Back when I had just one kid, I thought moms of many knew some magical tricks that I didn’t.

Have you ever looked at a mom with a bunch of kids and thought, “Wow, I don’t know how she does it? I’m drowning with just one!” 

Well, let me tell you a little secret about that mom: She might seem to be doing a better job than you — but it’s definitely not for the reason you think. 

Sure, maybe on the outside she looks more calm than you, because she has a few years of experience to know that if the toddler throws a tantrum in the middle of the store and you have to leave a cart full of groceries while everyone stares at you (been there), it’s truly not as big of a deal as it seems in the moment.

But inside, she’s still frazzled.

And sure, maybe her kids are actually behaving and not acting like wild monkeys swinging through the aisles, hell bent on destroying as many breakable items as possible. But that’s probably because the oldest is holding the youngest one’s hand and the mom has trained them for years that if they get through this trip, they get a cookie. 

What I’m saying is, if you look carefully enough — if you really, really look, at the mom with three, four, five or more kids, you’ll see there’s really one major difference between you and her, and the big secret to how she is doing “better” than you is this:

She has already accepted that no mom ever really, truly has it all together. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

You might think that the “goal” of parenting is to be the mom who does have it together — the mom who has figured out how to master her skin care routine and her exercise regimen, managed to curb her caffeine consumption to a judicial one cup of coffee per day (hahahaha), juggle work, sick kids, snow days, her mental health, her friendships, and her relationship with ease — but I don’t buy it. 

Instead, I think the goal of parenting is to be open to constantly failing, over and over, but still fighting to improve. 

If I thought I was doing everything “right,” I wouldn’t try to learn ways to help my daughters with the issues they are struggling with; I wouldn’t do my best to keep up to date on health recommendations and implement them; I wouldn’t care to take steps to try a new parenting strategy or tactic that could help our entire family run more smoothly. 

My point is, I don’t think “good” parents are born from having years of experience or a bunch of kids. I think that “good” parents are born when you decide to be a lifelong learner through this thing called parenting. 

I happen to have five kids. My youngest was born 4 months ago. And if there is one thing I’ve learned about parenting, it’s that it’s a constant learning experience. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, or just when you’ve finally found an effective solution, or just when you’ve handled one kid’s problem, another one pops up. And back when I was a new mom of one or two kids, that bothered me.

I wanted to get past the stage where I felt like everything was a crisis; I wanted to be the cool, collected mom cruising through the store with my perfectly behaved children. I wanted to stay on top of the housework and get through dinner time without wanting to run away to the Bahamas for a year. 

But now? 

I know I’ll never get there. I know there will be moments when I feel like we’re sailing smoothly and other moments where I’ll cry and question if I can do this and even, on occasion, want to scream at the eye rolls coming from the human I grew with my own body, who once was so attached to me she never learned to crawl because I couldn’t put her down long enough.

I have had just enough kids and just enough experience to know that there is no such thing as a mom doing “better” than other moms. 

We’re all just doing the best we can, stumbling our way through, constantly learning and changing, no matter how long we’ve been doing this or how many kids we have. Some of us have just given up on ever getting the laundry done before other moms have thrown in that towel.

*raises hand forever* 

Chaunie Brusie is a labor and delivery nurse turned writer and a newly minted mom of five. She writes about everything from finance to health to how to survive those early days of parenting when all you can do is think about all the sleep you aren’t getting. Follow her here.