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BY HEIDI STEVENS
There's a chance, a pretty good one, that we'll never decide what makes a good mom.
Roughly 150 years of women holding jobs outside the home (remember those Civil War nurses?), and we're still fighting the should-they-or-shouldn't-they battle over working moms.
We devour books about tiger moms and French moms and measure our styles against these archetypes.
We scold moms for not breast-feeding, and then scold them for (gasp!) breast-feeding.
We paint them as overbearing helicopters, even as we swap stories of A Mom Who Wouldn't Put Down Her Cellphone Long Enough to Play With Her Kid.
At the same time, no other figure is revered in our culture like Mom. We can all conjure a mom--maybe our own, maybe someone else's--who fed us, loved us and shaped us like no other force in our lives.
So while there's no broadly accepted definition of good mothering, we're surrounded--indeed, sustained--by examples.
"I recently was found on Facebook by a friend from elementary school and as much as I remember her, I remember her mother even more clearly, who was the first French person I think I'd ever met," says Homa Sabet Tavangar, author of "Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World" (Ballantine Books).
"Unlike so many immigrants in the early 1970s, this mom wasn't trying to blend in or give in to the pressure of her children to be like everyone else."
"Bernadette," Tavangar recalls, "always looked fashionable, wore light makeup and heels in the middle of the day, made gorgeous French dinners and never, ever spoke English with her children."
The moms who stay with us--in spirit or body or both--come into our lives when we're starting to figure out who we want to be.
We often hear the word "selfless" attached to mothering, but those moms who stay with us find a way of honoring both themselves and the ones they love.
"My grandmother had that selfless piece," says family psychotherapist Arden Greenspan-Goldberg, "but you always saw this other dimension where she would just get up and dance. She was always singing. She had a tremendous sense of self, and you could see her strength from within."
That grandmother, Tillie, shaped Greenspan-Goldberg in countless ways, from her decision to practice therapy to the way she raised her own two children.