The Heartwarming Way Jo De Messina Is Paying Tribute to Her Mom

"My mom sacrificed a lot on my behalf, so I jumped at the chance to pay tribute to her," Messina tells PEOPLE

Photo: Getty

Jo Dee Messina never knew what it took to be a mother until she became one herself.

“I look at people who don’t have kids and they are so eager to point the finger and say, ‘You did this to me! You made me this way,’ ” the country star and mother of two tells PEOPLE. “But I’ve figured out that moms are just people trying to get through life and then we show up.”

Not that Messina, 44, feels she has a grasp on the duties of motherhood, even though she’s raising Noah, 6, and Jonah, 3, with husband Chris Deffenbaugh.

“I’m still trying to wrap my head around being a mom. Every day I just pray that I’m doing a good job,” she says. “Someone told me that ‘behind every successful kid is a mom who swears she’s screwing it up.’ I feel like that’s definitely me.”

Messina says becoming a mom has made her realize the amount of credit her own mother deserves.

“She pretty much raised me as a single mom and worked really hard and she gave up a lot for me,” Messina says of her mother, Mary.

And now Messina has found a way to show her appreciation: writing the introduction for – and one of the stories in – Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom.

“[The team behind the Chicken Soup series] had asked me to write the introduction to the book and so I asked to read the stories they were considering to include. After reading them I decided I wanted to write a story too,” says Messina. “My mom sacrificed a lot on my behalf, so I jumped at the chance to pay tribute to her.”

Making the tribute even more special for Messina is the fact that her mother – whom Messina says had heart surgery “with millions of complications” in 2013 – has been about to live to see the book come to fruition.

“I feel so blessed that my mother has been able to hold this book and read it and remember the story that I wrote about,” Messina says. “She just started crying when she read it. She said, ‘I can’t believe you remember that.’ And I said, ‘Oh, Mom. That story kept me alive so many times in my life. Of course I remember it. It’s been a lifeline for me.’ And it really has.”

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to my Mom is available now.

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