Most days of motherhood sound something like this: The clothes in my dryer have been there for at least two days (and I’ve already run the “wrinkle release” setting half a dozen times). My hair is three days dirty. My daughter’s onesie still bears remnants of breakfast. Sometimes I’ve worked out…and sometimes I’m still in my pajamas at 3 p.m. Sometimes lunch is a mix of organic fruits and veggies with grilled chicken. Sometimes it’s a frozen pizza. (Both are delicious.) The coffee in my mug is almost always cold. (That’s what microwaves are for, right?)

Motherhood is rarely the perfect, Instagram-worthy moment I dreamt about before my baby was born. Some days, it’s frustrating. Most days, it’s messy. Every day, it challenges me in ways I never expected.

Because the messy moments can be beautiful too.

Whether we’re ankle deep in blocks after spending half an hour constructing a castle or I’m scrubbing crayon marks off the table after an intense coloring session has gone awry, I’m consistently in awe of this tiny person’s creativity and imagination.

They’re the moments that don’t make it to any social media feed because they’re surrounded by piles of half folded laundry and dishes from last night’s dinner, but they’re the memories I cherish when I think back to how my daughter’s character has developed over the past few months. These moments of mess are the mama rites of passage that bind us all and show us what we’re made of.

Because the frustrating moments can be empowering too.

Motherhood is a constant test of humility, whether it’s reminding me that I can’t control everything (or, really, very much most days) or pushing me to think quickly on my feet when my tried-and-true solutions suddenly stop working.

I’m not going to start bragging about my daughter’s 15-minute tantrum in the mall any time soon, but I revel in the moments after, when screams have calmed to whimpers and we hold each other in the car as we calm down. Then those big, round eyes look up at me and she finally smiles. I can finally release that exasperated breath I’ve been holding and take solace that, bit by bit, we are figuring this out together.

Because the loud moments can be peaceful too.

Yelling, clattering toys, and singing at top of lungs are the soundtrack of our life right now. There are days when, yes, I would love just a minute of quiet. A moment to catch my breath and close my eyes for a bit of zen–only to have my reverie interrupted by another suspicious clash from the next room.

But when I learn to embrace the chaos, to add my own voice to the cacophony as we dance around the kitchen in silly moves of our own making, I realize that these are the moments that make it all worth it. These are the moments I will miss the most when my child is grown and my house is suddenly all too quiet for my liking. So I throw my head back and let my own belly laughs mix with her giggles, so blissfully aware that these are the best sounds in the world.

Because the hard moments can be comforting too.

This mama life can be lonely. It can feel like the challenges will never end and like the weight of it all is settled squarely on my shoulders. But for each moment of lonely heartbreak, I find myself presented with just as many opportunities to take in love around me.

Whether it’s my mama tribe that never lets me feel alone for long, or my husband who is at the ready to shower me with love and encouragement, or even my own daughter who never lets a day go by without giving me more kisses and hugs than I could count, our lives are so rich with love.

It isn’t perfect. My child isn’t perfect.

I’m certainly not perfect. But the moments we create together and will remember forever—those are pretty perfect to me.