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How to Make the Magic of Mother’s Day Last All Year Long

The Ultimate Mother’s Day Makeover: Four Ways to Create Your Own Truly Great Mother’s Day…and Make the Magic Last All Year

Too often the joys of “Mom’s special day” are short-lived–if indeed they make it past the breakfast-in-bed kickoff. It doesn’t have to be that way. Leadership expert and author Jamie Woolf explains how to make some fundamental changes that will have every day looking like Mother’s Day.

Like most holidays, Mother’s Day is full of expectations and good intentions. It’s meant to be a day of respite, a chance to put your feet up and bask in the glow of your family’s appreciation and adoration. Unfortunately, that idealized vision of Mother’s Day rarely bears any resemblance to its reality. Your “special day” might start well with flowers, gifts, cards, and maybe even breakfast in bed, but it quickly morphs into “business as usual.” You spend the rest of the day breaking up sibling fights, preparing kids for the school week, and going to bed early before your own workweek begins.

Leadership expert and author Jamie Woolf says this is the year for a Mother’s Day makeover of sorts. She suggests that by using Mother’s Day to make a few changes to the “way things are done around here,” families everywhere can make things easier on Mom every day, not just the second Sunday in May.

“The thanks for all you do sentiment via Mother’s Day cards and gifts is lovely,” says Woolf, author of Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, February 2009, ISBN: 0470381310). “But what if this Mother’s Day, you got what you really want: kids who take out the garbage without being asked, school day mornings that don’t end in utter chaos, and laundry that finds its way to the hamper instead of bedroom floors?”

A mother herself, Woolf worries that most moms take on too much responsibility within their families and at too high a cost. She says that by applying a few simple tactics from the workplace, moms can easily transition their families’ willingness to help out on Mother’s Day into year-round habits that make their lives a lot easier.

“Moms have all sorts of justifications for their failure to delegate,” says Woolf. “It’s easier to do it myself than provoke a power struggle or I can do it better and faster. But by sharpening what I call their Mom-in-Chief leadership skills, moms can make every day like their Mother’s Day fantasy and help their children develop important life skills along the way.”

Read on for Woolf’s tips on how moms everywhere can give themselves the greatest gift of all this year:

Tell your family what a successful Mother’s Day looks like to YOU. When you begin a new project at the office, you wouldn’t dare let your team set to work without first communicating to them your expectations for the outcome. Great leaders define what success looks like before a project starts so that everyone knows what’s expected of them and so that the end result is satisfactory to all parties involved. Your tactics at home shouldn’t be any different. Tell your family what youwant for a change–not just on Mother’s Day but the whole year-round.

“Enjoy your gifts, sleeping in late, and the general joy that comes with receiving thanks from your family, but then take a little time to lay down the law,” advises Woolf. “Explain to your family that to be the best mom you can be you need a little help from them. See if you can’t elicit a Mother’s Day promise from everyone about one thing they can improve on–maybe your son promises to make the garbage his responsibility or your daughter promises to keep a tidier room. And then use the week following Mother’s Day to turn those promises into habits.

“I can’t tell you how many moms feel like Mother’s Day is just a short break from taking care of everyone else’s needs,” she adds. “This should be the year you change that for yourself.”

Don’t be afraid to delegate. (It’ll pay off in the long run.) It’s happened to you at some point or another. You’re working on a project at work and your team isn’t working fast enough, or the presentation they create isn’t quite what you had in mind. Though you may have been tempted to take over the project yourself, you knew that a good leader should coach her employees on what should happen and then stand back as they steer the project to completion and develop their skills and learn to perform at a higher level in the process. Woolf says that we should apply this same tactic with our children.

“Sure, you can do a better job of emptying the dishwasher or setting the table,” says Woolf. “But consider the big picture parenting goals. Is it more important to have a perfectly set table or every dish in its designated place, or to help your children be contributing members of the family and to teach them the importance of teamwork?

“By holding firm to chores and setting higher expectations for your children, you instill the values of respect and reciprocity and help them develop critical life skills,” she adds. “Once you’ve stuck to it long enough, you’ll see that you’ve created great helpers and turned your children into contributing members of the family. So if your kids want to cook you breakfast this Mother’s Day, let them. Just make sure that they do the dishes too!”

Take time to relax and rejuvenate. It makes you a better mom. It’s impossible to remain purposeful and creative when the relentless pressure of responsibility zaps all your energy. Imagine a work week that didn’t include weekends. Or imagine not taking a week to recharge on the beach each summer. You know that taking some time to step away from your responsibilities at work and recharge your batteries makes you a better employee and a much better leader…so why should motherhood be any different?

“Most moms can think of a million reasons not to take some time away for themselves,” explains Woolf. “Busy schedules, looming housework, and guilt are all high on the list. But what most moms ignore is the one reason they should take some time for themselves: It makes them a better mom. So, use Mother’s Day as the starting point for some daily downtime for Mom. Choose one activity you’d love to stop doing and introduce your children and/or spouse to the joys of that chore.

“If a good Mother’s Day for you means really getting away, don’t be afraid to take a spa day with the girls,” she advises. “These moments of relaxation will help you face the challenges ahead of you with a renewed vigor.”

Let yourself off the hook. The annual arrival of Mother’s Day tends to make many women introspective–and sometimes a bit critical of the job we’re doing. This year, impose a moratorium on nagging worries that perhaps you’re spending too much time at work or too little money on trendy clothes or kid-centric vacations. If your big picture goal is to provide a happy, healthy home for your children, does it really matter that you can’t send them to the finest summer camp?

“The fact is, we’re in a recession and few parents can afford to cut back on work hours or spend excess money on non-necessities,” says Woolf. “You’re doing the best you can. Jettison the guilt and cut yourself some slack. In fact, give yourself a pat on the back for the fantastic job you’ve done raising your kids. It’s the best Mother’s Day gift you could ever give yourself.”

Ultimately, says Woolf, you should take some time to remember what being a true Mom-in-Chief is really about: delegating, inspiring shared responsibility and initiative, and creating the esprit de corps that comes from a group effort.

“Think of Mother’s Day as a launching pad for the kind of family life you really want to live,” she says. “Take advantage of the fact that your family is in a receptive mood and leverage it to make some truly beneficial changes that take the pressure off you and redistribute the responsibilities of running a happy household. It’s the gift that keeps on giving all year long.”

About the Author:

Jamie Woolf is a regular contributor to Working Mother magazine and founder of The Parent Leader and Pinehurst Consulting, an organization development consulting firm. In her book, Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos, Woolf addresses real-life quandaries and covers everything that career-oriented women need to know to unleash their parenting potential and navigate challenges with skill and grace.

About the Book:

Mom-in-Chief: How Wisdom from the Workplace Can Save Your Family from Chaos (Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint, February 2009, ISBN: 0470381310, $22.95) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.

For more information, please visit www.mominchief.com

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