Erika Kao Photography  |  Northern NJ Photographer  |  Bergen County, New Jersey

You know that mom. That mom. She cooks from scratch most nights, and she posts on social media about the latest crafts she found on Pinterest. Her house is always tidy, even the play room, and you never see any dishes in her sink. She always looks like a million bucks, even when she's wearing exercise clothes and sneakers and is still a little sweaty from her workout at the gym, and she's taking her happy children for a smoothie. And speaking of her kids, maybe she has one or three or four of them, and they put their dishes in the sink after they eat and they pick up their toys after they play and they are generally perfect little angels. That mom doesn't seem to have many opportunities to lose her cool, since her little ones never lose theirs.

Well, as much as I want to be that mom, I'm not that mom. And those aren't my kids.

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Nope. My kids usually have food stains on their clothes before they're even finished getting dressed in the morning. And sometimes it's not the morning, it's the afternoon. Every day I somehow manage to prevent myself from screaming adult words after stepping on small, unsuspecting toys that are strewn across the floor. Very rarely does a toy go back into its proper bin; the Legos are mixed up with the colored pencils, there are puzzle pieces in with the View Master slides. I try to get to the gym, but some days, well, I'd honestly just rather not. Sometimes, as in the picture above, my daughters actually get to eat ice cream before their lunch. Most days, the TV is on, at least for a little while. And I'll admit that there may have been one day this summer when they left the house without brushing their teeth.

Some days are like that.

This summer, my older daughter was at camp every morning for five weeks. And then when camp was over, she was home. Other than a week at the Jersey Shore, we had very little scheduled between the end of camp and the onset of school in September.

And after her first week at home, I wondered exactly what I had gotten myself into.

My house was messier than usual. There seemed to be more laundry than usual. I'm positive there were more crumbs on the floor than usual. The stress level went up and my tolerance level went down. I lost my cool more times than I care to admit.

And then I'd see that mom around town and I'd wonder, sometimes with tears in my eyes, how she did it. How she kept it all together.

And then I realized that maybe, just maybe, she didn't have it all together. Maybe she'd just lost her cool 20 minutes ago. Maybe she goes to the gym because exercise is the only way she keeps her sanity. Maybe her Pinterest recipe came together only after a series of epic fails. Maybe she just stole five minutes in a parked car at CVS to spend some quality time with her phone. Or maybe, like me, she just cried a little bit when nobody was watching.

One too many sad expressions from my daughters made me realize that I needed to let go of this perception of what I should be. I needed to let go of my idea of who that mom really was. Because honestly, she's probably just like me.

I need to just be, and be present, and let my actions and reactions come from a place of love for my children and love for my family.

And for myself.

And for my sanity, I had to embrace this hot mess. For now, for the foreseeable future. The happiness of my entire household absolutely depends on it.

And I wanted to share this with you, just because. Just in case you needed to hear it, too.

Sending you all peace, love, and light in these last two weeks of summer, and always.