Chaneling supermoms
"The quality that makes a mom wonderful is balance," says Walfish. "She is comfortable with both nurturing her child and being clear, firm and following through. She is warm and sturdy, and at the same time she is tender and strong. She is in perfect harmony. She is balance."

God (and mom) are in the details

Any mother can benefit from a reminder to nourish her spirit, and step off the mommy-go-round once in a while.

But sometimes it's OK to break a sweat. Healthy, even, says family therapist Kim John Payne, author of "Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier and More Secure Kids" (Ballantine Books).

"Being a mom is all about the details and knowing that to our children the little things are not little, they matter," says Payne. "A child's heart is warmed every time a mom can slow her life down to hear a child's experience.

"The most wonderful mothers I have met show a child many, many times each day what it is to be able to see something from another perspective, a child's perspective and yet still stay the governor of their family's state," he says. "Few words are spoken or needed when moms model something so special by letting the small stuff matter."

When all else fails … laugh

There may be a way to be a mom without a sense of humor, but we sure wouldn't want to try it.

"My husband's grandmother, Jeanette Cassidy, was a talented bowler and always enjoyed life. Her seven children adored her," recalls Mary O'Donohue, author of "When You Say 'Thank You,' Mean It: And 11 Other Lessons for Instilling Lifelong Values in Your Children" (Adams Media). "She died (in) 1999, and at her wake there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Until each mourner approached the casket, that is. I'm sure she had a rosary in one hand ... (but) in her right hand she had a bowling ball.

"I now know it's possible to laugh and cry at the same time. Jeanette was so extraordinary, so giving and so full of joy, that she managed to give the gift of laughter with her final goodbye."

And that, O'Donohue says, is a mom for you — "always thinking of others. That's a quality shared by wonderful mothers the world over. My own mother is a perfect example. She is compassionate, thoughtful and giving. When I was a teenager, she told me something that summed up her philosophy of motherhood: 'I would give up my life for my children, but I won't give up myself.' I feel blessed to be given the privilege and responsibility of raising my children, and though I certainly get overwhelmed at times, I never see it as a burden. I now understand my mom's philosophy, and I feel the same way."

— H.S.