“Mommy, can you do my ponytail?”

She stands before me with eager eyes, just wanting her mommy to do one simple thing. Hand extended, she displays the hair tie. 

But I can’t help her. Not right now. 

And so I have begun to teach my sweet ones a new saying: “My mommy loves me. She will help me when she can.” A simple truth, but not an easy one.

Not for me either. I want so badly to “help [everyone] when [they want me to].” I have told my daughter that I’m not an octopus—but boy, do I wish I was. (At least in the sense of having eight capacities at once. I do not wish to become a sea creature with tentacles rather than arms…). 

I convince myself that everyone would be happier for it, if Mom became “more”: more attentive, more capable, more satisfying, more like God. And then when I can’t become “more”—when the ponytail sits before me in my daughter’s outstretched hand, when my son’s requests for a cheering basketball fan are unfulfilled, when the kitchen looks like a bomb went off, when the newborn baby starts crying again—the inner-berating begins, what we like to call “mom guilt.”

But hear me, friend (and I need to hear this too): none of us should feel guilty for being human.

You are not an octopus—thank God—nor are you God. You are not able to be fully attentive, infinitely capable, or all-satisfying like he is. No, limited and embodied are what we are. These are not reasons to apologize, but realities to adorn. 

Human is the way your Creator designed you to function. Rather than pronouncing ourselves guilty, then, we can proclaim very good.  

Another freeing truth? Your kids (or whomever else is dependent on you) don’t need you to be who only God can be. It would actually be unhelpful (and maybe even harmful) for them to see you try because they don’t ultimately need more of you, they need more of him. Along with “my mommy loves me. She will help me when she can” lives the truth “our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).  

Our Help. My help. My kids’ help. Attentive to every cry (Psalm 145:19). Capable in every way (Psalm 121:4). Satisfying both our daily needs and deepest desires (Psalm 107:9). Fully God who willingly became fully man, with all his embodied limitations, so we would embrace ours and look to him for all we lack. 

So, no, I am not an octopus, and there is not enough of me to go around. I cannot always do the ponytail, or cheer on the world’s smallest baller, or wipe up the crusted-over spill on the countertop, or solve every newborn cry.

But that’s okay. It’s as it should be. 

It’s as God intended. Our Help.    

Kristen Wetherell

Kristen Wetherell is a wife, mother, and writer. She is the author of multiple books including Humble Moms, Fight Your Fears, Help for the Hungry Soul, and the board book series For the Bible Tells Me So, and the co-author of the award-winning book Hope When It Hurts.