I’ve been hearing on the news that many companies and brands are starting to allow employees or subscribers to opt out of Mother’s Day marketing emails. I can appreciate the sentiment behind this: for many, Mother’s Day is the darkest day of the year. Individuals who have said goodbye to their mothers too soon, or who have strained or nonexistent relationships with their moms, may see Mother’s Day as a holiday of pain and absence. For women who are hoping to become moms but struggling with infertility, or who have lost children to death or estrangement, Mother’s Day can be a glaring spotlight on their wounded hearts.

We must acknowledge the pain this holiday can bring, lending our heartfelt support to those for whom this day is one of grief or longing or regret. But I’m not ready to abandon Mother’s Day altogether. Moms are foundational to all that we are as humans, and moms everywhere are deserving of honor, recognition, and celebration!

I’m blessed to be surrounded by some of the best moms out there, starting with my own mom who is one of the most thoughtful, sacrificial women I know and whose strength, wisdom, and encouragement have been a bedrock for me all my life. The legacy of wonderful moms extends upwards in my (very inspiring) family tree (I’m pictured in 1984 and, further down, in 1994 with my mom and maternal grandmother and great-grandmother), and out into the family I was honored to have married into. I am also surrounded by powerhouse mamas who, like me, are still in the early mothering trenches: friends whose devotion to their kids and to their roles as teachers, nurturers, and advocates for their children inspires me to be the best mom I can be.

And then there are moms in history and even fiction who serve as my mentors and role models from afar. It is these women that I would like to spotlight today as we head into Mother’s Day weekend.

Hannah of the Old Testament — This mother’s story is found in the book of 1 Samuel. Hannah was one of two women married to a man named Elkanah; while Elkanah’s other wife had many children, Hannah was barren. Hannah’s infertility grieved her, but she brought her pain to the Lord, praying so fervently that the priest of the temple where she prayed assumed she was drunk. The Lord answered Hannah’s prayers for a child, and in gratitude Hannah offered her son Samuel to the Lord, dedicating him in service to God. Hannah’s tremendous faith in offering up the child for whom she had yearned is almost unimaginable for me, yet I am inspired by her humble act of submission and her willingness to place God’s plans for Samuel above her selfish desires to raise her son in her own home.

Susanna Wesley — Known as the Mother of Methodism because two of her sons went on to launch the Methodist movement, Susanna was born in 1669 and went on to mother nineteen children (nine of whom did not survive infancy). Susanna’s husband (a preacher) was erratic and irresponsible, often leaving her alone with the children, all of whom were homeschooled and received an excellent education (girls included!). In her husband’s absence, Susanna would hold Sunday services at her home, leading up to 200 worshippers in prayer and teaching. On days when my three children seem like “too much” and I don’t know how I’ll ever manage to carve out time to meet with God, I channel Susanna Wesley who, in the midst of her chaotic home, would throw her apron over her head to form a tent; this was her personal prayer spot, and when she was under her apron, the Wesley children knew not to disturb their mother’s communion with God!

Abigail Adams — As the wife and closest adviser to John Adams (and mother to John Quincy Adams), Abigail was one of the earliest and most influential advocates of women’s rights and education in America. Abigail gave birth to six children, raising them on her own and managing the household and the farm as her husband traveled in his work as a lawyer and politician. Abigail’s correspondence with her husband and later with other political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson inspired many of the values espoused by some of our most influential founding fathers; in her own behind-the-scenes way, Abigail is a role model for women like me who find our primary calling within the home while also seeking broader impact beyond our immediate families. Her life lends credibility to the notion that smart, capable women may choose to prioritize marriage and domesticity while continuing to advocate for causes that matter to us.

Caroline Ingalls — Born in 1839, Caroline was the mother of Laura Ingalls Wilder plus four other daughters and one son (who died in childhood). When the children were young, the Ingalls family traveled by covered wagon from Caroline’s hometown near Milwaukee to the Dakota Territory. This family of pioneers was incredibly brave and resilient, sacrificing comfort and stability in search of better opportunities. The Ma Ingalls we know from Laura’s books is wise, steady, nurturing, industrious, and resourceful. I often think about how Ma managed to create a warm and loving home for her family through their years of homesteading and travel; I hope to create a similar semblance of comfort and stability for my children.

Molly Weasley — This iconic mother of Harry Potter fame has earned her position as the only fictional mother on this list of Mom Role Models. Molly is the mother to seven (including SIX boys, and twins!) and loves her children fiercely, while also maintaining high standards for her children and equipping them for productive lives in the wizarding world. Mrs. Weasley serves her family without complaint (even when resources are tight), she loves and supports her husband, and her home and arms are always open: we see her heart for the disadvantaged in her beautifully tender care for the orphaned Harry. Mrs. Weasley is a masterful multitasker, a shrewd parent, and a woman unafraid of expressing her opinions, disregarding others’ criticisms as she advocates for those in her care. In a world full of magic, her exemplary mothering is more inspiring than the greatest of spells.

What moms—either fictional, historical, or up close and personal—have inspired or touched you in some way? Please share!

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