How to See Better Days

how to see better days

It had been a long summer. Three whole months of constant togetherness were clearly wearing on us all—and it wasn’t over yet. Luckily, my children’s end-of-the-summer sports camp came at the precise moment a reprieve was desperately needed.

After checking in with the camp counselors, my daughters and I said our loving goodbyes, but truthfully, I was eager to break free. At this point, having my own thoughts without interruption and being responsible for only myself for a few hours nearly sounded like a tropical vacation.

After working on a few articles that were soon due, I made an effort to clear a path through the house. And when I did, I couldn’t help but notice the trails left by my children. You know, Kid Evidence. I noticed the way my younger daughter had carefully arranged the shoes in her makeshift dollhouse … the way her ukulele pick was placed right where she could find it … the way she gingerly set her glasses back on the second shelf when she came home from the movie. And among the disarray in my older daughter’s room, there was a notebook tossed on the floor open to a pretty decent drawing of her beloved cat, Banjo.

I hadn’t noticed these things earlier.

Because when the kids are underfoot, these tender, little details tend to disappear.

shoes #handsfreemama

But in my children’s absence, I could see them clearly. And these tender details made me feel happy and grateful.

After a day of writing to my heart’s content, I went to pick up my children. But I didn’t go right in. I wanted to see if they were having fun, making new friends, and getting along.

I stood at the window of the gym and watched for a few minutes. It was a free-play period with campers doing a variety of activities. I quickly spotted my daughters in their neon Nike shorts with sun-bleached strands of hair spilling from their ponytails. They were doing wall handstands with two other girls. Everyone was taking turns and supporting wobbly legs if necessary. My girls were laughing, not bickering, as they had that very morning.

Suddenly my heart softened. Suddenly the long summer looked brighter. Suddenly I saw all that was good. And I knew where I was standing had a lot to do with it—this view from afar made all the difference.

I dug into my purse until I found one of the small notebooks I keep handy in case writing inspiration comes unexpectedly. I wrote, “trails, mess, whining. But my days are better with you.”


Suddenly I had it.

Because sometimes you have to step away to get it.

And this is the perspective that came of those scribbles in my little notebook …


Empty popsicle sticks sealed to the coffee table
Cereal bag ripped open so the entire box spills out when I pour it
Your tired face is not a pretty sight.

Bickering with your sister
Forgetting to shut car door
Forgetting to flush
Tags itch on the new shirt so you won’t wear it
Someone’s been using my new lipstick again.

You can be stubborn, grouchy, messy, and exhausting.
But despite it all,
My days are better with you.
Because no one says my name quite like you.
No one else insists on a hug before I leave.
No one else has freckles in the exact same spot as me. 

No one else’s lips feel quite like yours on my cheek.
No one can make me laugh until I almost wet my pants.
No one else waves like you do when I’m spotted from afar. 

Your flaws fall away in the light of your perfect love.
My child, my days are better with you.

That was the perspective I got the day my children went to camp—but that wasn’t the end. Something told me there was more to this story, so I set this piece aside hoping more would come.

A few weeks later, the kids started school. And on the very first day of school, I got that feeling. You know the feeling like you’re forgetting something? Well, I felt like I was forgetting something because I was forgetting something. I forgot to put money in the lunch accounts on the first day. I forgot to sprinkle my first grader’s pillow with the sparkles her teacher provided for the night before the first day. I forgot the deadline for the first fall swim meet sign up. On top of all that forgetting, I had to be away for the night.

That entire night I couldn’t sleep because of the negative commentary going on in my head. I knew such talk was taking me down a damaging and useless path, but my failings were getting the best of me. I couldn’t wait to get home the next day, vowing to do a better job of staying on top of things.

My ten-year-old greeted me the minute I walked in the door. Although she recently reached double-digit status, she does not like me to miss her nightly tuck-in. She hugged me fiercely. “I slept with your special pillow last night,” she murmured into my chest.

I was quite surprised. “My pillow?” I inquired, unconvinced that among the array of pillows that lay on my bed she knew I had a favorite.

“You know the one that is super floppy in the middle—the one that Daddy tried to throw out because he said it was gross.”

I smiled. Yep, that was the one.

“It smells like you,” she divulged.

Sure enough, when I tucked her in that night my pillow was placed where hers usually sits.  Embarrassingly, I noticed my pillow had several drool stains and needed a good washing. But these details did not offend my daughter. She snuggled her face right into the heap of softness and inhaled deeply. “Ahhhh … smells like Mama,” she sighed.

In an instant that cruel inner critic, the one that spews negative comments about my parental failings, was silenced. And finally, I had an ending to my story.

Perspective continued … 

No seconds on ice cream
Shoes required when we go grocery shopping
Your mad face is not a pretty sight. 

Insisting on cleaning my room
Bad morning breath
Bad car singing
You call me by my sister’s name.
You have hairs on your chin.
Someone’s been organizing my closet again.  

You can be forgetful, impatient, and overly concerned with cleanliness.
But despite it all,
My days are better with you.
Because no one says my name quite like you.
No one else insists on a hug before I leave.
No one else has freckles in the exact same spot as me.

No one else’s lips feel quite like yours on my cheek.
No one can make me laugh until I almost wet my pants.
No one else waves like you do when I am spotted from afar. 

Your flaws fall away in the light of your perfect love.
Mama, my days are better with you.

And so with a little perspective, I have this to offer us all, my friends  …

Let us not beat ourselves up if we have to be away—whether it is for work, pleasure, or just to sit with our own thoughts in the corner of Starbucks.

Let us not feel guilty if we know we must put some space between ourselves and the ones we love the most.

Because sometimes we need to step away to distinguish between what is truly important and what is trivial in the grand scheme of life.

Because sometimes we need to step away from the people we share our life with to see how beautiful they truly are.

And sometimes the scent of a drool-stained pillow or the sight of a carefully placed stuffed animal in the absence of our loved one gives us what we need.


The moment the flaws in yourself and in the people you love fall away … because your perfect love for each other outshines them all.

a loved bunny #handsfreemama




How do you gain perspective to grasp what really matters in life? Each week, I love to read your thoughts, experiences, and encouragements in the comment section.

* A special note to this community … you are extraordinary. You truly are. Last week, I shared the story of my daughter’s single dollar and the hope it provided a mother and father trying to raise the funds to bring their baby home from Uganda. You took that hope and multiplied it. You brought hope from every corner of the world. If you want to see hope in action, go read the comments on the post and look at the pictures below. Because of your generous hearts, Amanda and Johnny are thousands of steps closer to bringing their baby home. Here is note from Amanda:

“We are speechless at the generosity shown by each and every one of you! From fellow adoptive parents to kids giving from their piggy banks,  from people who are struggling financially but still sacrificing a dollar to every single person that gave, we are amazed at the heart of compassion inside every single one of you and the family that you represent! One of the letters we received said this: ‘Remember in “A Bug’s Life” when the ants figured out that joined together they were powerful? Alone, they couldn’t stand up to the grasshoppers, but together they were an army!’ Thank you all SO much for joining together and being a part of the army bigger than we could have ever dreamed to get our little guy home!”

Friends, I will continue to update on this story of hope that you have created. Thank you for being part of The Hands Free Revolution—letting go of distraction to grasp what matters and bring people closer. Together there is hope. 

HOPE from around the world #handsfreemama


HOPE from around the world! #handsfreemama



    • 2

      Aby says

      I was getting extremely frustrated at the mess my daughter was making with all the pillow cases, towels, dish towels, wash cloths, and rags. All of those things should be neatly folded into a drawer. Until one night I went into her room for her nightly check, she was sound asleep and I found a bed made perfectly for her stuffed caterpillar, out of a pillow case, a towel, and wash cloths. This is her art at the moment. And it is beautiful. She now has a selection of those items listed above just for her. And she is happy.

  1. 4

    Sharon says

    Exactly what I needed to hear today. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Forgiveness and perspective were what I needed today.

  2. 6

    Venestina says

    Im already a fan! Even on the weekends when I usually dont check any social media, Im looking for your latest post. Im happy to know you made a difference in Amanda’s journey and let us realized the importance of community, for us a couple of dollars were just that, but for Amanda it made a difference.
    Thank you again for this post, that showed me once again that this path could be better, that the little things our kids do assured us that even when we are hard on ourselves, us, lovely parents, is all they need. When Im busy cooking or doing chores around the house, and my daughter comes running just to give me a kiss reminds me the importance of those few minutes of my day. Everyday she shows me why this parenting journey is so rewarding, she is the one that helps me stop for a minute to enjoy the beauty of the little things, she is the one that waits for me at the end of my work day and calls my name with such a joy that you will think we havent seen eachother in days. She is the one that changed my life and doesnt even know it, she is the reason why my days are better.

  3. 7

    Lori says

    I needed this so much today. We are in the middle of moving to a new home and it seems I have no time, at all, to play with my daughter. It breaks my heart and makes me feel very guilty. I look forward to reading all of your posts. It always helps me see things differently. Thank you!

  4. 9


    Beautiful, Rachel. I hadn’t read this before I emailed you. I am also enjoying a little perspective today from a quiet house. Blissful. And then my tank will be full when it’s time to pick them up from school :)

  5. 10

    Brandi says

    Just got back from a trip away that made me feel so guilty about leaving, but you are totally right — absence makes the heart grow fonder, and better, and nicer, and healthier…..sometimes we need to step out to step back in. Thank you.

    PS – The mailbox filled with letters brought tears to my eyes. God bless them all!!

  6. 11


    What a great perspective on, well, perspective. It is a two-sided coin and your ability to recognize that, savor that and find the love in owning it is inspiring. I forget that they miss me as I walk around an empty too-quiet house; I forget that they get just as frustrated with me as I with them; I forget that they hope and dream for me as I do for them; I forget that our hearts are already bound and distance and time will never separate us.

    As always, thank you. Your poetry/prose is so unique and uplifting, I fear your readers miss your wonderful style hidden so brilliantly behind your mission. Peace to you and yours.

  7. 13


    Thanks Rachel! Your post came at a right time when I am feeling guilty for leaving my kids for a business trip. My girl is much affected and it pains me to see her cry. I do hope I have positive takeaway from a short separation from the kids.

  8. 14

    stephanie says

    without a doubt–this blog is the most meaningful, inspirational thing i have ever had the joy of reading. you continually hit–spot on–my worries, fears and joys. thank you thank you thank you for providing me with these beautiful words. you remind me every time i read this blog what is truly important in our lives.

  9. 15


    “Because sometimes we need to step away to distinguish between what is truly important and what is trivial in the grand scheme of life.” Oh how I love this… It’s so perfectly said and so perfectly true!
    Thank you for this!

  10. 16

    Olivia says

    Everytime I read your writing I end up crying with a smile on my face. It’s odd how every post you write speaks to my soul, deep down to my core. Thank tyiu for sharing your thoughts and your families life.

  11. 17

    Heidi zawacki says

    Everytime I read your blog makes my heart so full of love and I cry everytime it feels like you wrote it especially for me. Thank you for the most beautiful truthful loving blog ever!!!

  12. 19

    Danica says

    Thank you for sharing Rachel!
    Your wonderful perspective has reminded me to enjoy my children while they are around, despite the trail they leave behind, and I have committed to kissing them every night they are home before I go to sleep, they are 18 and 22 <3

  13. 22

    cj says

    made me cry… sent it to all my besties…
    thank you.. think it needs to be silk screened onto canvas on my wall….:)

  14. 23

    Kelly says

    Tear-filled chuckles… I always seem to have them when I read your posts. :) Thank you for your “perspective” it was greatly appreciated and completely understood from my point of view. I have 3 children 8-yr old boy and 5-yr old b/g twins. Your messages hit home every. single. time.

    The other day my 5-yr old daughter looked up at me while I was tucking her in bed and she said, “Mommy, why do you say those bad things about your hair? I LOVE your hair! It’s beautiful!” (I guess my inner thoughts of beating myself up over having course auburn hair with a mind of it’s own were spilling out). I wish the entire world (myself included) would see me through my children’s eyes.

    Thanks again… always such a pleasure to read your thoughts.

  15. 24


    Thank you Rachel for your beautiful message and reminder. Both as a Mom of four adult kids, and a child & adolescent therapist and parent coach, I too can get lost and forget at times (yes I am human)… I am reminded that perspective and forgiveness are as important now, for my adult kids, as when they were little. Your post came at a perfect time to wake me up! Thank you again for the reminder and for your gifts to the world…I can only imagine the ripple effect.

  16. 26

    Christine Thomas says

    Yikes! Are you a fly on my wall or is this your life too?!? Except instead of freckles we have dimples LOL! But EVERY SINGLE THING you wrote from popsicle sticks being stuck to the rotten tags in the clothes…it’s my life! I just wish I could get away without feeling that guilt! As soon as I even try to say I am going to the grocery store alone I get these looks and then the pouts and then the whines and my heart just flips over and I give in! I desperately need “me time”….BAD! I am starting to lose focus and lose my patience because I work all day and then I come home and have to cook and help with homework and by 8pm I am asleep before my girls are. I just don’t know how to tell the husband…LEAVE ME ALONE for a few hours LOL! Thank you AGAIN AND AGAIN for your blogs and insight…you are MY inspiration!

  17. 28

    Kari Trucks says

    You really have a gift. Your writing is absolutely inspiring. Thank you for sharing your wise words with the world. Your posts always touch my heart and help bring my focus back to what really matters!

  18. 29

    Melissa says

    Dear Rachel, Tomorrow I am off on a girls weekend with my mom and sister. It has been 10 years since we did this, but that little cynical voice of negativity has been creeping into my thoughts. I should not be doing this because I could use this time with my husband or we could use the money for x y and z! Thank you for perspective. I know deep in my heart that this is needed for me to be a better mom and wife! Thanks again for your writings!

    • 30


      Oh Melissa, I am SO glad this message came to you when it did. I hope you have the most wonderful time with your mom and sister! ENJOY yourself … you deserve it … and what a special memory for your mom and your sister. xo

  19. 31

    Della Davis says

    My friends and I read your blog every week. You always inspire us. We shed tears almost every time. Thank you for sharing with us!!

  20. 33

    Lori Huff says

    I love this! It was so perfect to see the perspective from BOTH sides. I am guilty of not seeing either side at times. A little space isn’t a bad thing for any of us. As the saying goes, “I can’t miss you if you never leave” :-)! Keep the insightful messages coming. I always come away inspired with a fresh perspective for my day!

  21. 34

    Amanda says


    Thank you so much for writing….it is so encouraging and uplifting to us exhausted momma’s who fall asleep each night hoping our best was good enough for that day. Thank you.

  22. 36

    Robert Ferreiro says

    Thank you for a wonderful few minutes of reading…I understand more now than when I was younger just why I loved and still love babysitting young people…

  23. 37

    Meghan says

    Thank you so much for your beautiful writing. I’ve been having such difficulty and guilt balancing a busy new job and having time for my 9 month old amazing boy. You beautiful stories always help me.

  24. 38


    Just what I needed to hear today! My daughter asked me this morning at the bus stop if I enjoyed it ‘much better’ at the house now that she and her brothers are back in school. She asked if I got more work done. To be honest, I’ve been spending the last couple of days finding Kid Evidence and missing them terribly, so NO, I’m not getting more work done:-) Thanks for this wonderful perspective.

  25. 39

    kobie says

    Thank you Rachel
    I always leap a little when I see your email come to my inbox because I KNOW it will be filled with truth, love and wisdom!!
    I love the part about your pillow and the aroma your daughter appreciated…that was lovely


  26. 41

    Mandy Stewart says

    You have such a gift and I am so grateful that you share it with the world. You haven’t written anything yet that I haven’t loved. Almost every time I find myself “sharing” something on Facebook, it’s a Hands Free Mama post. :) Thank you for another lovely article and the wonderful reminder.

  27. 42

    Maria says

    I started following your blog a couple of months ago at most, and I cannot adequately express how deeply you have touched my heart with both your message and the unique voice you give to it. I have yet to be able to read a single post without tearing up (including past posts – I’m trying to catch up on each and every one). I too have two daughters, now in 1st and 3rd grade, and it breaks my heart to think how distracted and impatient I have been in the past, no matter how much I may have improved. I hope you have some small inkling of the good you are doing for so many of us and our precious children. Thank you so very much.

  28. 43


    Thank you for sharing this. I recently have some trips out of town that required me to be away from home for a few weeks. I felt guilty then I read this. Thank you! :)

  29. 44

    Valerie says

    My son is 8 months old. That means you have to keep writing this blog for the next 17 years and 4 months, give or take, because I love it and want to read it until he’s on his own, more or less.


  30. 46

    Grandma says

    Hi Rachel, Thank you for your blog today. My daughter sent it to me, and she knows how I love writers and reading their thoughts. I’m particularly in love with your perspective, but I feel that I’m gazing on it from so far away. You see, my perspective isn’t allowed to be that close anymore. I am the Grandma. Grandmas have a special place in their Grandchildren’s lives, but sometimes the perspective is skewed. I love being with them two days a week all summer long. I love taking them and their parents with us to the beach, I love going to Chuckie Cheese and bowling and the zoo and all the fun things we do. But now school has started, and I’m on the sideline cheering them on again. I see pictures from first days and gymnastics and lacrosse, and I hope and pray that my wonderful parents are able to look down here and see their beautiful faces. I hope they can gaze upon these children who look just like the grandchildren they loved, and I smile.

  31. 47

    Chrissy says

    Thank you SO much for your truly calming posts. I have struggled with guilt since the day my first child was born. And I’m about to embark on teacher training and not being able to pick the boys up from school. My guilt struggles have doubled. But I hope to use it as an exercise in making the time with them truly quality and valuable time. Thank you for easing my guilt xx

  32. 48

    Ali Bell says

    I needed this message tonight. I needed exactly this message. Thank you for helping me hear what is in my own heart (the message that is often drowned out by my inner critic). Love you. Xoxo

  33. 50

    Andrea says

    After having a rough day…this article was just what I needed. Even though it was a trying day it was still better spent at home being a Mother to my Daughter. My days are definitely better because of her & the good always outweighs the bad. Thank you! God Bless! :)

  34. 51


    I truly believe perspective like this is what has made our marriage stronger over the years. My husband travels, a lot, so we’ve learned to value what’s really important and to let the rest go. Now if only I could get a fresh perspective on my toddlers : / : )

  35. 52


    Gorgeous post as always Rachel. I’m not usually a weepy person but I always tear up after reading your posts :-). Love the bit about your daughter loving to smell your pillow as it smells of you. My daughter is five and loves to breathe in my pillow and regularly tries to sneak it off to bed with her :-).

  36. 54

    Lisa Thomas says

    I always look forward to reading your posts. We have two boys (7,2) and one daughter (4). Your words always hit home with me, especially as I relate to my daughter. You are giving me such insight as I see how you develop meaningful relationship with your daughters. Thanks for sharing your heart with us.

  37. 55

    Amy says

    Thank you for this post. My heart swelled and tears streamed while I read it. I sat down each of my girls and told them why I love them so much. And that even if tey sometimes drive me crazy or I drove them crazy, that i was truly blessed and happy to be their mama. This also helped me while my 3 year old was throwing a tantrum or two today. Instead of gwtting mad, I took a deep calming breath and gave him a big hug and a mama loves you!

  38. 57


    Ah, my friend, this made me cry. For all of the times I’ve had to be away from my son… for all of the times I had to work and leave him with a sitter… for all of the times I was feeling guilty about some imperfection. I know he loves me and my perfect love for him.


  39. 58


    I really loved this post. You have a way with words and putting into writing what so many of us feel and struggle to say. Thank you. I also just wrote a post this week, sort of to my older children and how I felt about them going back to school this year. I would love for you to check it out, if you have time. I know time is a rare gem. No offense will be taken if you can’t stop by. And again, thank you for this blog. You inspire me.

  40. 59

    JoEllen says

    Your blog posts speak straight to my heart and I feel profound gratitude for the gift of your words. Then I read the many comments left by readers and hear their own stories of how they took your inspiration and put it into action in their own homes with their own kids. Just think how many childhoods you are profoundly altering for the better! Thank you for sharing your soul so sweetly with ours.

  41. 60

    Tara says

    I’ve kept the email update in my inbox because I knew it would most likely make the tears roll! YEP!
    My mom was always glad to see us go back to school because it gave her the “me time” she so needed after a summer of my brother and I bickering. I knew I would be looking forward to that too. When my first started kindergarten, it felt good to send her off on the bus and come home with the baby and have “down time”. However, we were called to start homeschooling last year and there’s no more yellow school bus to whisk my kids away, giving me a reprieve from motherhood. I hadn’t realized how important that time really is, even if it isn’t every day.
    After reading this I am reminded that I DO need time away but so much more importantly my KIDS need time away from me! I am fortunate enough to have inlaws that love taking our girls (7 and 3) for weekends every once in a while. I find that when the girls come home, the 3 year old is talking clearer and the 7 year old looks older and a little more confident. I need the time away to recognize that and they need the time to experience life out from under mom’s constant presence – good or bad. (I don’t like how critical I can be with my oldest, so I know she needs time away from me!) :(
    Which was the other part of your post that really spoke to me. I am always so worried that I’m “messing up” my kids due to my failings and flaws. You reminded me that they don’t always see those as flaws, but just how mama is, and that may even be what they love at times! (I know they love my lack of meal planning because that means they get breakfast for dinner more often than they should!) I have been striving to teach them so many things about life, feeling like I’m not setting a good example. But I need to remember to stop once in a while and let them teach me about life from their perspective and see myself through their eyes. I don’t want them to grow up with a mama who is always feeling like she’s failing. I did. I don’t want to repeat it. (sorry for the long reply, once I read your post the tears started rolling and the heart started pouring!)
    Looking forward to the next email update! :)

  42. 61

    Mary says

    Every single time I cry! I truly enjoy reading your post. Please, keep writing and sharing your thoughts, you are a blessing!

  43. 62

    Ann says

    Lately I’ve been feeling ‘claustrophobic’ or something in the sense that my little guy is with me every waking moment, EVERY waking moment… and while I adore him to pieces, lately I find that I want to go to the bathroom by myself, have a shower by myself, just sit for a moment without someone talking to me or jumping on me or sitting on me. And then I feel guilty because I waited a long time for this loving, funny, brilliant, adorable child. I know I’m not doing everything right or even everything how I had imagined I would but hopefully I’m doing enough right and he knows how much he is loved.

    I love all your posts and this one was spot on, as usual. Thank you. I even managed not to cry during this one (like all the others) until I got to the bottom and read about Amanda and Johnny! I pray everything works out for them and they have their little one soon. As for you, may blessings of love, good health, and laughter be bestowed upon you and your lovely family.

  44. 63


    Aaaaaw thank you! I really needed that!

    And I feel less crappy knowing that someone as wise as you also has that cruel inner critic that makes her doubt things that are perfectly normal. I loved to read the part that says
    “That entire night I couldn’t sleep because of the negative commentary going on in my head. I knew such talk was taking me down a damaging and useless path, but my failings were getting the best of me.”
    because I totally recognize myself in that… THANK YOU!

  45. 64


    {Melinda} Oh, I love this. Perspective. It is so hard for us as moms to keep a healthy, godly perspective as we’re raising our children. The commentary in our head is hard to cut off when it begins to go in negative places. Our kids are hard to appreciate when they’re around 24/7 (I had a rough summer, too), bickering and making messes. “Taking every thought captive” … that’s what Paul tells us to do. We can only do it through the power of the Holy Spirit. A great reminder today as I’ve had a Monday morning where I’ve had a hard time keeping perspective. :)

  46. 65

    Erin says

    EVERY TIME I read your blog, I cry — happy tears, tears because I’m so touched by what you’ve written, tears when I think back on my similar situations with my daughter, tears because it feels so good to know that others (lots of others) are having the same struggles and frustrations as I am but that at the same time there is a lot of good that comes out of it, especially once you can get some perspective!

  47. 66


    Thank you for this post. I read it at just the right time. You hit a chord; tears are running down my cheeks! I am a sporadic reader of your blog but every time I visit, I get happily lost in it. Please continue to share your journey with us.


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