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Mother's Day: What makes a woman a mom?

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Each year on Mother's Day, Facebook and other social media explodes with photos of picture-perfect families. Happy moms with sweet children smile and laugh for the camera, sharing their happy lives with family and friends.

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Life's not all smiles, sunshine and laughter for moms. Motherhood is also a lot of work which doesn't always offer instant rewards or satisfaction.

Most moms put in countless sleepless hours from a child's birth to adulthood and spend time juggling the child's needs with work, school and family obligations.

Some moms also care for their children and aging parents at the same time, alternating between being mom to children and being mom to a parent who can no longer care for themself.

What makes a woman a mom? Most women become moms through a nine-month journey, giving birth to an infant sheltered in the womb, followed by a longer journey to the child's adulthood.

Long days and sleepless nights are part of being the mom of an infant. When the baby begins to crawl and walk, mom has to be constantly vigilant to keep baby safe.

The toddler years can be challenging, but it's exciting to watch your child grow and learn new things. During the school years, a child's world expands beyond home and family. Friends become an important part of the child's life.

Baseball, soccer, ballet, scouts and other activities can keep a school-age child and mom busy. Moms and children may spend a lot of hours chatting about life in the car.

During the high school and college years, the young person's world expands even more. The real world beckons and the young person leaves the nest. Moms who have been actively involved in their children's lives may struggle to find a new identity once the children are grown.

Many women become mothers through marriage, raising stepchildren who are not their own full-time or on weekends. Other women become mothers of the heart through adoption or fostering.

Some grandmothers and aunts become mothers for a second time, raising or helping raise children who live with them due to a parent's death, illness or other circumstances.

Teachers and child care providers are like mothers to the children entrusted to their care for many hours each day, nurturing them and helping them learn and grow.

For some moms, Mother's Day is a bittersweet day. Moms who have lost a child to illness, injury, suicide or miscarriage cherish the sweet memories of motherhood in a deep corner of their hearts, sheltering themselves from the pain of their loss.

Mothers who are separated from their children physically or emotionally also struggle on Mother's Day. Are you any less a mom because your child is serving in the military overseas?

Do you stop being a mom when your child becomes estranged from you due to divorce or disagreement? What about moms in prison? For moms who are incarcerated, Mother's Day isn't a joyous celebration of family either.

A Mother's Day message of love, gratitude and thanks goes out to all moms today, especially mine. Mom raised eight children, serving as mom and dad when Dad was deployed overseas.

I'm also very grateful to the three children whose births gave me the title of Mom. My life has been enriched and I'm a better person because of the gift of motherhood.

I became a stepmom when I married my husband, adding two more children to my life. I've also been blessed to contribute to the lives of many children through volunteer activities at school and in the community.

Becoming a grandma is like motherhood all over again without the sleepless nights. My grandchildren are the light of my life and my love for them grows each day. Watching my daughters mother my grandchildren fills my heart with joy.

Whether you're the mom of an infant, toddler, teen or adult children, Happy Mother's Day. Enjoy the time you spend with your children today.

My thoughts and prayers go out today to all moms whose children are no longer living. May you cherish the happy memories of the time you spent together.

For all who serve in the role of mom, enjoy the day today. Thanks for all you do to mold and shape the young people of today into the leaders of tomorrow. Happy Mother's Day!

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