Motherhood: A Gift From One Mom To Another In 14 Songs

I remember my first Mother’s Day. My child was just a few months old, and I was being celebrated for… I guess having the guts to give birth to another human being? At the time that’s what it felt like.

It’s not because I hadn’t experienced so much more than that. It’s just that all the people celebrating me on that day couldn’t even begin to understand the experience I was having… or at times, more aptly put, enduring. The people showering me with gifts and praises were doing so out of admiration of something they didn’t quite understand themselves.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I think I got an iPod mini that day, 7 years ago. I still treasure that iPod mini. But I think there was something missing from my life back then; A sisterhood with other mothers; An acknowledgement of “you’re doing a good job” from someone who was also in the trenches. But that past feeling of loneliness has made me more deeply value the importance and necessity of giving love and appreciation to those who share with me this honored title of “Mother.”

This Mother’s Day I want to praise and cherish the other mothers I am blessed to know. I’ll use this opportunity to tell them that they are doing an amazing job. I’ll give THEM a gift.


Here is my gift: a playlist featuring songs inspired by motherhood from artists and songwriters who are themselves moms. This playlist is not only a gift from one mom to another; it is also a recognition of all the ways we are the same and a celebration of all the ways we are different.

HINT: Keep scrolling for a break down of each song on the playlist.


“I’m a street fighter, I’m a prayer for peace // I’m a holy roller, I’m a honey bee”

As May Erlwine puts is, moms are “never one thing”. You said it, May ?
“The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep
She broke a thousand heirlooms I was never meant to keep
She filled my life with color, canceled plans, and trashed my car
But none of that was ever who we are”

Love this video Brandi Carlile made to celebrate all mothers.
I recommend checking out the live version as well where she sings to her daughter.
“When storm clouds gather, and the waves are wild // you know I would rather be with you my sweet child //
And crossing this dark ocean makes it hard to reconcile // my true devotion has been you all the while”

Can you blame me for wanting to be sandwiched between Brandi Carlile and Lauryn Hill?!
I wrote this song for my daughter while rocking her to sleep after being away on tour for two weeks. It was my way of explaining to her why I do what I do.
“Now the joy of my world, is in Zion”

As a kid I loved this song but didn’t actually grasp the meaning, as abundantly clear as it is. Even as industry people told her to get an abortion, she did what she felt was right, even if it meant sacrificing her music career.
This Lauryn Hill song exudes what motherhood is all about: love and courage.
“But now here is this tiny baby // And they say she looks just like me
And she is smiling at me with that present infant glee
Yes, and I would defend to the ends of the earth
Her perfect right to be, be, be, be”

I can so relate to Ani. Our children transform the way we look at ourselves and the world.
“I’ve been a disappointment from time to time
I’m prone to swing at mirrors // I interrupt slow talkers
And I need everyone to like me
But I won’t fail you when I walk out on the wire”

This Shovels & Rope tune is definitely an anthem for me.
We all have our shortcomings, but when it matters most, we promise to never fail our kids.
“Hey, you’re the comeback kid
See me look away
I’m the runaway
I’m the stay out late
I’m recovering
Kid, at the top of our street
I was somewhat like him
I was somebody”

Can we all just agree that Sharon Van Etten and this video are pretty bad-ass?! Her new album is amazing and much of it is influenced by her young son.
“If I lose my fame and fortune (really don’t matter)
And I’m homeless on the street (on the street Lord)
And I’m sleeping in Grand Central Station (okay)
It’s okay if you’re sleeping with me”

This live video of Houston performing her classic “My Love Is Your Love” is so sweet, makes my heart melt, and definitely tear up.
Another example of a song I didn’t quite grasp the meaning of until more recently.
“This world will tell you ‘Take just what you want’
but you know a cage would only kill her song
Oh Darling, do no harm”

I met Sarah Hart nearly two years ago at a songwriting retreat, and had a chance to talk one on one with her about being an artist and a mom. I’m eternally grateful for the advice she shared with me, and perhaps I’ll write a post on it sometime.
This gorgeous song she just released is advice wrapped within music and lyric for her eldest daughter.
“How do I keep you from losing your way
Hope you’ll go out and you’ll come back some day
But love is letting go, and this I’ll know
‘Cause you were mine for a time”

Sheryl Crow singing a lullaby to her adopted son; Another song that’s got me ?
This is a special shout out for all you amazing step-moms. Fairy tales give you a bad rap, but as Alicia Keys can a-test:

“Hey I might not really be your mother
That don’t mean that I don’t really love ya
And even though I married your father
That’s not the only reason I’m here for ya”
“Child with a child pretending
Weary of lies you’re sending home
So you sign all the papers in the family name
You’re sad and you’re sorry but you’re not ashamed, little green
Have a happy ending”

Yes, I have to honor Joni Mitchell on this day. Joni wrote this about the daughter she gave up, and later said “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go.”

Joni was reunited with her daughter in 1997 ❤️
“When I think about dying
I think about children
And when I think about children
I think about you
And when I think about you
I feel like crying
Crying for my youth”

I first heard this sweet little tune from Anais on 1/31/2014, when I saw her and Patty Griffin perform at The Metro in Chicago. She explained that she wrote the song about her daughter Ramona, when she was still just a thought and a wish, not yet conceived.
For me, this is a reminder that our love for our children exists even before they do.
“And then I accidentally stole a thing of chapstick from the safeway
I didn’t see it ’til I got out to the car
I would have usually returned it but I was overwhelmed
And late to take the baby to my cousins which was far away”

I started listening to The Dresden Dolls in high school, just shortly before they hit it REALLY big. I remember watching them perform at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel in Providence, RI and being totally captivated by Palmer’s energy and storytelling. It is really cool to see how she’s transformed through the years and yet remained utterly true to herself, and how she is able to share even the hardest parts of motherhood with her audience.

And with that, Happy Mother’s Day to all you fellow moms out there!

If you enjoyed this playlist and want to give some love and encouragement to your mom friends, please share this post and/or the Spotify playlist! This is what’s great about mix-tapes and playlists: they are the 0 waste gift that keeps on giving ❤️

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