The Mom’s Peter Principle


I don’t know who the hell Peter is, but I know his principle.

Apparently, some Peter at some time did such a darn good job at whatever he was doing, his superior decided to promote him. Peter received more responsibility for more tasks that required a skill set beyond his ability. Rather than lauding Peter and allowing him to excel in his obviously optimal conditions, the powers that be pushed Peter to the point of inefficiency.

In short, doing a good job is almost always rewarded with more work.

Enter Moms.

Watch down any aisle in any greeting card store and you will see the pronouncements. Mother is kind, thoughtful, dutiful, caring, patient, loving, fun, reliable, and can solve any problem, fix any hurt, make magic with her motherly hands. Aside from magical powers – at least in my realm – nearly all of these are true. Mothers are nurturers. They do thoughtful things for their brood. They seek out ways to make them smile and feel loved.

Mothers don’t do these things to guarantee reciprocity; often the reaction of their loved ones is reward enough.

However, it is nice when we are rewarded with a special surprise, an unexpected little something, a thoughtful deed, which is why, for the last several years, I’ve hated Mother’s Day. I didn’t ask for much, but what I did want was a surprise; a day – or even part of it – not orchestrated by me. I guess I didn’t ask for enough – or specify enough – because quite often, I got nothing. The day inevitably ended with an argument between me and my husband. He was frustrated that I didn’t seem happy with anything; I felt totally misunderstood and miserable.

As the years passed, my babies grew into adorable preschoolers toting crafts. They brought me breakfast in bed, prepared by my husband. I also tried to focus on simple presents, rather than towering expectations.

This year’s Mother’s Day was perhaps the most enjoyable yet. We had visited with our own mothers throughout the weekend, leaving Sunday open. I received the traditional breakfast in bed, followed by free reign in the yard, planting flowers, putting around. My husband afforded me free reign for pretty much any activity. We explored a new hiking trail near our house. I read a book on the porch and fell asleep for a few minutes in a sun-soaked arm chair. We ate a grilled dinner – not prepared by me (thank you, dear) – al fresco. It was slow, meandering, unfolding much like a newly blossoming flower.

In the quiet moments scattered throughout the day, I realized why it had taken me so long to enjoy this quasi-holiday. Just as Peter performed so well he was pushed too far, mothers are so good at performing thoughtful acts for their family, they negate the need for any others to do such acts. Each member of the family has her role to play, her strengths and/or weaknesses; naturally, some of these abilities overlap, but those with the strongest muscles flex those more often. So I kind of ‘Petered’ myself right out of a surprise!

nest egg

Trudy James

But, I also learned that, while mothers are so attuned to the needs of others, this doesn’t mean others are aware of theirs. And while we should all embrace our strengths and respect, support each others’ shortcomings, that doesn’t mean mothers should wait forever for their needs to be filled. For instance, I’ve been eyeing all those necklaces with stamps, stones, etchings to represent all the children in a family. I’ve sent links, dropped hints – to no avail. This year I placed the ripped-out page of a catalog in my husband’s hand when he asked if I wanted anything. I picked it out, requested it, and happened to see the padded envelope emblazoned with the catalog’s name on it in the recycling bin a few days prior, but I got the necklace I wanted to symbolize our little nest of family.

So, to have an enjoyable Mother’s Day next year, you could either stop being so darned thoughtful so your family will pick up the slack or you could try to have no expectations so you’ll be pleasantly surprised no matter what happens. No matter what, clearly communicating your needs is a good way to ensure everyone’s happiness. And to make sure you don’t get Petered again!


The Mother of All Father’s Days

Is it wrong that I enjoyed Father’s Day more than I enjoyed Mother’s Day this year?

My parents and father-in-law came over for a casual brunch, which gave me the impetus to clean the house, but not so much pressure that I obsessed over the tasks for which I did not have time.  Said brunch gave me an excuse to make one of my favorite casserole recipes.  We enjoyed a nice, relaxed visit together.  My husband devoted the rest of the day to smoking some ribs on the deck.  Slow cooking gave us the chance to sit on the deck together while the kids played and we relaxed.  As an accompaniment to the ribs, I tried a new recipe of zucchini fried in beer batter, which allowed me to sink myself into savory, lemony fried goodness.  I read al fresco, tickled my babies, and even had a last-ditch burst of energy to dust, mop, and change the linens of my bedroom.

Holy schnikes – we had a good day.

As the cool breeze riffled the pages of my novel, a slight wave of guilt sloshed at my conscience.  I was not supposed to having a nice, relaxing day.  I was not supposed to be enjoying myself.  I was supposed to be making the day of the father of my children.

Being as I can rationalize anything, I petulantly argued to myself that, since Mother’s Day usually sucks, why shouldn’t I have fun now?  Why should I martyr myself more than I do any other day since no one does it for me?

Now, before you get your dander up, my love, (yes, I’m addressing you dear husband) – I am not begrudging you your special day.  You are a fabulous husband and father and always deserve a day to put your feet up after all the hard work you do.

I just thought it was pretty ironic that I had more fun this Sunday than that sacred Sunday in May.  Besides my selfish rationalizations, I think it also had a lot to do with expectations.  I had none yesterday – except helping the kids make his day special.  There was no high bar for me so I surpassed it easily.  Having a beer and reading my novel in the middle of the day was a pleasant and most welcome surprise.

Damn Hallmark and the jewelers and florists make anything less than a champagne brunch with a string quartet fall flat.  I don’t need diamonds, but the social expectations make me feel like I need something different, something to make me feel appreciated, valued.  And I deserve that – all mothers do.  But whatever nebulous idea I have in my head of what a special Mother’s Day looks like never materializes.

So Sunday we (I hope my husband did, too) had a good day.  I’ve been toying for a while with the idea of an anti-Mother’s Day.  (I’ll get around to writing the manifesto at some point)  But maybe I just had the inaugural one.  And it could really be any one of the 365 days in the year.  Any day that a mother takes time for herself, eats good food, enjoys her children, and has a good time with the joint caregiver of those children.

Happy Day, people.  Now go eat some fried zucchini – and enjoy it for gosh sakes!

nom nom nom

nom nom nom

Happy Mother’s Day?


I’m trying really hard to make today’s post about mental health; something full of knowledge, experience, resources. But I also feel that, in chronicling my journey toward mental health – that is, out of depression – many of my posts have been depressing themselves. On this banner day of Mother’s Day, I feel like I should be all full of flowers and fairy dust.

I’m laying in bed, exhausted, freezing from the night sweat my hormones gifted me, snorking from an allergy attack that will most likely turn into a sinus infection, listening to the rain steadily thrum the window above my head.

And yet, I returned from the bathroom earlier to find two of my daughters lined up, positively vibrating with the creative joy they couldn’t wait to unleash in the form of scrolls and paintings and cards. The best gift, though, was my five year-old shaking and giggling, burying her head in my lap when I told her how much I liked her portrait of me. Her pride, her modesty, her shyness, her beatitude. My eyes welled up – and I realized Mother’s Day could end right there and I’d be whole.

It is the unexpected joy that is the best – especially in the midst of struggle. It is most certainly unexpected then, and therefore, even sweeter. As acute as the suffering is, the joy is crystalline clear.

I realize that life continues on a parallel, sometimes intersecting, track with depression. It cannot be separated out. But it also cannot crowd out all positive experience. Life happens despite it. Even happiness and poignant moments can happen in spite of it.

So Happy Mother’s Day. May you have a bright spot in the midst of your trials.

%d bloggers like this: