  5. Letting your kids watch TV.
  6. Enjoying your alone time.
  7. Not throwing your kids an over-the-top birthday party every year. (Or ever.)
  8. Not sending your kids to summer camp. Because you just never got around to figuring it out. (Sorry, girls.)
  9. Telling your kids, “No, you can’t have that thing everyone else has. It’s just not in our budget right now.”
  10. Not signing your kids up for every activity, club, lesson, or team that could possibly “expand their horizons” and someday win them a college scholarship.
  11. Not remembering what your firstborn’s first word was. 
  12. Not creating beautiful, heirloom-level scrapbooks chronicling every small and large moment of your children’s lives. (To those of you who do this and love it: How wonderful! What a gift you are creating! Your children will rise up and call you blessed! But I, personally, am driven to tears by the mere thought of scrapbooking. And while I am far from the smartest mom around, I know my girls are a lot more bothered by seeing me cry than they are by their scrapbook-less existence.)
  13. Not packing school lunches that are so appealing that when other kids want to trade with your child, your child turns down the offer.
  14. Feeling overwhelmed by the task of choosing the “right” bread and yogurt at the grocery store. And giving up and just buying Dove ice cream bars.
  15. Yelling, “Seriously?! There isn’t an example or an answer key in this math textbook? Are you kidding me?!” while trying to help your elementary student with her homework. (It goes without saying that you–and by “you,” I mean “me”–are not even attempting to help your middle or high-schooler with their math homework.)

And on it goes, but you get the point. Of course, you know what real mom-fails are. Never telling your kids you love them. Never hugging/kissing/back-rubbing them if they’ll allow it at all. Calling them derogatory names they’ll never get out of their heads. Not doing your best to keep them safe and healthy. And maybe being too proud to ask for help when you get overwhelmed by this incredibly hard but unbelievably important calling called motherhood.

Listen up, mama: If you’re the kind of mom who’s worried enough about doing a good job to give yourself a mom-fail hashtag, you’re probably not doing anything to deserve one. 

In fact, I think you deserve ice cream for dinner. (Or those Dove bars you bought instead of bread and yogurt…see #14.) You could even share some with your family. I’ll bet they’d call that a #momscore.

Elizabeth Spencer is a Midwest wife of 22 years and mom to two teenage daughters, one a high school freshman and the other a college freshman. She and her family attend a small country church where she is privileged to serve on worship team and to facilitate women’s Bible study. When she is not driving her high-school daughter to school or dance or volunteering as a marching band mom, she writes about faith, family, and food (with some occasional funny thrown in) at

Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/vadimguzhva