Mother’s Day can be fraught with many emotions for many people. I’m no exception. Some years are really hard, like the Mother’s Days after a child died, or the ones where speakers say their mother never spoke a cross word and I just yelled at my kids trying to get them ready for church on time.

But I also need to say this: I love being a mom. It’s been the hardest job I’ve ever loved, but also the funniest, the most rewarding, the most soul-searching, soul-stretching, heart-expanding and faith-building part of my life.

Being the mother of 25 children makes me stand out. I used to want to “be normal,” to “fit in,” but that changed decades ago when I gave birth to a child with multiple disabilities. Let’s be honest, though. “Normal” is overrated.

Perspective: An unexpected journey to motherhood

I’ve been called crazy more times than I can count. I’ve been told I’m wrong to adopt, especially since I was able to give birth to four children. I’ve been told that becoming a chronic miscarrier and losing dozens of pregnancies was God’s way of telling me that after five children, my family was large enough. I’ve been asked if I know what causes “that,” meaning my kids and I say “Of course! The telephone!” I’ve even been asked if I can remember all their names. Yes, and their birthdays too.

Here’s why none of those things matter. Because no one outside our family got to decide for us what our family should look like. I realized long ago (30 years, but who’s counting) that I did not want to get to the other side of this Earth life and have God ask me why I did not have more children and have to say something like, “My neighbor thought I shouldn’t.”

I’ve wanted to be a mom since I was old enough to nurture and care for baby dolls. In fact, I was quite dismayed when one Christmas I gave one of my “babies” to my little sister, who is seven years younger than me, and she promptly colored all over its face with a permanent marker. I wanted to stay home with my babies, then my toddlers, my preschoolers, my school-aged children, the tweens and teens. And, for the most part, I was able to do so.

Like so, so many women, I’ve been criticized for my choices. As a stay-at-home mom, I was called a “drain on society.” As an elected official, I heard that I didn’t love my family “enough,” or I wouldn’t have gotten involved in politics. It reminds me of former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

Relief Society General President Camille N. Johnson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke last week at BYU Women’s Conference and talked about prioritizing the two great commandments: Love God and love others. She was a practicing attorney while having and raising her children and shared how she tried to “let God prevail” as she and her husband made decisions about their family.

In the days since her address, social media has been filled with posts by people who were unhappy with her message — and she got it from all sides. Stay-at-home mothers who were upset that she worked outside the home. Working mothers upset that she said she prioritized motherhood. Some who said they were confused at the “mixed messages.”

I loved her talk, though. She said things that I have found for myself, including seeking inspiration in our choices and in the timing of those choices — in spite of what others may say or think, of finding more capacity when we put God first. She said that by letting God author our story, He will take us places we never imagined and that we sometimes do things the world cannot make sense of. Amen, sister.

I love that in my faith, women have long been encouraged to get an education, going all the way back to Brigham Young sending women to medical school. I love that in my faith, we believe in the ability to get answers for ourselves, even when someone else may be in very similar circumstances and get an answer that is different.

I love that there are a gazillion ways to be a good mom and that we can have grace for those who parent differently than we do. You don’t have to share my faith or have any religious beliefs at all to be a good mom. I am grateful, however, to have motherhood to help me turn to God and deepen my relationship. Being desperate for answers is sometimes a good, although painful, catalyst for getting me to my knees in prayer. Sometimes motherhood was and is hard.

I sometimes wish I could have given myself more grace when I was deep in the trenches of parenting and trying to figure out how to juggle food prep, diapers, story time, homework help, laundry, dating advice and spending so many hours in the car that I could count it as a second home. In no way was I a perfect mother (they don’t exist, by the way) but I was doing the best I knew how, with gobs and gobs of love.

When I nearly died a couple of months ago, my thoughts were for my immediate family and not my work colleagues, my besties or even my extended family. Sorry, guys. No, my life did not flash before my eyes, but I desperately did not want to leave my husband a widower or my children motherless. And I got a real dose of humility in realizing that I truly don’t control everything in my life.

Along with President Johnson, I am reminded that Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of my faith and the author and finisher of my story. Being a mother has been one of the very best parts of my story.