What is it about the subject of motherhood that drives many great literary men and poets to write drivel, ad many intelligent women to scoff at the concept? Quotes about motherhood are plentiful; insightful, well-expressed quotes about motherhood which are not the equivalent of emotional spun sugar are rare indeed.

Abraham Lincoln is considered by many one of the greatest wordsmiths of the English language. Yet the same man who could sum up the way forward after the bloodiest conflict in US history with the words “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds,” could only say on the subject of his mother, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”

Of course motherhood is literally at the core of all of our existences. Perhaps our very early recognition of Mom’s power to embrace or reject, feed or let go hungry, and nurture or abandon us is simply too overwhelming any quotes on motherhood can ever do them justice. But even grown men and women seemed to be reduced to the level of grammar school kids when trying to immortalize their feelings for Mom in verse:

M-O-T-H-E-R

“M” is for the million things she gave me,

“O” means only that she’s growing old,

“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,

“H” is for her heart of purest gold;

“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,

“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,

Put them all together, they spell “MOTHER,”

A word that means the world to me. –Howard Johnson

There are quotes about motherhood which rail against it as the enforced enslavement of women; feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote, “The fact that we are all trained to be mothers from infancy on means that we are all trained to devote our lives to men, whether they are our sons or not; that we are all trained to force other women to exemplify the lack of qualities which characterizes the cultural construct of femininity.”

There are quotes about motherhood, on the other hand, which raise it to the heights formerly reserved for Divinity. William Makepeace Thackeray was of the opinion that “Mother is the name for God on the lips and in the hearts of little children,” and an old Jewish proverb claims that, “God could not be everywhere and therefore he made mothers.”

One thing which is blatantly lacking in the above mix fairly typical of quotes on motherhood, however, is information on how many of their authors had such powerful feelings about Mom because Dad was busy elsewhere earning the family’s living.

With stay-at-home Moms now in the minority, will the ages-old tradition of saccharine quotes about motherhood one day be replaced by the literary efforts of latchkey kids describing memories of warm evenings spent with Supernanny?