06/30/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

A Mother like Sotomayor or Spelling: a Saint or a Sinner?

Daughters and mothers are making news. This week Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made this moving tribute to her mother:

There is one extraordinary person who is my life aspiration -... I have often said that I am all I am because of her, and I am only half the woman she is.

Not a dry eye in the house. It touched the heart of every mother watching.

24 hours later, another mother and daughter are in the news: the feuding Spellings.

Candy suggests that Tori contributed to her father's death. Here"s what Tori says about HER mother:

We simply never meshed. My mother is who she is. I've become who I am. At some point I realized those two just didn't go together.

It's hard not to be struck by the irony. Sonia grew up in a Bronx housing project while Tori lived in the biggest house in Los Angeles.

Of course, broad strokes never tell the whole story; and every story has another story behind the scenes. Motherhood is a complicated conundrum---and how well we do our jobs is a subject most of us take to heart----seriously.

For me the scariest part of the Sotomayor and Spelling mother/daughter acts--- is that I can see in myself a little of both. And though I don't have any personal knowledge to support this, I suspect Celina Sotomayor and Candy Spelling don't just have matching initials and famous daughters in common. I suspect they have something else in common: with each other, with me, and with all mothers. They're not perfect.

Celina Sotomayor surely had her off moments. Maybe she looked away while she was making dinner and Sonia burned her hand on a pot. Maybe she allowed Sonia to wear makeup at an inappropriate age.

And I bet Candy did some things right. Maybe she helped Tori work on her Science Fair project. Maybe she comforted Tori when her goldfish died.

I assume every mother tries to do the right thing. I also assume every mother makes mistakes. So how do you know which ones will live forever? Is there a statute of limitations on mothering mistakes?

Sometimes there is. I made plenty of mistakes, and my 25-year-old daughter has already forgiven me for some of my whoppers. And if someday she gets appointed to the Supreme Court (which is entirely possible ) probably she wouldn't canonize me-- but hopefully she wouldn't demonize me.

Which feels about right. Because like most moms, maybe even Candy Spelling and Celina Sotomayor---I belong in that gray area of motherhood-- somewhere between Mother Teresa... and Mommie Dearest.