I don’t usually define something by what it is not, but in this seasonally inspired inquiry: “What makes a good mom?” I feel compelled.

A good mom is not a saint

While most saints were unswerving in their devotion, from what I know about saintly things (very little!), not one of them was canonised specifically because of her selfless devotion to her own children. If St. Joan, for example, had been doing laundry, packing school lunches and checking this week’s spelling words would she have had time to take up Charles VII’s call to head up an army and relieve the siege of Orleans from English domination? Somehow I doubt it.

A good mom isn’t superwoman

All of us are good at some of the things we do. Some of us are even great at one or maybe two things. But no mom is good at everything. Not even your PTA president. Sure, she’s an attorney with an MBA. And who could miss that incredible wardrobe and the hair and nails? And yes, she’s got three beautiful, smart and oh-so-well-behaved kids, plus a hunky hubby who adores her. And yes, dammit, she bakes the most beautiful cupcakes ever. But even that woman must have limitations… somewhere.

A good ‘mom’ isn’t necessarily a biological mother or even a woman

Mom-ness transcends biology. When you really cut to the core of what makes a good mom, you find this:

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A person who loves the child in his or her care and freely demonstrates that love in countless ways, for a lifetime – through a touch, a word, a look, a joke, a game, a plate of warm food, a cookie, a hug, a smile, a nod, a story, a toy, a warm and open invitation to be whoever the child is. A mom communicates acceptance and understanding, support and encouragement in such a way that the child knows he or she is lovable. Through a mom’s love, the child learns to love others.

Thank you, moms, for all you do to nurture the children you love.