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This Mother's Day, Just Say NO

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Say you're a woman with both a child and a mother in your life, a MWM. Perhaps there's even a grandmother still in the picture. MWMWM. If so, is it gauche to ask whose day is Mother's Day, anyway?

As a woman with two young daughters of my own and a mom a couple of hours away, I face this coming Mother's Day with what I hope is a more enlightened approach than my usual. My usual is feeling unsure of what to expect my own family to do for me, while also worrying I'm not doing enough for my own mom. Oh the mother-guilt of it all!

But this year I'm determined to be more intentional with my approach to this day that is both time-honored and probably made up by the Hallmark Corporation. I actually want to take the opportunity and forethought to ask this week: How can I best honor a woman who's a mother and all her life brings to the world?

I think of a recent illustration on Facebook from a friend of a smiling, pretty, '50s housewife at the stove. The cut-and-paste text reads, "Why, I'd be delighted to put my needs last again."

I both laugh, and also think: Yes, bless her, she probably is. When I consider what mothers would do for their families, (what wouldn't we do?) I know that if nothing else, it's a divine gift to be able to live with the feeling of so much devotion. Give up dairy to breastfeed, deliver papers in the dark to pay for college, drive hours in a snowstorm for sports and give up just about every limb we have à la Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," before we'd deny our family what they need.

Next up though, after the awe and gratitude that we can care in such an all-encompassing way, comes remembering to take care ourselves first. Please deploy own oxygen mask before assisting with that of another. This way it's so much easier to breathe for everyone else.

Taking care of ourselves as moms has a long-standing tradition of being ignored. For one thing, it usually means saying no many more times than we currently do to all the demands others put on us. Think of The Giving Tree denying that poor little boy while she still has a few leaves left.

No, drawing boundaries around our own needs doesn't come easily. But to be able to do this more is what I wish for my own busy mom, as well as most of my friends who are moms, on this Mother's Day. Really, I wish it for every day of the year. In wishing this for the mothers of the world, I hope to take a moment to honor all the limbs they'd willingly sever just to help another.

I'm thinking of all the offers for more work -- to make more money for your family, the requests from your kids' schools, those from their extra-curriculars, those from your spouse, parent, neighbor and friend. Horrifying if you say it out loud, I know.

"No I can't do it... Sorry, no I can't help you right now."

But sometimes, to have the time to tune your own motor, you have to say no to all kinds of deserving, loving people and causes. This includes even that of the almighty dollar, or worse: bake-sale people.

And then what? Perhaps then you can do just one more thing for yourself than you've done in a while: do your nails, do yoga, do nothing. But do it for you. I promise that saying no this Mother's Day and beyond will make you a better person. It will make you a better mom, a better daughter and it will make you a better set of lungs with which to breathe for the world.