As amazing and magical as they are, the holidays can feel heavy with emotions and guilt. I always feel like I should be doing more which leads to feelings of guilt. What follows is a holiday spent running around instead of taking the time to slow down and appreciate the little things. The worst part? It’s all self-inflicted. No one puts the pressure on me, except for me! But why these feelings? Is it Pinterest? Is it assuming every other mama is doing more than me? Doing better than me?

As we approach both the holiday season and the end of the year, I have made it a point to be more aware of my tone and attitude and to simply, let things go. Instead, I am choosing to focus my energy on the things I’m already doing that make me and my family happy. This is an instant mood lifter and shifts my perspective almost immediately.

Our friend Jessie Collins stopped by to remind us to celebrate those small victories that can get lost in the hustle and bustle of parenthood and to intentionally seek out joy. Photograph by Heather Gallagher

By Jessie Collins

About a year ago, I took my daughter to a new park while visiting my in-laws. A mother with a daughter right around the same age inched her way toward me and, fairly quickly, she asked my daughter’s age. I told her, and she confirmed that her daughter was born within three months of mine. Without hesitation, the common-but-rarely-tiring conversation played out:

“So is she sleeping through the night yet?”

“She’s actually a great sleeper. Thank goodness because her tantrums are insane right now.”

“Oh no! The tantrums haven’t started for us, but she still doesn’t sleep through the night, so we need easy days!”

“Is she in school?”

“Yep, she just started. We’re still adjusting…”

…and on and on.

I find myself in some version of this (easy) interaction regularly. Through parenthood, strangers connect somewhat effortlessly, which makes sense. This experience, one that identifies so much of our existence, creates an immediate common ground.

Parents share similar struggles and victories. Our journeys are unique but equalizing, and we tend to unify first over the struggles of this role – even on days when the victories are greater. Now, I certainly find peace knowing that I’m not alone in the sleepless nights, power struggles and lack of patience; but that means I’m also not alone in the little wins and moments of bliss that happen throughout every day.

Admittedly, I’ve tended toward the negative common ground – seeking some reassurance that I’m not the only one who occasionally feels defeated. But with each long day (and insanely short year), I find myself celebrating the little victories more and more. Sometimes little victories are as unremarkable as a two-year-old putting pants on the first time they’re asked, and sometimes they’re as astonishing as wrapping up a series of errands without a single moment of whining. Either way, I’m making a conscious effort to not only notice but to celebrate the victories.

Celebrating great moments doesn’t mean I choose to see motherhood through unrealistically rose-colored glasses. Rather, it encourages me to intentionally seek out daily improvements and joys instead of letting motherhood feel bogged down by physical and mental exhaustion.

Motherhood is so much bigger than our perceived failure. Motherhood is a series of life-giving exchanges between a parent and a child, during which both people grow in wisdom and compassion. Even on the hardest days, I hope to find refuge and gratitude in the little victories. Here goes!

Jessie Collins is mama to a 2.5 year-old ball of fire. She works full-time in content writing and marketing and also blogs for Hello My Tribe as a way to advocate for mothers. For more on Jessie, follow her on instagram at iamjessiecollins