What does it take to be a successful mom? What does it mean to be a successful mom? Who defines success? How do we know if we’ve arrived or if we count as “successful”?

Especially as stay-at-home moms it can be so hard to know how we’re doing because we look at the standards and the definitions of success that come from the business world or the personal achievement world. We know those are not our worlds, yet we don’t know where else to go for an understanding of how to get more done, how to better influence our people, and how to measure our successfulness.

Let’s look at why we feel like failures and why we feel discouraged, and why that’s all part of the package of actually being faithful in our roles as mothers at home.

We all feel like there’s too much to do, more on our plates than we can never get done, and that’s one reason why we feel like we are not successful in our roles as stay-at-home moms. But, with the right perspective and the right expectations (the right standards) we can see that our situation allows us scope to grow, the ability to expand our capacity to mature, to become more sanctified.

After all, we ourselves, and our situation, are not stagnant. And whatever situation, whatever skill level, whatever is currently happening in our lives is not permanent. It’s always changing. Sometimes change and stretching situations feel like problems, but they often aren’t. 

Success as a stay-at-home mom is measured by growth and maturity and sanctification and faithfulness. All of these elements work together in our roles and our lives as mothers and increase our effectiveness.

  • If you feel like there’s just too much to do,
  • If you feel like you need to up your game,
  • If you feel like you are dropping too many balls,
  • If you feel like you need to minimize your life, but it doesn’t seem possible right now,

Then maybe it’s time to expand your capacity, to increase your ability, to grow and stretch.

It’s maturity and growth that we’re being called to, and sometimes, I think we assume that we can master our life. We can be in charge. We can be completely competent and capable. So if we don’t feel competent and capable in our life, we need to cut back until we do.

Certainly, there can be times where we can legitimately cut back. But feeling like you are not up to the challenge and so you want to cut back is probably not the right approach. Such a reaction is probably coming from the perfectionism that trips us up and holds us back.

Perfectionism that says you need to be able to be fully in charge in the situation. You need to be completely capable of doing this job perfectly, of fulfilling this role excellently. When it becomes plain that you’re not, perfectionism says to stop and eliminate until you are fully in control.

Instead, we need to answer that feeling with knowing what we’re called to do. I’m just called to be faithful not necessarily successful in the world’s eyes.

But what does success in a day, in our life, really look like? And who defines what a successful day is? Who defines what a successful mom is? A successful life?

A successful person (according to the world) is completely in charge of everything determining their life, always calm, always completely competent to handle everything that comes their way.

We don’t feel that way. So we think something is wrong. However, feeling like we can’t handle what’s coming our way can also be seen as a challenge that we are being called to meet, not so we can accomplish it perfectly and successfully on our own. Rather, we see it as a call to growth and maturity and change and sanctification.

So, of course, God’s the one who defines what success is for our day, for our life, for our roles and responsibilities. We are not called to be in and of ourselves all that we need to be because we can’t. We aren’t.

We are called to faithfulness, and a part of the faithfulness is recognizing that we are weak and not capable of handling everything that comes our way. Yet we have a dependable, fully capable God who gives us the strength that we need, not necessarily to be the most awesome version of ourselves, but rather to be loving, faithful servants who are ready and willing and excited to see God be awesome in our lives and not us.

To be dependent on God and to grow in sanctification (which Scripture says in several places is God’s will for our lives) is our call that we can be faithful to and successful in. Sanctification is growth in holiness and in love of God and neighbor. That doesn’t look like success a lot of times in the world’s terms, but it does look like growth.

Growing our capacity for love and faithfulness is not necessarily doing all the things with calm awesomeness. The awesomeness is God’s, not ours. God is in control of every situation in our lives, and He is the strength and salvation and love that we need.

So every time we come to a point in our life where we feel inadequate, then we’re in the right spot because that’s the truth. We’re realizing the truth of the matter. We’re not capable, but God is. We can rely on Him to work through our feeble efforts.

Stress brings on perfectionism and perfectionism brings on stress. Yet we can remember that we’re not called to calmly and completely handle everything in and of ourselves, but also we are not called to stressful anxiety.

Anxiety is actually called out explicitly in Scripture as a sin. And so when we find ourselves falling into stress and anxiety, we know that we can give that up, we can we can repent, rejoice, repeat. We can recognize that anxiety is a sin, that self-sufficiency is a sin, and we can successfully repent of those things because of Christ.

So success is not that we fulfill all of our duties perfectly. It’s that through our duties we walk in repentance and faithfulness and love with God.

Being made aware of our sin through the relationships around us, through the work, doesn’t mean that something’s wrong with the work or the relationships. We need to become aware of the sin, the problems, the weakness that we have, so that we can be continually more and more sanctified.

It’s all part of the process. It’s a feature, not a bug.

When I feel conviction, this is all part of the plan, and we’re just going with that plan, which is God’s plan and not generally ours.

We can have a successful day if we have repented and rejoiced and repeated that process over and over. Success isn’t defined by life looking the way I wanted it to look. We haven’t ruined anything by a bad decision. We don’t ruin God’s plan when we mess up, and we don’t make it impossible for ourselves to move forward in obedience from that point.

There’s always a right next step. No matter what missteps have happened, it’s always possible to take the next right step. That’s why repentance is generally that step which isn’t wallowing in guilt at all. It’s turning and it’s relying on God and He’s providentially in charge of all things, so we can rest in His control and give up our own.

When we are working on improving our ability to wrap our heads around our actual responsibilities and duties, we can do that with calm and trust and rest instead of stress and perfectionism, thinking that you have to be in control for it to all work out.

Improving habits and skills is not about getting to some certain end goal at which point you’ll be awesome and on top of everything all the time.

If we’re waiting for that and if we are looking for that and judging our success by that standard, we never have success and we fall into discouragement and frustration and overwhelm. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead of focusing in on the struggle as a problem, we need to see that what’s hard and what we’re working on is what God is teaching us right now and what we are growing by.

When we get the hang of it that, we’re not going to be at some amazing plateau or finish line.

When you pass one test, there’s just going to be a lesson and another test. We take it for granted when teaching children, but we need to remember to have empathy and sympathy for them in it while realizing that we really still in the same spot ourselves.

Yes, if you stop learning and growing, you’re dead. 

Let’s keep learning and growing and not looking for an end-point plateau version of success. Success is learning and growing, every day.


  1. Success for me right now is giving myself space to heal from hyperemesis gravidarum and to practice the truth that I am not valued based on what I do or how much I get done. Remembering that the husband and kids and home are important, but so is growing a baby and catching up on weight gain and recovering from muscle loss. I have to let go of some things right now (juggling the way Mystie had described ????).

    1. Hey Erika, I just wanted to quickly send you a virtual fist bump ( or a hug, if you’re a hugger)! I have a friend who has had HG with every pregnancy, and she is one of the most amazing mothers and humans I have known. Obv you are not her and I don’t know you, but knowing how hard it is, and seeing that you’re here on this blog, and knowing what Mystie teaches… says something about your attitude and mindset. I bet you are also amazingly strong and inspiring to all who know you. Just showing up to each day to offer your best, even if that feels like barely a minimum, is powerful when you are walking (or have walked) such a difficult road. If you ever feel like you’re not contributing enough, please know that you are planting seeds of courage and perseverance in those around you who know what you’ve had to deal with physically, and have seen you push through to be faithful to those God has entrusted to you! Shoot, I know how discouraged I get, even having had “textbook” pregnancies and two healthy “regular” kids. We can all look at ourselves and see all the things we think we lack, and yet someone else looks at us and sees that we are champions.

  2. I think for me a successful day is one in which I had self control. Where I made a reasonable plan (daily card) and stuck to that plan (or didn’t waste time). Where I kept a positive attitude and was cheerful and pleasant to be around. And where I ate appropriately.

  3. This wonderful article makes me praise God for you and how he uses you to speak comfort and wisdom to us fellow mothers and women. Thank you so much for mentoring women like me who do not have that available elsewhere, and for encouraging us in the faith! So much better than the vast majority of Christian “women’s” “thought leaders.” May God keep you in His perfect grace until life everlasting!

    1. Yes, I completely agree with you, Joy. I appreciate that Mystie teaches in a balanced and truthful way, without the sugar-coated (often new-age based!) messages that many “christian” influencers share. She is really a special communicator and I’m very thankful I found her podcast and blog!

  4. This is exactly the question i have been wrestling with. I tell my husband i am jealous of his end of the year reviews. I wish I had a review every once in awhile so i feel like there is progress or that I’ve at least been SEEN in my job at home. But this article is perfect. So true. And so full of hope. I am constantly aware of my failures and faults and how i wish I was better at my stay at home job. It’s not about being perfect but being faithful and repentant. Thank you. I need to print this out.

  5. I have said to friends, well, I guess I just have to lower my standards for how I want to be and what I want to get done. This is flawed thinking. I have tried to control everything and create perfection, which has led me only to exhaustion and a loss of hope. I am embracing your encouragement, changing my perspective, and finding so much rest in letting go and looking with expectant hope of the sanctification that will take place.

  6. Mystie, this post is spot on! So much of this is exactly what I needed to read, and nails my toxic emotional-mental cycles to well.

    “Improving habits and skills is not about getting to some certain end goal at which point you’ll be awesome and on top of everything all the time.

    If we’re waiting for that and if we are looking for that and judging our success by that standard, we never have success and we fall into discouragement and frustration and overwhelm. But it doesn’t have to be that way.” Wow, sister, it’s like you read my mind!!

    I am thinking I’d like to take some quotes from here and put them around my house or in my planner to remind me often.

    Also, I love this statement from the email: “Writing out our thoughts helps us internalize truth better.” Yes, and I though I hadn’t thought a lot about it before, I think that is why I blog, too!

    I want to end with a (sort of) quick rejoice report– I was skeptical and a bit resistant to the daily card, well, really, the limit of (only!) 3 items per day. To resolve the seemingly irresistible urge to add more, I put those extra nagging items in another place and call it a “wish list” to remind myself that I’m being unrealistic to expect all of it to happen in a day (insert laughing emoji). Technically, I use the top block of my vertical planner instead of a separate card, but it’s been helpful. It’s been a week or two, I’ve been really trying to keep up with this habit. Yesterday, some things came up that threw off my day (can you believe that?) and in the evening I caught myself thinking, and almost saying to my husband, that I felt like a loser because I didn’t do this or that. Then I remembered my top 3 list and said, “No, I did school and I voted. So I’m not a loser!” That’s a big deal for me.

    Thank you for reminding us of truth, specifically, the scripturally-sound attitude teachings, as well as the practical tactics for our unique role in life. I SO appreciate your ministry!!

  7. Thank you for your thoughts! I do think we ought to examine work responsibilities and relationships, though. Some of each are sometimes required to end if it isn’t helping anyone or is actively hurting. I think those decisions require wisdom, prayer and patience as well. We’re not going to do everything 100% right, so we can trust God with the hard “edits” we have to make for our own sanity and security.

  8. Thanks for this. I’ve said to myself and to friends many times, “Spiritual maturity does not mean being a fantastic independent achiever, it means living in close fellowship with and dependence on the Lord. Maturity is a deeper embracing of our dependence.” And I need to keep preaching to myself. I always look for Biblical examples: David admitted freely that the enemy was “too mighty for [him]” (Ps 18). He then spectacularly blew it – but returned to the Lord prostrate and fasting and he knew how to receive God’s forgiveness and continue on in obedience, in restored fellowship. Peter also spectacularly blew it – but he dove into the sea to get to Jesus, to receive His forgiveness and follow Him on a hard path. Your prompt to examine ourselves for perfectionism that might be holding us back is interesting. It takes discernment to figure out what’s really too much, and also a careful look at our use of time. Right now I feel up to my chin.

  9. Success for me right now ought to look like rejoicing in the gift and limitations of staying home full time. Specifically, I should be preparing healthy meals three times a day for me, my husband and our daughter according to our individual needs. We’ve set up our lives so I can be home full time, which is a huge blessing and also requires us to be frugal. I want to make the most of this gift and radiate joy, thankfulness, and presence instead of focusing on what I don’t (have chosen not to) have.

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