The Perfect Mother’s Day Gift

This Mother’s Day, I’ve got the perfect gift for your mom.

It won’t cost much. You don’t have to worry if it’s the right color or size. And I know it will make your mom feel great.

The toughest part of giving this gift? It’s in short supply. But if you dig hard enough, I know you can come up with it.

Please give your mom the gift of pride. Pride in herself. Pride in the not-so-perfect and sometimes-even-subpar job she is doing as a mom.

Why do I say this? Because everywhere I look, I see the faces and hear the voices of mothers who regularly feel guilt, shame, embarrassment, disappointment, disapproval, frustration, sadness, regret, even self-loathing.

Why do moms feel these emotions so often about themselves? Because they are not living up to an impossible standard that may seem like it started as a friendly competition and has grown into an ugly catfight that pits mothers against themselves more often than against each other. I’m talking about the Gold Standard that lives in the alternate Perfect Mommy Universe.

In the Perfect Mommy Universe, mothers never get mad, and they never yell. They calmly explain for the 934th time why you can’t eat candy in your bedroom 10 minutes before dinner. In the Perfect Mommy Universe, mothers never forget to wash the kids’ gym uniform before Monday morning or pick up the hubby’s favorite suit from the cleaners before his business trip. In the Perfect Mommy Universe, every meal is cooked at home with healthy and organic ingredients, and the delicious courses are thoroughly enjoyed by every member of the family sitting at the dinner table cheerfully discussing their day with no electronic distractions.

Okay, you can see where I’m going with this. We all know how ridiculously impossible it would be to compete with mothers in that universe. So why does a  mom try to compare herself with a completely unrealistic “expected” version of herself? Why do moms turn away from compliments for doing wonderful things? It’s because no matter how many great things we do as mothers, we believe we’re never doing them good enough to satisfy the harsh critic inside.

I witnessed it again tonight as I sat in a room with about 20 girl scout leaders and told them about my project to create a television show for and about OverAchieving Moms like them. That’s when one of the mothers sighed under her breath: “Oh, I wish… But not me. I’m an under-achieving mom.”

“Of course you are not!” I countered vociferously. Even though I didn’t know her personally, I knew she was a mother who has been volunteering for more than five years to help girls understand the importance of being strong, smart and savvy. So how could she believe that she does not fit the definition of one who “performs better or achieves more than expected”? Is every mother a girl scout leader? No. Every two or three moms? No. In my experience, about 5% of mothers take on the volunteer role of troop leader and even fewer stick with it for years and years. Just stepping up to fill those shoes while handling all the other stresses of parenting is an achievement itself, over and above what other mothers do. All of the leaders at the Girl Scout Volunteer Appreciation Dinner should know that and gratefully congratulate themselves for it, but they don’t.

Despite all the recognition tonight for the hard work of those volunteers, some deflected compliments with downward embarrassed glances or apologized for everything not going as planned, instead of accepting applause with the beaming glow of pride.

Is it because they don’t value the work they do in girl scouts? No, they know how much it matters, or they wouldn’t be doing it. If it didn’t matter, we wouldn’t be seeing so many successful women with girl scouts in their background.

Mother Jones says 60% of women in Congress were girl scouts, and the statistic is even higher — 70% — in the Senate. The magazine points out this is especially notable because “only about 8 percent of women overall in the U.S.  were scouts in their youth.” There would be no troops for those girls if overachieving moms didn’t become girl scout leaders. But some don’t value their own worth as much as they value the volunteer duties they fulfill.

Check out the “OverAchiever Mom” TV Show — and help make it a reality

It’s time these mothers — and all the mothers out there who are living in the real universe where kids test our patience, where husbands complain, where bosses pile on work — stand up and say, Yes, I devote effort at being a girl scout leader and mother and wife and worker. And I’m proud of what I do each day, no matter how many mistakes I make, because I’m giving it my best shot.

Please let your mother know on Sunday that (–no matter how annoying, judgmental, petty, stubborn, silly or crazy she may seem to you at times–) you are so proud of her raising you and doing it the best way she knew how.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the OverAchieving Moms!

In addition to pride, if you want to give your mother the power of information and inspiration, then contribute here to the Kickstarter campaign to create a show for and about OverAchieving Moms. You’ll receive a copy of the show and a booklet full of advice for helping mothers cope with the stress of their busy lives.

So how did your mother cope with stress, and do you take after her and use the same techniques? Tell us here, and share your secrets with other moms trying to juggle kids, spouse and career!

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