I came across this beautiful description of a strong woman while reading Michael Perry's Truck: A Love Story. Notice her strength comes not from her ability to strap a man's shoes and win the bread- rather, it comes from making the bread and feeding it to her children. A bit lengthy, but bear with me.
"I was raised by strong women. Of course they could only do so much.
"I use the term raised in the perpetual sense, because the work continues. There is my mother, of course, sentenced to nature's most blessed curse, in which the female is expected to give of her body and blood in the rearing of a creature bound to bring trouble on the house. Not to mention the heart. A child is prayer and worry wrapped in a blanket. Tax deductible, yes, but oh, the hidden costs. You might describe my mom as the valedictorian homecoming queen who wound up a God-fearing homemade granola-slingling Florence Nightingale in a maxiskirt and construction boots stuck on a cow farm.
"Over the years she has taken responsibility for for the care and feeding of legions of children--some conceived, some adopted, some fostered, some delivered by the county for the weekend, others for a lifetime. She is slight of build, and (to use her phrase) just mortified by public attention (thus I write of her in the broadest terms), but I have watched three firefighters rush to her with an unconscious baby and then enclose her in a semicircle of hulking apprehension while she calmly gets the kid breathing again. I have also seen her up to her elbow in the rear end of a sheep and giving rescue breaths to a newborn Holstein calf. (Mind you, not simultaneously.)
"For forty years she has raised a constantly fluctuating passel of tots, drawing on her wits, fifty-pound bags of oatmeal, and a fistful of coupons the size of a bad UNO hand. There were undoubtedly sleepless nights, but she never betrayed them."
Fear not, the next paragraph goes on to describe her inefficiencies and weirdness, including a strange hand tic and her inability to fold a basket of clothes without getting distracted.
I have reread that passage several times now, and the only thought I have is this: Would that I could be like her.