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Growing up, every time I complained about something (and I was prone to complaining whenever something didn’t quite go my way), my Mother would ask: Can it be done? And I’d try to tell her how everyone else in class couldn’t do it, or some other excuse and she would respond: I don’t care about anyone else. Can it be done? And I’d say that yes, it can be done but omg, it is so hard and unfair and … and.. and she’d say: If it can be done, then YOU can do it. No excuses. And the thing is, I could do it. And I can’t tell you how many times I have thought of that in my life. If it can be done, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, you can do it. I still complain sometimes but I catch myself.

Much like that advice, the idea for this story is simple: we would track down some of our favorite women, and ask them for the advice or memory of their mothers gave them, that they carry around with them, that helped shaped the woman they are today. Below you’ll see notes from writers, artists, activists and more. The only problem was that there were SO MANY women to ask.

Together, the piece is “How To Raise A Great Daughter” and should serve as a lovely, but REAL Mother’s Day weekend celebration. The dream is to keep updating this always since every day really is Mother’s Day. Please let us know in the comments who we should have contribute next.

Feel the love! Call your Mom!

Aparna Nancherla, Comic

Here is my mom-tribution, attached as a text she sent me once before my first appearance on Conan.


Abby Phillip, White House Correspondent CNN

When I was in college, my mother gave me two essential pieces of advice, both about how to deal with the hard parts of life. The first was: when faced with two tasks, always do the more difficult one first. The second piece of advice was delivered to me when I was fighting to hold on to a relationship that just wasn’t working. She told me that, at least at the beginning of a relationship, love shouldn’t be hard, because it will only get harder. For much of my 20’s, I woke up most days with both insights at the front of my mind. At times in my life when work was uninspiring or overwhelming, I powered through, always keeping in mind that accomplishing the hard tasks first will allow me to do more. And as I wandered through relationships in my early-20’s, I was always reminded that I would know that my partner was worth the investment when love and companionship came with a certain ease, allowing us to build a stronger foundation for the harder parts, which inevitably come later.

Rebecca Correa Funk, CEO – The Outrage

I have a singular memory that transcends my entire life. It’s my mom, I call her Mauds, with her two sisters Diana and Donna blissfully nestled under each arm, giddily singing along to Sister Sledge’s 1979 classic “We Are Family”. Diana always lip syncs the ‘and we fly just like birds of a feather’ line, extending both her arms to presumably demonstrate how they might fly, but it looks like more of a super zen breast stroke. And then it inevitably devolves into a weird conga line that snakes through whatever venue we’re in, public or private.

I have this memory from happy times. Thanksgivings, graduations, my wedding, etc. But it has also played out in dark times. The end of a marriage. The funeral of a grandparent. The loss of a cousin to suicide.
Without using words my Mauds has taught me how to find joy and perspective in any situation, including the most sorrowful. She’s shown me how to live exuberantly through pain and perhaps most importantly, that dancing is life’s best medicine.

Susan Davis, Congressional Reporter for NPR

photo by Meg Kelly / NPR

My mom, Nancy, passed away from cancer when I was 17. I still think about her every day. Here’s one of the things I remember most: She once read a story in Reader’s Digest about a study that suggested people who get 5 or more hugs a day are happier, and less likely to suffer from depression. She embraced this study as gospel and made a point to hug her 5 children like mad. Growing up, my four brothers and I would often tease her about her excessive hugging tendencies. Even when she was (sometimes very) mad at us, we still got our daily hug dosage. All these years later, some of my most vivid memories of my mom are still her daily hugs and how that one simple, consistent act made us all feel special and loved no matter what–which was exactly her point.

Ann Friedman, Writer / Expert Pie Chart Maker / Podcaster

My mom always says, “Everything’s better in the morning.” And she is almost always right.

Laura Lippman, New York Times Best Selling Author

Did my mother raise a great daughter? Darned if I know. But I do believe she’s entitled to claim she’s responsible for anything I do right. My mom raised me to write thank-you notes. Sometimes, I fail at this simple task, but that’s on me. When I do it — and I’m talking about proper notes, written by hand, in envelopes with stamps — I feel like a properly functioning adult. And I’m trying to pass the tradition onto my daughter. There is no downside to writing a thank-you note, none.

Andrea Green, Finance Director, HRC – Human Rights Campaign

When they closed her casket, a primal wail came out of me.

This Sunday marks my eleventh Mother’s day without my Mom.

It also marks my ninth Mother’s day as one.

Mom, my daughter’s middle name is S.  After you, Sherry.  I bore her too close to losing you and couldn’t yet bear to say your name in full so S., it is.

In the middle of the night, I would cry for the Charley horses and you would be right there bedside massaging my legs, telling me everything would be all right.  Just last night, in the middle of the night, I placed and replaced a cold, soft washcloth on Ali S.’s forehead to relieve her fever and told her everything would be okay.

You never advised me about unconditional love.  You lived it.

But you did say never judge people at weddings or funerals.  I’m sorry you weren’t there, Mom, to share that with everyone who heard my cry at yours.  I miss you but live your joyous legacy every day.

Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian Of Congress

photo via Library of Congress

My mother Colleen Hayden has taught me the importance of public service. Her years of social work in juvenile justice, public housing and family services has influenced my work as an adult.

note: Katalina is in the stroller

Anytime anyone would say anything mean to me as a kid, my mom would comfort me by saying, “Mija, do not take it personally. When someone says something mean to you, it is actually because they feel bad about what is going on inside of them.” That wisdom has stuck with me throughout my whole life.

Rose Jaffe, Artist

My mom was a graphic designer for years and she would let me sit in her office (our attic) and let me draw in the corner while she worked. She was designing the annual t-shirt for my elementary school one year and I saw the design and decided to create my own version. She loved it so much she presented it to the school board and they agreed to have it printed for that year. I was 6 years old! I was beside myself seeing this funky design worn by everyone in our community. My mother has not only supported but uplifted my love for art since day 1. There is no way I would be doing what I am today without her continuous encouragement and unwavering support. Love you mom!

Emilia Cirker, Chef & Entrepreneur

Remember Harry Harlow? Even if not, here is the basis of his question: what is more important to sustain life, affection or sustenance? Aka cloth monkey, wire monkey as my Dean Mother would often reference.  My mother is a no bullshit, teflon coated warrior who commands authority like a sergeant….and NEVER misses a Jeopardy question. Notoriously one of the smartest, strongest…and scariest women around, somehow my SoldierMom is surprisingly (please don’t tell her I’m telling you this) also the warmest, kindest snuggler in the world and my daughter and I simply adore her.  As a tough broad myself, the lovey dovey mutual adoration my Ice Queen mommy and I (and my girlie) share for each other is often shocking to many. It’s as if strong women are not allowed to also be soft…but THAT my friends is my mother’s greatest secret. Applying Harlow’s findings, my mother taught me that it didn’t matter if I became a Tiger Mom, Homeschooling Mom, Jet-Setter Mom, Hippie Mom or Iron Maiden like my own, what mattered most was being the safe and trusted lap in which my kids could always, lay their heads.

P.S. Don’t think for one second that my Mom didn’t proof read this with me…while snuggled on the couch watching The BFG with me and my daughter…AND added that “No dear, I often miss the (“stupid”) Sports category in Jeopardy! Wire monkey on the outside, but cloth monkey to the core.  For the record 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day!

We originally ran this for Mother’s Day 2017