Shop the fall collection ➔

Like most moms, I worry if I am doing a good job. I wonder if I yell too much, or not enough. I worry that I say things I don’t mean and will damage their fragile egos. I question myself for not giving my kids more attention during the day, while being concerned about how they still don’t sleep on their own. I wonder if I should make them eat better and watch less television. I worry my actions will have a lasting impact on their lives.

My biggest fear as a parent is that I will screw up my children. This thought doesn’t dominate my thoughts, but sits in the back of my consciousness, quietly lurking, waiting to make me feel like I am doing it all wrong.

I often share my concerns with my mom, something I am so grateful to be able to do. I tell her how I question my parenting choices, and whether I am raising my kids right. My mom doesn’t share my obsessive worry over child rearing, and often reminds me that I am doing a good job, and that my kids are fine.

Recently, she told me something so simple, yet so profound. She said, as long as children feel loved they will be OK.

She shared examples of all types of families, and pointed out that no matter what struggles they faced, whether they be monetary stress, divorce or illness, when the love for the children involved was strong enough, it could overcome most other difficulties.

It doesn’t matter if you feed your kids fast food or organic.

It doesn’t matter if they watch TV all day or not at all.

It doesn’t matter if you breastfed, bottle-fed or both.

It doesn’t matter if you buy them 10 gifts each birthday or one.

It doesn’t matter if they do five activities a week or none.

It doesn’t matter if you are a single mom, single dad, grandparent, adoptive family, a house with lots of kids or just one child.

It doesn’t matter if you are a free range, helicopter, or attachment parent.

It doesn’t matter if you send them to public school, private school, home school or if you unschool.

It doesn’t matter if your work in an office, out of your home or focus solely on caring for your kids.

What matters most is that our children feel truly loved.

I know “love” can be a loaded word. The word is subject to much interpretation, and my version might not look like yours. For me, love—at least when it comes to my children—means being able to answer “yes” to these questions.

Do my children feel like someone is always in their corner, fighting for them when needed?

Do my children feel safe? Not just physically safe, but emotionally safe? Safe enough to comfortably express their anger, sadness and fear?

Do my children feel worthy? Do they know their presence is a gift to the world?

And, if at any point, my children do not feel that way, I have to ask myself what I can do to let them know how much they truly matter, how much they are validated, how much they are loved.

Now, I’m not naive. I know love alone won’t put food on the table, but love will drive a mother to work that extra shift to feed her family.

I know love alone won’t stop kids from being bullied, but love will give parents the strength to fight for them.

I know love alone can’t change a diagnosis, but love motivates parents to advocate for their children.

I know love alone won’t fix a broken marriage, but love can help children feel secure even in an uncertain time.

I know some damage can not be healed. I know the effects of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse are so severe that love may not be enough. But, I do know in many cases, those souls who have suffered the most heinous of abuse were able to find their way toward healing because someone in their lives was in their corner, reminding them that they are loved and are worthy of love.

Parenting is one of the hardest gigs we can sign up for, and chances are we will screw up from time to time. Our children don’t need us to be perfect. They just need us to love them.

Because love matters most of all.

You may also like:

Motherhood Doesn’t Require Perfection—it Just Requires Your Whole Heart

Dear Mama, Your Kids Love You Just the Way You Are

I Want to be a Perfect Mom—But I’m Not

Gail Hoffer-Loibl

Gail Hoffer-Loibl is a writer, wife and wrangler of her two spirited boys. Her work has appeared on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Kveller and more. She shares her thoughts on motherhood, kids and life on her blog. She can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

It’s Okay to Say No to the Promposal

In: Kids, Teen
Boy holding pink sign saying "Prom with me?"

Promposals are cute.  But, even for the sweetest questions, it’s okay if the answer is not yes. I have more boys than girls at my house so the whole meet the boy asking your girl out with a gun posts don’t sit well with me. Boys and girls have an equally hard time negotiating friendships and relationships in high school, and I care equally for both. A young man spent some time, told his friends, made a cute sign, and planned to ask my daughter to a dance. A friend of my daughters mentioned he might ask (and even made...

Keep Reading

I Wipe the Slides

In: Kids, Motherhood
boy on slide

I want you to have the most fun possible at your tiny playground stars program, so I wipe the slides. I don’t want you to have a meltdown if your clothes get wet while I’m gone, so I wipe the slides. I want to have three precious hours of only managing your little sister, so I wipe the slides. RELATED: I’d Rather Serve My Kids Than Have Them be “Self-Sufficient” I don’t want you to feel embarrassed by a big reaction to wet clothes when I’m not there to help you, so I wipe the slides. I want you to...

Keep Reading

One Day You’ll Outgrow Being My Little Boy—But Not Today

In: Kids, Motherhood, Tween
Mother and two sons back-to-school picture, color photo

One day you will come home after your first day of a new school year and not wish to share a single thing. Not today. Today, you got into the car and talked non-stop about every second of your day. I was delighted!  One day you will not have countless first-day forms for me to sign and return the next day. Not today. I signed my name at least four times. I was happy to grant permission for you to play sports, learn algebra, and do whatever else I gave my permission for.  One day you will not allow me...

Keep Reading

The Sports Mom Shows Up For Her Kids, No Matter What

In: Kids, Motherhood
Youth baseball game

We’re nearing the end of club baseball/softball season, and the burnout is real. The time away from home, burning through gas to get somewhere for two hours with half your house packed only to pack back up and turn around and drive to the next two-hour destination is insane. I don’t even like the sport right now. There . . . I said it. I’m so sick of softball fields and wind-blown dirt in my face. I’ve seen so many balls thrown in the last two months that my eyes hurt. But I still show up. I love to see...

Keep Reading

Having Babies and Toddlers Is Exhausting—but So, So Sweet

In: Baby, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Family of four with baby and toddler on bed

I took the girls to one of our favorite coffee shops last week and all around me were parents of babies and toddlers. Their little ones ran about in the grassy area out back, toddling up and down the lawn, when it suddenly hit me with perfect clarity—the sun has nearly set on this season for me. It was a realization marked by internal tension, a mourning of the loss of one season contrasted by the joyful anticipation at the arrival of the next. It came out of nowhere and hit me like a tidal wave. Having five kids in...

Keep Reading

3 Common Phrases to Avoid Saying to Your Kids (and What To Say Instead)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother sitting with young boy on couch

Learning to love yourself is hard work. I did not grow up loving myself. Instead, I always felt inadequate, and I felt the need to change myself to prove my worth.  I want more for my kids. I want my kids to know their inherent value and worth. I want to empower my kids to love and accept themselves.  My self-love journey, aided by the expertise of a counselor, has helped me realize there are some narratives from my childhood I needed to unlearn. I had to accept my emotions as helpful and not something to be pushed down. I...

Keep Reading

They Love Each Other (and Sometimes They Don’t)

In: Kids, Motherhood
Toddler girl lying with big brother, color photo

When I was pregnant with his baby sister, Forest kissed my belly and talked about all the wonderful things he would do with this little girl he already loved so much. His plans changed, however, after she was born, and the thing he wanted to do the most with her was place her gently in the trash can. Some mornings he would kiss her softly, other mornings he would walk into the room where I’d be nursing her and say, “Her doesn’t look precious to ME.” Two and a half years later, Forest’s feelings toward Grace remain about the same....

Keep Reading

As a Mother, I Matter Too

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter in living room

“What’s more important than me, Mammy?” my daughter asked. I looked at her, and she was looking at me. Her question wasn’t harsh or accusatory, it was curious. She was curious. We were in the kitchen, I was at the table working, and she asked me to help her find something. I told her I was finishing up some important work and then I would play with her. This is when she asked me what was more important than her. I bit my tongue to stop the words that wanted to rush out of my mouth. I wanted to proclaim...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, Follow Your Beautiful Heart

In: Faith, Kids
Mother and daughter smiling

When I held you in my arms for the first time, it was like time stopped. As you looked up at me with innocence and new life, I was struck by the reality that my main role in your life would be to guide and direct you on the right path. I hoped I would do the best job possible. As I watched you grow, I basked in your joy of putting on your pretty dresses, adorned with layers of costume jewelry, parading around the house for your father and me to see. I dreamed often of what path you...

Keep Reading

My Daughter is “Extra” and the World Needs More People Like Her

In: Kids, Motherhood
girl jumping

She is . . . extra. She just is. All the time she is extra sad, and then extra “OMG, Mom-that-was-so-epic-let-me-tell-you-everything.” Extra energetic, then extra I’m too tired to help with any family chores. Extra hungry, then extra refuses to eat the food she just asked for because she’s full. RELATED: In Defense of the Wild Child Extra loves to show how much knowledge she has, then extra doesn’t want to do her homework because she’s too busy “being.” Extra defiant, then extra brings home adorable “I love you, Mom” art from school. There is no middle ground with this...

Keep Reading