World's Greatest Mom(s), and why they hate you (a little) on Mothers' Day

3 May 2011
Valuable Advice
Your Mom is the World's Greatest Mom, 
and she hates you for that, a little:
Two contradictory and equally true facts, and some tips to help you get through Mothers' Day

Fact #1: Your mom is the World's Greatest Mom, and so am I.

Disclaimer: this post is openly sexist, in "honor" of Mothers' Day. Dads can feel free to edit the "moms" into "dads" and declare themselves the Greatest. Because, come Father's Day, you're going to be getting a lot of ties. And you don't even like to wear shirts with collars.

Chances are, you think you have the World's Greatest Mom. And chances are, you do. Because no one else loves you so much, and no one else sees the spark of brilliance in every little thing you do like she does and no one else makes you feel quite so at home.  Also, it's unlikely that anyone else has seen you so intimately at your most vulnerable, and made you feel so safe and secure in your hardest times.  Even once we're grown, nothing's quite as reassuring as that hug from mom, or that vote of confidence. And however crazy you might think your mom is once you grow up and see some of her motherly flaws, no one really knows you the same way she does, and no one else loves you in quite the same way. So congratulations! You really do have the World's Greatest Mom.  I think I saw someone wearing her shirt the other day.

For the record, my own mom actually is the World's Greatest Mom, and I have a number of friends (who have moms of their own) who readily admit this. I have the kind of wonderfully supportive mom who really loves nothing more than being with her children, and who always did the best littlest things to show us how much she loved us - like putting notes in our lunch boxes and making us feel like the "favorite" all the time. My mom is the mom all the other kids wanted - the one who lets you stay on the beach from morning til sunset, the one who makes lunch into a backyard picnic, the one who makes every day more fun than it really should be.

And despite the fact that I'll never measure up to my own mother (the truly undisputed World's Greatest Mom), it turns out that I actually also happen to be the World's Greatest Mom to the World's Greatest Children. They are amazing children - smart and funny and resourceful and sweet and adorable as can be, and the large part of what makes me the World's Greatest Mom is my ability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the myriad ways they outshine the other children of the world in nearly every way.  Barring giving birth to or adopting another child myself, I can't think of any other child in the world who could bring me the joy these two do. And I'm pretty sure that's what it means to be the World's Greatest Mom.

Moms are the Greatest because they think we're the Greatest. Which is very sweet, and nothing makes us love our mothers more than growing up and finding out how untrue this is - how we really aren't as great as they believe, deep in their hearts, us to be.  And this deserves some celebrating.  So thank your mom, and thank your kids, and thank yourself, for knowing that our many, many flaws have nothing to do with our potential greatness. Thanks to motherhood, we can all be the greatest, and we all are the greatest.

I totally believe this to be true. So if you were looking for some feel-good reading for Mothers' Day, you can stop there. Or copy/paste and send just that part on. Because the next part is also true, but not quite as feel-goodish.
The World's Greatest Mom (center) and the World's Greatest Children
Fact #2: Your Mom hates you (a little) on Mothers' Day, so watch your step

This morning, my kids were talking about Mothers' Day, which is coming up this weekend.  And my four-year-old daughter said "Mothers' Day is a special day where moms don't have to do any of the bad work. Like laundry, or vacuuming, or dishes, or washing floors..." and then she and her brother started listing all the "bad work" that (typically) I'm the only one who does around here.  And, not surprisingly, the prospect of having a day off from all that didn't make me feel very excited about Mothers' Day at all.

Despite the fact that she is the Greatest, I think deep down every mother really, really hates Mothers' Day.  Don't get me wrong - she loves the extra hugs and kisses, and the adorable painting or card or birdhouse you made and the heart-melting smile on your face when you come running into her bedroom, at 6:04 am on a Sunday morning, to let her know that she can sleep in because it's Mothers' Day. She loves you so much, in fact, that she feels a little guilty about hating Mothers' Day so much, and would never, ever tell you to your face that she wants to throw the World's Greatest Mom paperweight you bought her with her own money out the window, and then not clean up the mess.  She hates that paperweight and deep down, she hates you just the tiniest bit for thinking she would like it. Because it shows that you don't really know her, that she could really be any of the many greatest moms in the world who are also exchanging a day of not doing any "bad work" for a day of receiving depersonalizing trinkets.  Which she would never say to your face - and she would probably never even think it out loud in her own head - but it's true. So watch your step.

In theory, Mothers' Day is a pretty great idea - a special day for being extra sweet to your mom/mother of your children and telling her how much you love and appreciate her.  But that's not really what it is, even though that's what we tell ourselves. Mothers' Day is a combination of forced consumerism and torture.  It is a constantly looming and brutal reminder of all the thankless work we do as mothers, and how inappropriate it would be to demand appreciation for doing this work more than one day out of the year. 

So, here's a little valuable advice for avoiding World's Greatest Mom-related injuries.  If you follow these five easy tips, you might enjoy a pretty fun Mothers' Day, and your mom might actually appreciate you instead of just feeling like you felt obligated to prove you appreciate her:
  1. Never tell your mom "You can sleep in today."  This is just a painful reminder of how she never, ever gets to sleep in, and how terribly, terribly tired she is. Every day of the year.  It is also a reminder that she needs "permission" to sleep in - and permission from a child no less - something she most certainly did not need in the deliciously carefree years before she had children, when she could go to bed drunk and wake up at two o'clock, if she wanted. And sometimes she did want that.  So just say "good morning" when she wakes up, and don't mention anything at all about clocks.
  2. NEVER tell your mom "You don't have to do any work today!"  This is the most insulting thing you can possibly say to your mother.  Because it means that you fully expect her to do all the work on all the other days and implies that you have no real intention of being so helpful on any of the days to come.  Better to just let this drop, and do a few unasked things throughout the year, and don't bring up your knowledge of how little work everyone else does compared to mom, unless your intention is to solve that problem by doing your fair share for a change.
  3. Never buy your mom a gift that has the words MOM, MOTHER or GREATEST on it.  While it's true (see above) that your mom is the World's Greatest Mom, there's something about knowing that there are roughly 1,000,000,000 identical made-in-China trinkets just like that out there that just makes her hate you a little. Your mom wants a gift that proves you think she's unique. And while calling her "the greatest" does seem, on the surface, to set her apart from the rest, it does not, in fact, make her feel special. It makes her feel depressed.  She'd rather have candy. Or flowers. And those are also not very high on her list, for the record.  She'd be happier if you bought her the book she's so excited to read, or the shirt she'd never buy herself, or a gift certificate to that restaurant that only she likes but all the rest of you hate, because that proves you know what book she wants to read, and what shirt she wants, and what food she wants to eat. And knowing that you know her is a better gift than anything else, and all she really wants.
  4. Don't assume that just because you purchased some dumb thing for your mother in the past, that she now "collects" those things.  I learned, in my 30s, that my own mom never wanted to collect snowmen, or windchimes, or any of the other stupid crap we keep buying her, and I feel terribly guilty about that.  By projecting a phony idea of what she liked onto our gift-buying, we created an endless cycle of giving that forced her to not only collect, but prominently display, a bunch of stuff she hated - and with five adult children, you can only imagine how her "collections" have grown.  In my own case, my desire to collect glass spheres was profanely corrupted into the bizarre idea that I collect glass eggs, which I hate.  Eggs are antithetical to my aesthetic. Spheres are perfect. Eggs are not. But now I have a glass egg collection on permanent display in my living room. And I hate them, but thanks to the binding commandment of maternal gift-getting (Thou shalt never throw into the garbage or sell at thine garage sale a gift thou received from thy child), those eggs are here to stay, and I have, in a sort of sadly ironic way, become my mother.  The good news is, there's an easy way to avoid this: just ask your mom "When did you decide to start collecting x?" and if the answer is "when you gave me one for Mothers' Day," immediately stop buying those, unless they are explicitly requested.  Because your mom hates those and she can never tell you that. And she hates you just a teeny tiny bit for thinking she loves them.  Bonus tip: Don't even THINK about saying that your mother is "ungrateful" if she accidentally (or, bravely, intentionally) expresses displeasure over the crap you mistakenly and inconsiderately think she wants.  If you think this, you are a terrible, terrible child and do not deserve your mother's company.
  5. NEVER, EVER use the expression "every day is Mothers' Day" unless you plan to back that up with some work around here and start bringing flowers around for "no reason".  If every day really was Mothers' Day, we wouldn't be having this conversation, and your mom wouldn't have to dread getting her fake enthusiasm up for whatever thoughtlessly generic gift you felt obligated to buy to prove you love her.  Because (a) your mom already knows you love her and you can't measure that love in gifts, no matter how hard you try and (b) your mom loves you too much to tell you that she'd much, much rather feel appreciated all year long than be singled out on the most impersonal holiday of the year to be told that, like every other mother, she is the Greatest. But you know what would be the greatest mothers' day gift of all? Thanking your mom for making you feel like the greatest, and leaving that bit about "doing all the bad work" out of it.

    World's Most Disappointing, but Permanent, "Collection"


  1. Oh my gosh this is hilarious! And I loved the advice that you gave because it is all so true but stuff that I never would have thought of.
    Just hilarious!
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am a Mother's day hater. No one ever even offers stupid trinkets. I'm usually up early cleaning the mess of last nights meal , which I didn't even eat because I was working a double. I eat breakfast alone and cry into my tea about how I don't get at least the fake care day.So my hopes are low for this upcoming holiday. All the best to you other great moms!(and I like the eggs)

  3. This is great! Thank you! And the bit about trinkets is so true. For years, I've been giving my mom owls for various occasions (she does have quite a collection by now) until one day she said, "do you know that I only started collecting owls because of you?" Oops.
    Personally I have mixed feelings about Mother's Day. I hate the Hallmark commercialization of it. But if my husband and kids want to pamper me for one day, I might as well enjoy it. Skip the trinkets, though :-)

  4. I'm a Mother's Day hater too, makes me feel resentful, reminding me of all the crap work we do all year. I despise laundry and cooking meals for kids who don't eat them.. My husband finally figured out what I want most on Mother's Day--to be left the hell alone. He takes our 3 cherubs and goes adventuring for the day. This is is good because there's a quiet house, bad because then I'm tempted to fold laundry or prep for dinner. Mostly I end up baking cupcakes and prepping for our oldest's birthday which is always right around or on Mother's Day. Sigh, this mothering business is uber-thankless!

  5. How about demonstrating and teaching the kids about honesty? Let's tell them we appreciate their thought and effort but we really don't want anymore eggs, we want_________. A day alone, whatever..... And give the eggs to someone who does want them. The gift must move. Holding the eggs and the resentment is not good for anyone. You must ask for what you really want.(RUMI)