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I'm (Trying to Be) a Damn Good Daughter, Wife and Mother

Photograph by Getty Images

As a milestone birthday for my mother approached, I dove into planning. I scoured Pinterest for party ideas and polled friends on how they made such occasions special for their mothers. As the planning geared up, I developed a mantra: “I’m going to make this extra special for my mother.”

That mantra, however, had to compete with two others. One was “I’m going to make my husband’s milestone birthday special for him.” His milestone birthday happens to be the day after my mother’s.

And the third mantra: “I’m going to make my son’s fourth birthday super special.” While the fourth birthday isn’t quite the same milestone as a 40th or 70th, try telling that to your 4-year-old who’s expecting at least a few bells and whistles for his special day.

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As I juggled these three celebrations, I became frazzled trying to fulfill each of my roles. Like all mothers, I’m used to wearing multiple hats and keeping various balls in the air at all times.

The mother in me wanted my son to have a great celebration with his friends. After all, his sister had a blow-out fourth birthday with thirty guests (including out-of-state grandparents) and an Ariel piñata. At the exact same time, however, I’m also a wife who wants her husband to be properly feted on his 40th. It wasn’t just because a wife is the most obvious person to plan her husband party, it was because I wanted to. I wanted to be the one who put together a guest list and a menu.

If I had to drop one ball, whose would it be? Which role was I willing to fail at?

Before I was ever a mother or a wife, however, I was a daughter to a mother who also deserves recognition for a life full of love and accomplishments.

The tension of trying to be the magic-maker for these three birthdays was getting to me. If I had to drop one ball, whose would it be? Which role was I willing to fail at?

The answer, of course, was none of them. I wanted to be a great mother, wife and daughter. While I was willing to delegate some of the tasks involved in planning these celebrations, like asking my siblings to help gather pictures for my mother or having my husband order my son’s cake, I didn’t want to fully let go of any of them.

Well-meaning friends have urged me to outsource more of the planning, reminding me that no one person—even me—can make or break someone’s birthday.

“It’s not your job to bring the birthday magic to everyone in your family,” my best friend said.

Of course she’s right. I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself, which is not how I wanted to approach these celebrations. But this is a lesson I’m going to have to learn the hard way. I’m just not willing to back off as the primary planner on any of these events. Maybe it’s ego, or a warped sense of duty, or a superwoman mentality that ultimately does not serve me. If the early March celebrations are a total disaster and I end up committed to an institution for “exhaustion,” then in 10 years, when the next milestone set of birthdays rolls around, I’ll ask for more help. Until then, I’m charging forth on all cylinders.

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Because I am a daughter, a wife and a mother, and all of those roles are vitally important to me. In celebrating these special people, I also celebrate what they mean to me and who I am because of them.

I just hope I’m not too pooped to party.

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