31 Literary Mother’s Day Quotes That Are Not All About Sweetness & Light

These Mother's Day quotes show mothers as being their own persons, wanting to live their own lives, and refusing to be put on a pedestal.

It’s Mother’s Day, and of course, it is time to reflect on the loveliness of motherhood – whether it is thanking our mothers, or our children for giving us the chance to grow as mothers. Yet, we don’t have words sometimes for how hard or crazy motherhood is; or how unprepared for it we are. So why not look at some Mother’s Day quotes?

That’s when these amazingly insightful writers come to your rescue. Cutting, humorous or poignant, these mother’s day quotes show you things as they really are, when it comes to motherhood – not all sweetness and light!

These Mother’s Day quotes tell you to stop putting mothers on a pedestal. Because motherhood is beautiful but it can also be about conflict, negotiation, acceptance and identity issues.


“When your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.”
Erma Bombeck

Mother's Day quotes


“But kids don’t stay with you if you do it right. It’s the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won’t be needed in the long run.”
Barbara Kingsolver, Pigs in Heaven

mother's day quotes


“Children are knives, my mother once said. They don’t mean to, but they cut. And yet we cling to them, don’t we, we clasp them until the blood flows.”
Joanne Harris, The Girl with No Shadow

mother's day quotes


“God know that a mother need fortitude and courage and tolerance and flexibility and patience and firmness and nearly every other brave aspect of the human soul.”
Phyllis McGinley

mother's day quotes


“Sometimes being a good mother gets in the way of being a good person.”
Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey, A Woman of Independent Means

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Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey mother's day quotes


“Of course mothers and daughters with strong personalities might see the world from very different points of view.”
Katherine Howe, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

katherine Howe mother's day quotes


“And really, how insulting is it that to suggest that the best thing women can do is raise other people to do incredible things? I’m betting some of those women would like to do great things of their own.”
Jessica Valenti, Why Have Kids?: A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness

jessica Valenti mother's Day quotes


“Never argue with a mother who’s scolding her child.”
Toba Beta, Master of Stupidity

Toba Beta mother's day quotes


“The great motherhood friendships are the ones in which two women can admit [how difficult mothering is] quietly to each other, over cups of tea at a table sticky with spilled apple juice and littered with markers without tops.”
Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen mother's day quotes


“A sick child is always the mother’s property; her own feelings generally make it so.”
Jane Austen, Persuasion

Jane Austen mother's day quotes


“I’ve spent my whole life trying to get over having had Nikki for a mother, and I have to say that from day one after she died, I liked having a dead mother much more than having an impossible one.”
Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

mother's day quotes


“I wasn’t put on this earth to be housekeeper to my own child or to anyone else for that matter.”
Lynn Freed

mother's day quotes


“Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”
Marguerite Duras

mother's day quotes


“Sweater, n. Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.”
Ambrose Bierce, The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

mother's day quotes


“But mothers lie. It’s in the job description.”
John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

John Green mother's day quotes


“I wonder if other mothers feel a tug at their insides, watching their children grow up into the people they themselves wanted so badly to be.”
Jodi Picoult, Keeping Faith

Jodi Picoult mother's day quotes


“Everyone is guilty at one time or another of throwing out questions that beg to be ignored, but mothers seem to have a market on the supply. “Do you want a spanking or do you want to go to bed?” “Don’t you want to save some of the pizza for your brother?” “Wasn’t there any change?”
Erma Bombeck

Erma Bombeck mother's day quotes


“My mother’s menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it.”
Buddy Hackett

mother's day quotes


“She was a monster, but she was my monster.”
Jeanette Winterson, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

mother's day quotes


“Thus far the mighty mystery of motherhood is this: How is it that doing it all feels like nothing is ever getting done.”
Rebecca Woolf

mother's day quotes


“There’s no bitch on earth like a mother frightened for her kids.”
Stephen King

Stephen King mother's day quotes


“Maybe a mother wasn’t what she seemed to be on the surface.”
Jodi Picoult, Handle with Care

Mother's day quotes


“Mothers are all slightly insane.”
J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

mother's day quotes


“Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.”
Robert A. Heinlein, Have Space Suit—Will Travel

mother's day quotes


“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”
Dorothy Parker


“24/7. Once you sign on to be a mother, that’s the only shift they offer.”
Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

mother's day quotes


“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”
Margaret Sanger

mother's day quotes


“It’s come at last”, she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.”
Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

mother's day quotes


“… by and large, mothers and house wives are the only workers who do not have regular time off. They are the great vacationless class.”
Anne Morrow Lindbergh

mother's day quotes


“Angry mothers raise daughters fierce enough to fight wolves.”
Nghi Vo, The Empress of Salt and Fortune

mother's day quotes


“Taking care of myself doesn’t mean ‘me first.’ It means ‘me, too.”
L.R. Knost

mother's day quotes

Are there any more such Mother’s Day quotes you can suggest? Do add a comment.

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About the Author

Sandhya Renukamba

In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba is fortunate to associate every day with a whole lot of smart and fabulous writers and readers. A doctor read more...

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