How was your Mother’s Day? Did you do something nice for your mom, another mom, or, if you’re a mom, did you receive something nice? Mine was fine– my husband cooked me dinner and my 10-year-old presented me with a card she’d made at school. They both picked out and purchased a nice gift for me, too.  (My teenager said nothing and did nothing, but truly, I wasn’t surprised, or hurt– if she had done anything nice for me, it would have seemed contrived and fake, considering that most of her words to me, for months, have been whiny, angry or disgusted.)  But I’ve been thinking about the holiday more, and I think I’m on the side of the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, who went to her grave penniless, having spent all her money trying to abolish the holiday she’d started.  Only I’d get rid of it for different reasons.

Anna was down on Mother’s Day because it had gotten too commercial, with all the candy and cards purchased.   “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she wrote.  I agree, homemade sentiments are always the best, but sometimes it does take someone a long time to pick out a card in a store, trying to find “just the right card”, someone else’s words that most closely match their own… No, I’m not bothered by the commercialism, I’m down on Mother’s Day because I think it seems ridiculous to say, “Let’s take a day to honor good ‘ol Mom” when she really should be honored 365 days a year.

I think there is a huge lack of appreciation for mothers in our culture. I hear about it and see it all the time…there’s the stuff in the news, the companies who won’t provide daycare benefits to female workers, the jobs lost if a woman mentions her kids during the interview or takes off work to care for a sick child… and there’s the stuff I hear from friends, who feel really beat down a lot of the time.  Last week, I talked to a friend, the mother of two and a full-time teacher, and asked what her family would be doing on Mother’s Day.  “Oh, I don’t know,” she said.  “My husband and kids usually go out at the last minute to the grocery store and buy me a card and a flower, ” she said, sounding disappointed.  “And I usually plan ahead with the kids on something really nice for Father’s Day, we make a big deal out of it.  He just doesn’t get it.  I’d just like to feel appreciated once in awhile…”

I’ll never forget a beautiful Mother’s Day essay I once read in a local publication, written by a divorced businessman who suddenly had to take custody of his four children (one a toddler), when his ex-wife died in a car accident.  He wrote about all he had to learn about raising children and all the “unnoticed” things he realized his ex-wife had done for the family, and that if he’d realized these things before and shown appreciation, their marriage might have lasted.

Is there anything, short of death, that an under-appreciated mom can do to help make her husband and family realize just how much she’s needed, just how much they appreciate all she does? One mom told me, when her kids were little, that a weekend away on a “Mom’s Retreat” had helped.  Her husband had to be in charge for a couple days and was so glad to see her when she returned, he’d definitely realized a lot while she was gone.  That does work for some but not for others.  (For some moms, it’s such a disaster around the house when they return that they have double the work to do, and they find out things that have happened that put their child’s safety at risk.  In my case, my husband usually tries to prove hard that he’s up for the task, that taking care of kids is a challenge that he can tackle, maybe even do better, so if there are any “this was tougher than I thought, gee I’m glad you’re back now so I don’t have to do this” feelings, they’re not admitted to me! )

In the past, when I’ve felt underappreciated as a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom, I’ve often thought of keeping a time log, much like we used to have to do when I worked at an advertising agency.  Write down everything you do in a day, so if your husband makes any cracks about “staying home and eating bon bons”, you have that time log ready to shove in his face. But when I’d try to write down my time, I’d get too busy to keep an accurate list, and after a couple days, I’d stop keeping track.

One of the best things I found is something a friend emailed me: Inc., “a leading provider of on-demand compensation, payroll and talent management solutions”, composes an annual Mom Salary Survey.  The recently released 2009 results determined that the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular “mom job functions” (like Logistics Analyst, Cook, Housekeeper, and Van Driver) would equate to an annual cash compensation of $122,732 for a Stay-at-Home Mom and an additional $76,184 for a Working Mom, up 5% and 11%, respectively, from the 2008 calculations.  (You can even customize it to your own situation and zip code with their Mom Salary Wizard.  Mine came to $125,221 but I think they’re missing a few job descriptions–  I’d also add Pet Handler, Disciplinarian, Historian, Travel Agent, and Piano Teacher to my list, so my yearly salary value is probably higher!) I think those dollar figures might really cause some families, especially husbands, to sit up and take notice, especially in these down economic times.

But even with fancy salary charts, I have come to the realization that a mom cannot be formally appreciated properly, never thanked enough for all she does.  A mom just needs to resign herself to the fact that when you take on this job, you don’t get performance reviews or bonuses  or “leadership awards” like you might get when working for a company.  If you get a “thank you”, that’s fantastic.  But I think most of us have to look for the real appreciation in other ways, or forever feel sorry for ourselves.  My husband once, on the spur of the moment,  took off work early and drove to a warehouse far away to pick up a van load of Girl Scout cookies because he realized, after talking to me on the phone, that I was too busy that day to do it.  I never asked him to do it, he just volunteered.  I will never forget that, because it helped me out tremendously and showed that he was aware that the other things I had to do were just as important.  I remember my teenager, when she was 3, sitting on my lap, scared one day during a rainstorm, telling me how glad she was that I had decided to quit my job and stay home with her.  And two days ago, on Mother’s Day, my 10-year-old gave me a bloody, toothless grin and a big hug, thrilled that I had pulled out her loose tooth when no one else could.

I may just make a necklace out of that little tooth…because it will help to remind me to be thankful for the little things, that moms are special and unique, and that I really am appreciated.