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Mommy Dearest: How (and Why) to Write a Love Letter to Your Mum

05/05/2008 12:45 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Us non-moms can occasionally be caught running our mouths off about child rearing. We operate under the illusion that we'll raise little soldiers who mind their manners and never cry at restaurants.

I was once guilty of these intermittent comments. Then one day my mother shared with me an old journal entry of hers. She read it aloud--barely because she was laughing so hard. I'll venture to guess she was not laughing at the time:

April 1982

I am an intelligent woman. I have two beautiful children. At the moment they are both driving me up the wall. The older one is lying in her bed--which has come unhinged because of her jumping on it--and she is screaming at the top of her lungs. I have gone up to her several times. I have given her baby aspirin substitute. I have brought her water. I have blown her nose. I have tried to comfort her. And finally I have threatened, "If you don't stop crying Samara, I will keep your door shut. I don't want to hear you anymore."

There is a very grave fear here. It is that I will not be able to overcome the obstacles that my mother faced. I don't want to be a secretary all my working life; I don't want to be a manuscript typist. I want to research the books myself. I want to write the articles, and I want to teach the classes. I want to fly in an airplane, share knowledge with others, and I want to raise my children.

Earlier in the day I found myself crying in frustration in my kitchen. Some of my words were, "I am tired of being thrown up on and tired of cleaning up shit and tired of trying to change my intellect into something a two-year-old will understand." SHE IS STILL CRYING *** SHE REFUSES TO QUIT ** I HAVE TO BLARE MOZART TO DROWN THE SOUND OF HER SOBS ** MY 4 MONTH OLD WILL BE AWAKENED BY THE SOUND ** I QUIT I QUIT I QUIT ** THIS JOB SUCKS

In retrospect, this is funny. In reality, it's endearingly honest. It moved me because, from where I stand, my mother was / is / and always will be a wonderful mother, and this just gave me the insight that even top-notch moms can have a very difficult time with motherhood. This journal entry brought before me how much self-sacrifice being a mom really requires, and I feel compelled to offer this reminder to us all a few days before Mother's Day.

Rather than wait until the last minute and buy your mother something she neither needs nor wants, why not give her a homemade gift. Moms still like those the best. I suggest something baked, accompanied by a letter--a real letter--not a card with just your signature at the bottom.

Most of the time motherhood is a thankless job. I mean in the literal sense that the kids don't say "thank you" too often--I'm sure there's personal fulfillment that I (again, non-mom) know nothing about yet. As a matter of fact, if it weren't for this regulated holiday I wonder if moms would hear "thank you" at all. Anyway, here are some ways to approach your letter should you choose to write one:

I Know Things Haven't Been Great Between Us

The mother / daughter relationship is one of the more complicated relationships on record. Things aren't always sunshine and roses, and there's no need to pretend that they are. If you and your mom had a falling out or if there's noticeable tension, you can address it. You don't necessarily have to rehash the argument in your letter, but you can say that you're sorry things have been rocky recently and you're hoping to work it out.

I Now Know How Difficult it was For You

In light of the aforementioned journal entry, this is the form my letter will take. I'll tell my mom I had no idea what the day-to-day stress was like for her. Perhaps I'll even apologize for being a horrible, whiney two-year-old. If you have children then you stand in a place to really tell your mom you now know what she went through.

Thank You

Now is a good time to thank her for her many deeds that went unnoticed at the time. Thank you for packing the lunches, driving the car, and letting my friends sleep over when you had an awful cold. This can, of course, take on a more adult tone in thanking mom for all of her advice, guidance, and help with the grandkids.

I Love You

"I love you," gets lost a lot. We say it: Love you. Luv ya! But taking the time to mean it is another feat altogether. The act of letter writing alone says, "I love you," and then adding the words on top makes it extra, triple times special.