My friend Sara sent this to me a few years ago around Mother’s Day:

This is for the mothers who have sat up all night with sick toddlers in their arms, wiping up puke laced with Oscar Mayer wieners and cherry Kool-Aid saying, “It’s okay honey, Mommy’s here.”

Who have sat in rocking chairs for hours on end soothing crying babies who can’t be comforted. This is for all the mothers who show up at work with spit-up in their hair and milk stains on their blouses and diapers in their purse.

For all the mothers who run carpools and make cookies and sew Halloween costumes. And all the mothers who DON’T. 

This is for the mothers who gave birth to babies they’ll never see. And the mothers who took those babies and gave them homes.

This is for the mothers whose priceless art collections are hanging on their refrigerator doors. 

And for all the mothers who froze their buns on metal bleachers at football , hockey or soccer games instead of watching from the warmth of their cars, so that when their kids asked, “Did you see me, Mom?” they could say, “Of course, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” and mean it.

This is for all the mothers who yell at their kids in the grocery store and swat them in despair when they stomp their feet and scream for ice cream before dinner. And for all the mothers who count to ten instead, but realize how child abuse happens.

This is for all the mothers who sat down with their children and explained all about making babies. And for all the (grand) mothers who wanted to, but just couldn’t find the words.

This is for all the mothers who go hungry, so their children can eat.

For all the mothers who read “Goodnight, Moon” twice a night for a year. And then read it again. “Just one more time.”

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to tie their shoelaces before they started school. And for all the mothers who opted for Velcro instead.

This is for all the mothers who teach their sons to cook and their daughters to sink a jump shot.

This is for every mother whose head turns automatically when a little voice calls “Mom?” in a crowd, even though they know their own offspring are at home — or even away at college.

This is for all the mothers who sent their kids to school with stomach aches, assuring them they’d be just FINE once they got there, only to get calls from the school nurse an hour later asking them to please pick them up. Right away. 

This is for mothers whose children have gone astray, who can’t find the words to reach them. 

For all the mothers who bite their lips until they bleed when their 14 year olds dye their hair green.

For all the mothers of the victims of recent school shootings, and the mothers of those who did the shooting.

For the mothers of the survivors, and the mothers who sat in front of their TVs in horror, hugging their child who just came home from school, safely. 

This is for all the mothers who taught their children to be peaceful, and now pray they come home safely from a war.

What makes a good Mother anyway?

Is it patience? Compassion? Broad hips? The ability to nurse a baby, cook dinner, and sew a button on a shirt, all at the same time?

Or is it in her heart? Is it the ache you feel when you watch your son or daughter disappear down the street, walking to school alone for the very first time?

The jolt that takes you from sleep to dread, from bed to crib at 2 A.M. to put your hand on the back of a sleeping baby?

The panic, years later, that comes again at 2 A.M. when you just want to hear their key in the door and know they are safe again in your home?

Or the need to flee from wherever you are and hug your child when you hear news of a fire, a car accident, a child dying?

The emotions of motherhood are universal and so our thoughts are for young mothers stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation…

And mature mothers learning to let go. 

For working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

Single mothers and married mothers.

Mothers with money, mothers without.

This is for you all. For all of us.

Hang in there. In the end we can only do the best we can. Tell them every day that we love them. And pray. 

Usually, when someone sends me a forwarded e-mail I read it, chuckle, and promptly delete it.  But I have kept this one for years.  Most my friends who are moms live a similar lifestyle to mine – they have husbands or partners, own a house, and work.  But there are mothers out there who live very different lives than mine, either by circumstance or choice.  My own mother’s situation could not have been more different from my own.  And even among women whose lives seem similar on the surface, there is so much divergence of opinion on how to parent: to work or stay home; to breast or bottle feed; to make baby food or buy it in jars; to baby-wear or use a stroller; to public/private/home school; how to discipline; and so much more.   But at the root of it we’re all trying to do what we think is best for our kids, no matter what our socio-economic situation is, what our education level is, what our values are, what our family or religious background is.  Most of us try hard to do the best we can for our children, without losing ourselves in the process.  There has been a lot written on the internet lately about types of mothers – good and bad mothers, privileged and underprivileged mothers, mothers who advocate and those who are disenfranchised – but I hope that the universality of our experience can do something to mitigate those differences.  That we can recognize in another woman – no matter if her situation is like yours or not – someone trying to get through it alive with everyone in one piece, just like us.

 On of my favourite bloggers, Mommy Wants Vodka, asked her readers, as part of a contest,  to write a post nominating someone for the Nobel Prize of Awesomeness (it’s a real thing – look it up).  I wasn’t going to do it as I couldn’t think of anyone in particular (and I’m lazy), but when I started to think about a Mother’s Day post, the two ideas came together. One unexpected gift that has come from this blog has been the Facebook and blog comments and e-mails from other moms, near or far, who have offered advice and insight, or who just want to tell me they’ve been there, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.   So it was a natural choice to nominate moms.  All you mothers – mothers by birth or adoption or relationship,  grandmothers who have parented grandchildren, any woman who has taken responsibility for a child’s life in some way, you are awesome.  If I could give you all a prize for your incredible awesomeness, I would. 

I have been lucky to have wonderful examples of motherhood in my own life – my mother, my grandmother, my friends who are discovering parenthood alongside me.   I’ve been fortunate to walk this path alongside amazing women who are finding their way through motherhood just as I am.  I’ve made rookie mistakes, and had to change my master plan for parenting my daughter to adjust to the fact that my real, live baby wouldn’t go along with the plan.  But I think I’ve done a good job so far – my daughter is healthy and happy and safe.   And my friends have been right there with me, telling me that there is no single “right” way to be a mom, and that ultimately different things work for different moms and their kids.   Women I have known since high school, women I’ve known since university, and women I’ve only known since we moved into our neighbourhood, have been an amazing support system for this (no longer new) mom.  They’ve loaned baby supplies, answered puzzled e-mails, offered to babysit, shared war stories, had play dates that were more for my sanity than my daughter’s enjoyment, held my crying baby, offered encouragement and sympathy, and, sometimes most importantly, revealed their less-than-perfect parenting moments, which made me feel less terrible about my own.  My closest friend, an incredible mom in her own right, has done all of this and, best of all, has made us feel that our family is her family too.   

Thank all of you – I hope you know how much it means.

So Happy Mother’s Day to the wonderful mothers I know, and to mothers by birth, mothers by adoption, mothers by marriage, mothers who have made the difficult choice not to keep their babies, mothers who have to endure the loss of a child, grandmothers, godmothers, and women who saw a child in need and, by stepping up, became mothers.  Mothers who work and who don’t, mothers who make it look easy but find it really hard (or not).  Mothers who “do it all” because you have no other choice.  Motherhood is a hard job, possibly the hardest, but our reward, if we’re lucky,  is heart-cracking happiness.  I am amazed every day by your examples.  You are awe-inspiring.