Last week, as my kindergartner and I approached the pool for his first swimming lesson of the season, I noticed all of the children sitting there in goggles. I panicked. Goggles! Of course! Forget that I learned how to swim without goggles. Forget that we go through 14 pairs of goggles a summer because we lose them like we are getting paid to. Forget that children the world over have swum without protective eye covering for millennia. My baby needed goggles and I forgot them.

One more check in the Sarah is a Crappy Mom column.

I always feel like I come to motherhood three steps behind. When our children started attending private school, I got a note sent home informing me that Friday would be a “Free Dress Day.” I legit called a girlfriend and was all, “They giving away free dresses?”

(Hey Mississippi childhood, I see you girl.)

There are many days when I feel like my children come at the world almost ready to be in it. We almost remembered our baseball glove. We almost brushed our teeth this morning. We almost taught the three year old to tee-tee in the potty. Almost.

All of those small moments of agonizing self-observation hammer me down. Phrases like, “Not quite good enough” or “Just missed the mark” come ringing through my grey matter. Which, of course, makes me an awesome mom.

JK. It makes me want to yell at everyone.

I know I’m not alone in this struggle. In my ministry, I am asked repeatedly how I deal with the unrelenting anxiety of motherhood. The short answer is “not well.” Despite the fact that we live in a time with more resources and research than ever, it seems that every mother I know has whimsically whispered to herself, “Hope I’m not raising a psychopathic gangster!” at least once. And then, if you’re me, that thought is quickly followed by, “It was the forgotten goggles that did it.”

But, as my spiritual advisor (and Gospel music genius), Kirk Franklin once said in an interview, “I’m a Christian who believes in therapy.” And as Mother’s Day is upon us, I want to give my sisters a word of grace that I once heard in one of my own therapy sessions.

My therapist gave me a cognitive behavior technique so valuable that I cannot help but share it with every beleaguered fellow mother out there. When I have crazed, bizarre, and uncalled for Mother Failure Thoughts, I simply name them as a story. Here’s what that looks like:

Brain Talk: Forgot to write down daughter’s ballet recital. Obviously, I must not care about her deepest desire to be a “Baby Bunny Princess Ballerina.”

Self Talk: Oh, look! It’s the You’re a Wicked Stepmother Story! How quaint.

Brain Talk: Don’t want to make anyone dinner. Ever Again. Apparently, I don’t care about my children and am hoping they starve.

Self Talk: It’s the You Only Ever Make Frozen Pizza Mom Story! You must be tired.

Brain Talk: Raised voice at son for leaving dirty laundry on his floor. Hey Joan Crawford, how are those wire coat hangers?

Self Talk: Wow, haven’t heard the You’re Worse Than Lucille Bluth Story in ages. Thanks brain!

So, aside from making myself laugh, which is incredibly helpful, this moment of reflection does something oddly theological for me. The pause gives me space to see the judgment in my head for what it is: The Devil.

Now, I know you weren’t reading a Mother’s Day piece about a cognitive behavioral therapy technique in order that I might reflect on the lord of the underworld. I know that we all get a little anxious when mental health bumps into perceived evil. But I call it like I see it.

And from my vantage point, when my brain tells me that I am not equipped for motherhood, I know clearly that I am not talking to Jesus.

Because a Sovereign God gave me these babies to raise. He put them in my womb and told me I could push them out of my body, and then, when they kept me up all hours of the night crying, God told me I could comfort them and that the very act would (amazingly) somehow comfort me too.

And now that they are a little older, and when motherhood feels impossibly hard, God is with me still. When they get sent home with behavior notes from school, God reminds me of the boundless forgiveness I know in Jesus. And I hug them. And I tell them, “No, you cannot watch Pokémon tonight.” When they refuse to let me change a morning diaper, Jesus whispers, “Sing something. She’s always more compliant when you sing.” And when they are sick, the Holy Spirit rises up in me and says, “Get out of bed, Mama. You know that cough needs a cup of cold water and a second pillow.

But those stupid Mama as Failure stories, that nonsense is the Devil. And he can go sit on a tack.

The thing is, once you start naming these stories for what they are, then you find more head space to actually love the real people right in front of you. The more I do it, the more I am realizing how often my head wants to tell me some fraudulent story about my worth being in my perfection and my aspiration towards it. And Lord knows that’s a playground in hell.

To quote our three year old daughter, “No ma’am, Bumblebee!” Not today, Satan.

Besides, I know which story is true. The story about a motherhood I prayed for and deeply love. The story about two children who adore me no matter how many sets of goggles I forget. The story about a perfect God who died to save my imperfect self.

So y’all can keep the Christ in Christmas. I’ll be keeping the Devil out of Mother’s Day. And yes, I realize that’s not as catchy. But its just as necessary for me.