Today is a slightly different topic than the usual…
A few days ago while shopping at Target, I walked past the aisles of cards and realized my mom’s birthday wasn’t too far away, and I should probably pick up a card while I was there.
I headed to the “birthday cards for mom” section, and started reading through cards to see my options. If you’re anything like me, this process usually takes some time, because I want to be sure to find one that says just the right thing for my totally awesome mom.
This time, though, I quickly ruled out card… after card… after card. With each one I put back, I became more and more dismayed. There was nothing wrong with them, exactly, but they were so exactly not right.
I’m so lucky to have you as a mom. Happy Birthday!
You taught me to be strong, independent, and awesome.
Without you, I wouldn’t have become the person I am today.
Mom, you made me who I am.
Your birthday is the perfect day to let you know how much you mean to me. I’m glad you’re my mom.
Without you in my life, I wouldn’t have turned out to be such an amazing person. I mean, seriously, I’m so cool. I’m insanely successful at my work, I have a gorgeous spouse, perfectly behaved kids, and am the envy of all the other parents on the PTA. My life rocks. And all of my undeniable awesomeness is thanks to you, Mom. (Okay, I made this one up. But after flipping through a dozen cards, I wouldn’t have been surprised…)
These are all wonderful, beautiful things to say to your mom! (except that last one…) But in a birthday card, all of these feel wrong to me. And all for the same reason:
Every single one centers around “I,” “me,” or “my.”
Out of probably 30 cards, I found only two cards that started with:
Mom, you are…
It might seem like a small thing, but there’s a cavernous difference between
“Mom, I am…”
“Mom, you are…”
And it’s an important difference because…
- It’s her birthday! Which means the day isn’t about you and your life, it’s about her and hers. Maybe try to stop talking about yourself for like, 5 minutes?
- So: avoid cards that focus on “I.” Celebrate her!
- Your mom is a mom, and she’s also a person. That person is having a birthday. With “Mom, I am…” cards, you’re defining her worth as a person as how good a job she did as a mom, like nothing else about her matters. They all boil down to, “I turned out well, so, thanks Mom, you’re a good mom, and happy birthday.” That really sells her short! Instead, think about her not through the lens of her relationship to you, but who she is as a person.
- What makes her an awesome person? Find a card that says that, and give it to her!
You see, we’ve already created a day to appreciate everything your mom has done for you as your mother: Mother’s Day.
Her birthday is a time to celebrate everything that’s awesome about her as a person.
I’ve been thinking about this as many of my amazing, fabulous friends have kids and have to work out the balance of this identity. Being a mom is one of the many things that makes them amazing and fabulous. Some are moms who rock their jobs, some are moms who hold fast to their passions, some start their own businesses out of their homes, some run marathons inbetween running the kids to practice. Every different mother figures out the balance that’s right for them. I would never want my brilliant, sassy, accomplished, funny, talented mommy friends to walk down the cards aisle and feel like the only thing anyone sees of them anymore is their reproductive ability. All of those awesome things about her are what make her a great friend, coworker, confidant– and a great mom.
However the balance shakes out in their lives, no woman stops being a person when she has kids. Moms are people, too.
Okay, so this may not be a new thing, and it only took 30 years of sending my mom birthday cards for me to notice. But now I can’t un-notice it. My mom is such an awesome person, and if her own daughter doesn’t take time to tell her that on her birthday, who will?
So for her birthday this year, I found a card that’s all about how awesome she is. There isn’t an “I” in the whole thing. And “I” think that’s exactly how it should be.