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There’s an old saying that “the reason your mom knows how to push your buttons is because she’s the one who installed them.” And it’s true. But whether that’s good or bad depends on how you look at it.

Mothers, in general, get a pretty bad rap. They’re routinely blamed for their children being unhappy, unhealthy, unsuccessful, uncaring and just about every other “un.” It’s one of the first concepts taught in Psychology 101 and one of the most persistent themes in counseling.

The sad part is that 99% of mothers intend to create the perfect environment in which their children can thrive. They cook homemade meals, buy the highest rated vitamins, help their children with their homework and sign them up for every after-school program the family can afford.

Moms are giving. Moms are selfless. Moms are perfect.

How do I know? Because my mother (like all mothers) told us how selfless, giving and supportive she was every time her children did something wrong. In fact, most of us can recite these momisms in our sleep:

“You have no idea how much I’ve sacrificed for you.”

“Do you know how many times I’ve gone without so you can have the best (clothes, education, opportunities, etc)?”

“Have you ever stopped to think how hard I work to keep a roof over your head?”

The real reason these rhetorical questions grate on us isn’t just because we’ve heard them a hundred times, but because there’s nothing we can do about it. The average eight year old doesn’t have the resources to start kicking in for the monthly mortgage payment. Our parents choose to make certain sacrifices for us and all we must do in return is recognize and respect those sacrifices.

The irony, of course, is that moms also knows how to push the right buttons to make you feel better. They’re the first person most of us ask for when we’re ill or hurt (including emotionally), and the people who keep it all together when your whole world seems to be falling apart.

And this need doesn’t necessarily lessen with age. No matter how old one gets (or how awful one’s mother might have been) most adults still seem to invest a fair amount of time and effort in earning their parents’ approval. Perhaps that’s one way in which we try to repay them for their sacrifices – and why so many books have been written about the effects on children who lose their mothers at any age or while they felt there was still “unfinished business.”

If any of this sounds familiar, if you’ve lost your mother and are still dealing with those emotions, I’d like to recommend a few books that might help. In non-fiction it’s hard to beat Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. (It’s been a best seller for 20 years). But I’d also suggest When Mom Dies by Dackeyia Sterling or Grieving the Death of a Mother by Harold Ivan Smith.

Elizabeth Berg’s novel What We Keep is also an absolute treasure and, on the lighter side, just about anything by Erma Bombeck will make you laugh out loud. (I’ve read both The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank and If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What Am I Doing in the Pits? more than once).

If, on the other hand, you still have a mother in your life, I would encourage you to reach out to her in this season of Thanksgiving and offer her a simple “thank you.” Being a mother myself, I assure you it will push the right buttons and is the best reward for anything she’s done for you.

In the words of Maya Angelou:

“I really saw clearly and for the first time why a mother is really important. Not just because she feeds and also loves and cuddles and even mollycoddles a child, but because in an interesting and maybe eerie and unworldly way, she stands in the gap. She stands between the known and the unknown.”

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Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini

Lee Ann Monfredini is the founder of 360Women and a life-long advocate of women’s issues, political activism, social volunteerism, organizational accountability and personal responsibility. A graduate of the University of San Francisco with a degree in Non-Profit Management, she’s not only served on the boards and executive teams of some of the most respected health organizations in the Bay Area, but built a successful second career as one of the most respected realtors in the market. She can be reached at leeann@360women.net.

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