What Mom Really Wants

My dear reader,

This is a public service announcement to everyone who has a mom on the planet. Or a step-, foster- or fairy godmother. Or a female guardian/grandma/den mother/team mom/mother-from-another-brother… or momager. (Kylie and Kendall, I’m talking to you.)

Mother’s Day will be upon us in less than 48 hours. Stay woke.

I realize some of you may secretly rankle at the thought of paying homage to your mom, year after year after year. Maybe you think Mother’s Day is overhyped… or undeserved.

Think again, dear heart. (<Withholding judgment, making no mention of cluelessness, self-absorption or ingratitude on the part of those who don’t observe this holiday.)

Mothering is the toughest and most tricky/trying/tiring (and occasionally terrifying) job around. It’s also the most tender/terrific/transcendent (and occasionally triumphant) job around. Which is why Homo sapiens aren’t extinct.

Do you have any idea how much strength, skill, faith and fortitude it takes to suction nasal passages, administer oral medication, and remove a wad of earwax from a writhing, hysterical toddler? And then immediately thereafter wash and sort 37 pairs of socks (in sizes/colors/brands/designs ranging from 2T to C3PO, team colors to white-turned-dull-grey, Adidas to assorted dinosaurs), change 3 diapers, read 6 board books (or read the same board book 6 times), provide engineering consultation for a Lego fortress, apply teething gel, load a crockpot, extract a splinter, teach a math lesson using blueberries, tie a bib/shoe/superhero cape, craft a carefully-worded email to an overzealous T-ball coach, bathe a dog and a handful of grimy action figures, kiss/clean/bandage 2 boo boos, make organic applesauce (after chaperoning the preschool orchard field trip yesterday), unclog a toilet, research skin rashes and night terrors, play Mario Kart/Candyland/Connect 4, find a pacifier, a pair of glasses, the remote control, a sippy cup, a stuffed elephant and 3 overdue library books, fix a broken zipper, create a template for a princess crown from a paper plate, schedule a dentist appointment, battle grass and ketchup stains, arrange a playdate, dispense nutritional/behavioral/hygiene advice and unload the dishwasher all before 8:30 am? (But for Christ and coffee, none could prevail.)

And this is just the apprenticeship program, folks. Eventually these moms of preschoolers will be required to brave the wild frontier of kindergarten, run the gauntlet of the primary grades which includes the raging inferno of 3rd grade homework-hell as well as the dreaded 5th grade science fair project, only to then suffer the crucible of adolescence. Godspeed to all the moms with kids in junior high. (I mean that.)

The reward for mothers who survive to this point?

High school. Which is not nearly as perfectly pitched and well-choreographed as the Disney musical.

Yep, we get to revisit those four years of angst and acne and awkward once again. And watch our kids do all the stupid things we did. And cringe/pace/pray as they pull out of the driveway for the first time… and try to find their way in this crazy world.

We mother them, try not to smother them, and then send them off to a place filled with other inexperienced, immature, impulsive teenagers, knowing full well the potential for heartache and havoc wreaked by bad boys, mean girls, fakers, takers, drama queens, bullies, posers, pushers… and…


(Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.)

I’ve been a mom since 1990. Which means I’ve been “celebrated” on 28 Mother’s Days. And I’ve decided it’s high time I let you in on a little secret.

Here’s what moms really want:

A little gratitude.

Even after kindergarten, “thanks” is still a magic word. Especially when it is accompanied by real-life, heartfelt specifics. As in, thank you for feeding me every dang day for 18+ years. That’s 6570 dinners and 2405 sack lunches, give or take. (Breakfast is self-serve around here. Cheerios, anyone?)

I know, I know. Your mom’s not perfect. You’ve got a gripe or two. Or maybe you have hundreds. And they’re all legit. If so, I’m sorry. I truly am. And I pray you find peace. In a perfect world, everyone should get an incredible momma. But isn’t there something – anything – you can thank yours for? How about your life? She did give you free room and board for about nine months before you were born. (And she could have legally put an end to you earlier, if she chose. So there’s that.) If you can muster up a little mercy for your less-than-perfect mom…

Give thanks. And do so sweetly, sincerely, specifically. (Preferably in person.)

A text – even a lengthy one with blowing kisses and a colorful string of heart emojis – doesn’t really cut it. (Fear not, far-flung millenials, there’s always FaceTime.) Even if you’ve been a stinkbomb lately, your mom wants to hear your voice. And your apology, if it’s ready… and doesn’t contain the word “but.” Any and all words of genuine gratitude, affection, affirmation, and love are always welcome.


You know what else Mom wants?

A helping hand. (Do dishes. Fold laundry. Wash windows. Sweep the garage. Vacuum her car. STRAIGHTEN YOUR ROOM!) Can’t afford a Mother’s Day gift? Clean the bathrooms. (That includes tubs and toilets, rookie.) You will be her Mother’s Day hero(ine). A pristine bathroom is right up there with pearls… and Hamilton tickets.

A token of affection. Preferably a lasting one. Put a little thought – and heart – into it. That means just. say. no. to the paltry bouquet near the checkout at Kroger. And the big box of assorted chocolates strategically located there too. (Especially if she’s trying to eat Paleo. Pay attention, people.) Don’t get me wrong, chocolate is essential in the trenches of motherhood, both for consolation and celebration. But a pre-wrapped package of Fannie May Meltaways requires no effort or creativity whatsoever. Think outside the box. What are her favorite places and pasttimes? What does she like to wear/read/eat/enjoy? Choose something meaningful and wrap it with heartstrings. (Framed photos, original artwork, homemade treats, and tickets/reservations/itineraries for a special outing/adventure together earn bonus points.)

And then there’s the always-coveted and rarely-bestowed holy grail of Mother’s Day bounty for all the weary mommas who are on duty 24/7/365:

A day off.

A blessed, blissful… break. A “Get Out of Cooking/Cleaning/Caregiving Free” card. An afternoon all to herself. Time to read/rest/relax. Or run/spin/kickbox, if that’s her thing. A few hours to wander a park, meander a mall, hike a trail, or simply stroll… without the stroller. After the shock wears off (and before the offer is rescinded), most moms will be racing for the door, feeling positively giddy. Or putting on PJs and climbing back into bed. (Every mom on the planet knows that sleep deprivation turns ugly… quick. We fight back with everything in our arsenal: catnaps, chamomile tea, lavender oil, and liquid therapy. Meaning whatever’s on sale at Total Wine.)

But what about the moms whose babies have already – and all too soon – grown and flown? The ones who sigh wistfully when they see mommas with littles in the grocery store, pushing piled-high carts and sorting coupons and corralling offspring. They (we) remember the kiddie chaos, the sheer exhaustion, the desperate prayers. And we reflect on the hard, humbling, holy work that is mothering.

All we want this Mother’s Day is…


The gift of your presence. The welcome sight of your smiling face. The warmth of that big bear hug. The wonder in those twinkling eyes. That unmistakable laugh. The inside jokes.

The precious gift of togetherness.

(Those of us who have buried our mommas, we know now… how precious it really is.)

So, go on now.

Honor/hug/humor/help your mother this weekend. Say “thank you” for something specific. Bless her… and give her a break. (Or a nap.)

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:2-3)

Looking for the good life?

Bless your momma.


P.S. Happy Mother’s Day – and CONGRATULATIONS – to the winner of my little Spring Fling Reader Contest, Charlene M of Illinois! Your DIY garden gift package is on its way!