Mother's Day is Sunday, and we're taking a moment to say thanks to the most important women of them all-- our mothers. Mom, this thank you note is for you!

There is no instruction manual on how to be a mother. You can walk into Barnes & Noble and leave with a dang library of books about what to expect when you’ve got a bun in the oven, why breastfeeding is the best and formula bottle babies are doomed forever, how to potty train your toddler without giving him a Freudian complex, or how to make gluten-free cupcakes for your kid’s kindergarten class. There’s a book for pretty much every occasion—but there’s no definitive guide on motherhood.

Motherhood is the hardest job in the world, and it doesn’t come with written instructions.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get great advice from your friends, family, physicians, or co-workers—all people who can act as your Sherpa as you try to gain your footing on the Everest that is motherhood. It all comes down to this: you trust your gut, and you do the best you can. It is hard work, but you do it.

And Good Lord, do Mommas work hard. They say a woman’s work is never done; man, is that ever true. There are meals to be made, pots to be scrubbed, diapers to change, boo-boos to kiss, yards to be mowed, bathtubs in dire need of a hardcore scrubbing, dirty clothes to soak and wash, trash to be taken out, lullabies to sing, stories to read—and that’s all after you get home from your 9-to-5.

To our mommas, I say this: Thank You.

my mother and brother, March 1992

Thank you for your strength. Thank you for all the times you were too tired or sick to read just one more story, mommy—but you did it anyway, for the times you held little hands and brushed dirt off bruised knees, kissing tears away before making us get back on that bike. Thank you for the strength that helped you calm our fears of sickness or storms, telling us there’s nothing to be afraid of with a calm smile—despite being terrified inside.

Thank you for your dedication, for never giving up on us. You taught us how to hold a fork, use a toilet, read a book, throw a baseball, bake a cake, change a flat tire—and you did it all with the patience of a saint (even though sometimes you wanted to curse like a sailor).

Thank you for your sacrifice, for the stretch marks left by tenants who called your tummy home for nine wonderful months. For waking up at 3 a.m. to change a diaper, feed a hungry baby, take a temperature, or check the closet for monsters. For making room in the family budget by putting back your mascara, bubble bath, or new clothes—or letting us have that extra slice of pizza, claiming you’re not hungry though your own stomach growls. For working two jobs so we’d have new shoes. For loving us more than you love yourself.

my little tenant, 2012

Thank you for your love, your unconditional love that reminds us we are never alone. The love that’s been our safety net since the day we were born. The love that’s steadfast and true and strong enough to mend any broken heart. The love that’s loud and proud, like cheers and claps from the tee-ball stands as you watch your baby hit her first home run. The love that’s soft and sweet, like a tender kiss on a sleeping newborn’s forehead.

Thank you for your beauty, because you, momma—you’re always beautiful. There is no one prettier than you; when you stare into the mirror and take inventory of wrinkles or stretch marks, please remember that you are always, always beautiful. Even with your bare face, old t-shirt, yoga pants, and topknot, you’re the center of your baby’s universe. To that little one, you embody everything that is right and good in the world, and even as that baby grows into a full grown adult, you are still the brightest star.

the most beautiful woman in the world, my mommy, 2002

Thank you, momma. You didn’t have a road map, but you guided us from infancy to adulthood. We would be lost without you. We salute you on Mother’s Day—and every day. It’s your love that makes the world go ‘round.

We love you.