When I first became a mom, I was overwhelmed by a great many emotions. I’m aware it sounds cliche, but the one that stood out the most — the one that pushed me to get up in the middle of the night and wake up at the crack of dawn — was love: pure, perfect, boundless love. While I’ve always been fiercely protective of the people I love, it was my first daughter — my sweet Corrigan — who really brought into focus that I would literally do anything to keep her safe. As I’ve traveled the paths of concealed carry and motherhood these past seven years (adding two more perfect girls to my world), I realize that there are quite a few areas of overlap. I believe that some of the things I’ve learned as a mom serve to make me a better protector. And I think these lessons can help you be a better protector too.

1. Consistency is Key (But Still Keep it Simple)

When Corrigan lost her first tooth, together we placed it lovingly in a little purple pill container I usually carry in my purse. In the morning, she found the container — empty — beneath her pillow, along with a crisp two-dollar bill. A few teeth later, I made the mistake of leaving the empty pill container on her nightstand instead of under her pillow, and she questioned it. Another time, I took the pill container out of the room and almost woke her up when I returned with it and the money. My husband kindly suggested that I was overcomplicating things and risking “blowing it.” He was right. In order to be most effective, I needed to keep it simple and follow the same steps every time. The same can be said for carrying concealed: same gun, same place, same process every time.

2. Practice Makes Perfect (or at Least Better)

After three kids and countless diapers, I now consider myself somewhat of an expert. But I certainly wasn’t in the early days of parenthood. I lost count of how many blowouts Corrigan had that probably could have been prevented had I a bit more practice under my belt. Now, with a pair of twins still in Huggies, I’m proud to say I haven’t had to clean up a blowout in well over a year. As it turns out, the more you do something, the easier it becomes and the better you become at it. It would be a worthy endeavor to adopt that attitude when it comes to your firearms training. Keep at it, and you’ll reap the rewards of knowing exactly what to do should you ever need to use your gun to defend yourself.

3. Take a Breath

Corrigan loves math, but she gets very frustrated very quickly. In turn, I get frustrated trying to help her. (Thank God for ALL teachers, but a huge nod to those who teach math!) To avoid an all-out brawl, we’ve adopted a strategy of “taking a breather” for a couple of minutes. It’s difficult to learn anything — or accomplish anything — if you get too worked up to do it correctly. When it comes to concealed carry, your ability to take a breath and stay calm under pressure might mean the difference between life and death. When your adrenaline is pumping and you’re facing a deadly threat, don’t let it be the first time you’re trying to figure something out.

4. Let Love Lead

Corrigan loves to leave me notes. I’ve got a pile of them sitting on my desk and have them hanging up all over the house. Looking at her sweet words always makes me smile because they remind me that she and her sisters are the reasons I do everything. When you make a commitment to carry a gun, let love lead you. Focus on YOUR reason, and all of your training, all of your hard work and all of your money spent will come into crystal-clear focus. You’re doing it for THEM. You’re protecting what matters most.

Don’t Mess With Mom

I’m not a perfect mom. I make mistakes and sometimes get angry and sometimes want to call it a day right after dinner (or even before). But I am a great mom. I change diapers and help with homework and deliver money from the Tooth Fairy. I put notes in lunches and make appointments and offer free taxi services. Above all, though, I love my girls with every single ounce of me. I would do anything to make them happy and keep them safe. And that love that nearly bursts from me — along with the lessons I’ve learned by being their mom — makes me a great protector too.