1. A woman who conceives, gives birth to, or raises and nurtures a child.
I've pondered this for a long time, ever since I first made a Mother's Day card for my stepmom. In my opinion, the first part may more define a mother, but it is the all important second part, to raise and nurture a child, that defines a mom.
I was lucky enough to have more than one mom in my life. Of course I have the mom who gave birth to me and 3 siblings, who raised us to be gentle and conscientious achievers, and who supported three of us on a clerical salary after the divorce. I also have my stepmom, the woman my father married and with whom we went to live in 1984. For one who was raised a military brat in a huge family, she is amazingly serene and spiritually aware, and because her 22-year marriage to my father ended with his death last year, we now share a connection that only another widda would "get". During my time growing up in Santa Cruz, I was often the Beach family's third son. Louise Beach was one of those truly amazing do-it-all moms, and had the nurture thing down. And later, I would come to know Samantha's mother as simply "Ma". We didn't always understand one another, but I have discovered since the loss of the "Sam filter", that it was because we relied upon that filter and never really cultivated a relationship based on our own merits. I am closer to Sam's mom now than in the past 20 years.
I'd like to take a moment to honor the single moms I know, those women doing what my own mom did - raise a child (or more) without the aid of a partner. Some are single by choice - some had their partner taken from them: Jeanne, Carrie, Jen, Lisa, Sheila, Lynnae, SJ... you are doing the best you can under often difficult circumstances, but your kids are becoming truly amazing individuals - big props to you ladies.
To my friends Elizabeth and Sara, and my cousin Katie: you've created vibrant, dynamic families, facing life's challenges head-on without forgetting who you are and what's important. I salute you. To my aunt Kendra, ever the peacemaker in a family with often volatile politics - love you - keep making the peace.
And to my sister Sara, who has been raising my niece (who is just 3 months older than my own daughter) single-handedly almost from birth, and who just made the dean's list in college as she pursues her degree: just know that I think you're amazing. You're my hero. Thank God my kids aren't in diapers, or I'd end up in a straightjacket. You really are Supermom.
To all mothers: the miracle of childbirth is certainly awesome to behold, but you need not have given birth yourself to be called mother. What happens after that miracle is the real test, and those who excel get to be called mom.