As moms, the last thing we want to do is fail our kids. Grab any book on motherhood or scroll through a mom blog, and it won’t take long to find a chapter or story about mom guilt. Too many of us are subjecting ourselves to a daily emotional beat down if we feel we’ve faltered in our motherly duties.

As if perfection is even remotely attainable in the realm of raising humans.

What are we aiming for anyway? What is the magic mark we must hit to ensure our kids will be happy, healthy, safe, fulfilled, well-rounded, kind, obedient, and uber prepared to live life on their own?

To think we can hit a bullseye on a moving target is a bit much. Life moves in any direction it pleases and we have minimal control over how things play out. This is why our best bet is to hone in on what we can control: the love we give our children.

After 25 years of parenting three kids, I’ve learned that I still know very little about parenting three kids. So there’s that. But what I’ve come to trust is that we cannot truly fail as moms if our mantra is to go down loving. Sure we can screw up and make mistakes—I’ve made a million—but if our lone intention is to pour love into our kids the best we can, we’ve already succeeded. 

To think we are failing is its own conundrum.

Mostly because we set impossible goals for ourselves, often based on a slew of intangibles that have nothing to do with our abilities to raise a child. For me, intangibles look like insecurity and shame, which are both remnants from childhood trauma. I went into mothering behind the emotional eight ball: already doubting myself and walking around with a bucket full of self-condemnation just waiting to dump out the minute I thought I screwed up or was unworthy of being a mom. Shame will do that to you.

So how do we distinguish between real and perceived failure?

Many of us think failure is linked to our performance as moms, including little things like our attitude, demeanor, decision making, and ability to cross off a to-do list. Or big things, like whether we’re able to protect our kids from harm. Let me tell you, my three kids were in high school when a merciless school shooting took place at their school in 2012. Tragically, three young boys lost their lives, and a fourth was paralyzed. My kids are still with me, but not because I had anything to do with protecting them. They were lucky. I’m still trying to heal and deal with debilitating fear caused by that traumatic situation.

We also tend to link our success or failure based on the choices our kids make, their academic achievements, or their confidence socially. The list of perceived failures goes on and on, most of which are tied to situations we have little ability to control.

But the truth is loving our kids is the one tangible we can manage on our own.

Some days our love is better than others for sure. Life is wonky, stuff happens, and we are human. We need to give ourselves some grace if we don’t always practice kindness, patience, and understanding. If love is our base intention, then the sentiment still is at work alongside our faults and weaknesses.

We can run around crazy and overwhelmed and still do our best to love

We can give in to anger and frustration and still do our best to love

We can struggle with worry and depression and still do our best to love

We can feel trapped and resentful and still do our best to love

We can feel lost and confused and still do our best to love

As moms, we never stop loving our kids. Love is a constant—even if sometimes the things we say and do are wayward. Our kids need love above all else, and love covers a multitude of mishaps.

Let’s give ourselves more credit for how hard we try, mommas. Some days we’re going to go down, but if we do our best and go down loving, it’s worth the fall.

You may also like:

I Will Always Love You Anyway

I Hope I Loved You Enough Today

I’m a Mom Who Fails Big but Loves Bigger

Shelby Spear

A self-described sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, and love enthusiast, Shelby is a mom of 3 Millennials writing about motherhood and life from her empty nest. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don't need to say, "I'm fine.") , and you can find her stories in print at Guideposts, around the web at sites like Scary Mommy, Her View From Home, For Every Mom and on her blog shelbyspear.com.