April 30, 2010

Do Mother's Day Differently

Moms pay it forward. That’s just the way it works.

Mama ducks give new hatchlings one day in the nest before chucking them out to swim. Human parenting once ended in mid-teens but now lasts to 18, 21, 26 and beyond. Since my mother is still nurturing me in her eighth decade, I’ll never come to an end of thanking her.  (Yes, these are turtles, but I have no ducky photos with rights to publish...and aren't they cute?)

No amount of jewels, flowers or chocolates can adequately express my appreciation.

Two things tell me mothers want words—some form of communication—more than anything else. One, Mother's Day is the highest call-volume Sunday of the year. Two, my unscientific Facebook survey indicated that more than flowers, jewelry or dinner, moms want a card with a personal note.

Mother’s Day spending hovers around $14 billion in the U.S. The numbers break out like this: flowers, brunch or dinner, then jewelry and other. The average spent per person is $125.

This is my thinking: I’ll create a card posting mom’s top-ten qualities or five most valuable things she taught me. At $3.99 for the card and $0.44 postage, that leaves $120.

So then what? How could I possibly pay forward my mother’s awesomeness in a way she could appreciate now? If everyone enjoyed half the childhood I did…I’m not saying we’d have global peace, but there would be a big drop in enrollment at suicide-training workshops.

As a financial person, I monetize things. The flowers will be set out in next week’s garbage, the chocolates with coconut centers will be tossed mid-August, and there goes a relatively unproductive $14 billion of economic muscle into the ephemera. (True, the delivery driver gets paid and all, but still.) That’s $14 billion spent as cover for real or false guilt, bad behavior, or stunted emotional development—the inability to say, “I love you,” or “It wasn’t your fault.”

A quick Google search uncovered this unsurprising line: "Tapping Into Customer Emotions Drives Mother's Day Sales."

After viewing Oscar-nominees “Precious” and “The Blind Side,” it has become clear that mothering skills cannot be taken for granted. They come naturally to ducks; not so much to humans.

And children of teen moms are most at risk when their mothers don’t finish high school and can’t get a job. Doesn’t every child deserve half a chance?

So that’s where I’m placing my Mother’s Day money. Specifically, with this cause: Teen Mother Choices International (TMCI). They’re launching an expansion across the U.S. to teach the model that has successfully graduated 450 teen moms into skilled and productive lives. Teens learned how to feed and diaper their baby, find daycare, finish school, get a job, teach and love that child, and be responsible, yet interdependent in the community of man. From that example, the well-nurtured child will learn to parent well, and so on.

Oh, some of the best ideas aren’t new. More than a century ago, Ghanian scholar James E. Kwegyir Aggrey said, “To educate a man is to educate an individual; to educate a woman is to educate a family and a nation." Thanks, mom, for showing me how to pass it on. You really are a nation-builder, and I love you for that! Happy Mother’s Day.

My suggestion: Honor your mom and / or other women in your life by paying it forward. For a $25 donation to TMCI, she’ll receive a Mother’s Day card with your personal message—the one thing moms want most. Meanwhile, you’re doing your part to leverage $14 billion for the next generation of moms.

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