Saturday, October 23, 2010

173. "Mom of the Year" Intervention

So my friend Sandra sends out an email (she has no time to relay the news via telephone) to announce that she’s been named one of the finalists in the “Mom of the Year” competition.  She is really really proud of herself because she’s been working so hard to accomplish this personal goal. In the email, she lists all the things she’s been doing, as if she is trying to convince me (or perhaps convince herself?) that she deserves to win.

“Good news, MOV! I made it to finalist status for the M of the Y prize. In case you weren’t aware, these are some of the things I've been up to:
  • I'm President of the PTA;
  • Room mother for both my kids’ classes;
  • Soccer coach for my son’s team;
  • Field trip leader;
  • Lunchroom volunteer;
  • Foreign exchange host family;
  • Ballet assistant teacher for my daughter’s dance class;
  • In charge of Art Project (you know, where all the kids at Crazy Town Elementary do an individual tile that will be made into a giant collage on the library wall);
  • Leader of our church youth group;
  • Book fair captain;
  • Sunday school teacher;
  • Summer Mission volunteer;
  • Carpool coordinator;
  • Plus, as you know, even though I hate to cook, I make all our meals from scratch.
  • Oh, yeah, and I work 60 hours/ week at my paid job (attorney for Coca-Cola, in charge of patents).
Do you think you could submit a letter of recommendation for me? They really liked my overall application, but now they want personal letters from 10-12 close friends, detailing what makes me ‘stand out’ as a mom.  They have not announced this year's prize yet, but last year was a cruise around the world.  This year, they have even bigger corporate sponsors, so I'm sure it'll be something nice.

Thanks, MOV! I appreciate your help.  We'll talk soon. 

PS—need letter by Wed afternoon please”

I'm exhausted just reading her email.  Geesh, what the hell does Sandra want me to add to that? I think she has gone too far.

Not only do I ignore her plea for a letter of recommendation, I call 10-12 of her closest girlfriends and stage an Intervention. We meet up on Tuesday evening, under the premise that we all have our “letters” to submit to her and then she can advise us if they are acceptable. Her husband is in on the Intervention, so he and the kids head over to Grandma’s house.

We knock at her door and she calls out, “Come on in, guys! I’m back here in the family room. I’m just glazing the final tiles for Art Project and loading them into the drying racks, and then we can get started.” Her messy ponytail is speckled in pink glaze. She takes a swig from a can of Red Bull and motions for us to sit down.

Johanna begins. “Sandy, stop. Put down the glaze.” Johanna was the PTA President last year, so Sandra has a lot of respect for her. “This is crazy! You can’t do everything!”

Sandra looks up from the tiles. “Johanna, you can help me, but honestly you’re dressed too nice to put glaze on.”

I speak next, “Sandra! That isn’t what she means! This is an Intervention. No more ‘mom activities’. No more contests. You have gone over the edge.”

Marie adds, “We all know you're a great mom and a great friend. That's why we pitched in and got you this………..” she hands her an envelope.

Sandra hesitates, then takes the envelope. “I……I……I don’t understand. What're you trying to say?”

“It’s over,” begins Chrissy, “we want the old Sandra back, the one who got more than 3 hours of sleep a night, the one who didn’t even know the difference between a basketball or a soccer ball, the one who thought field trips were trips to actual fields.” Chrissy begins to tear up. “Open it, Sandra,” she motions to the envelope.

Sandra opens the envelope. A plane ticket falls out, along with a hotel brochure.

Nora clears her throat. “Sandy, we’re sending you to Lake Austin Spa & Resort for one week. It’s where I went when I was recovering from my surgery.” Nora blinks. Even though she says “surgery” like she had a lung removal or something, we all know the “surgery” she's referring to was her recent boob job and tummy tuck. “The staff is very warm and welcoming. You can get some rest.” She smiles and I wonder why she didn’t have them throw in a free face lift, because that's what she could really use.

“It’s so much pressure being a mom!” says Sandra, exasperated. “I mean, I was a lawyer for 15 years before I had kids and I never knew this kind of pressure. Everywhere you go, there are these media images of the ‘Perfect Mom’; no mere mortal can possibly measure up!” A tear rolls down her glaze-smeared face.

“I know, I know,” I say, and I think of all the times I, too, have tried to be Martha Stewart. “That’s why we picked Lake Austin. It will be so relaxing and no one will talk about having to live up to society’s expectations of being a ‘Perfect Mom’! Take yourself out of the competition—it’s not worth it.”

“You don't need some committee to tell you you're a good mom!” chimes in Tina.

Sandra is nodding now: she knows we’re right. “Okay. I hear you. This is silly. I don’t want to be judged anymore!  It's so hard to do everything myself.  I would just really love some help.....”

Someone opens a bottle of wine and then another, and before you know it, we are all sloshed and crying. 

“That’s right, sister!” Yvonne shouts, clapping her hands spontaneously. “No prize, let me repeat, no prize, is worth what you are putting yourself through!”

Sandra smiles, then finally examines her ticket. “You booked my flight for next week-end! That's the same week-end they were supposed to announce the winner. Okay, I'll stop thinking about it, stop obsessing.  I am officially dropping out of the contest!”

A cheer erupts, and everyone is toasting their wine glasses.  We know in our heart of hearts that Sandra will not regret her decision.    

Johanna gives Sandra a hug. “I’ll drive you to the airport.”

The next week-end rolls around and Johanna calls me from the airport parking lot. “MOV, I just dropped her off. She was so excited to go. She didn’t even mention ballet class one single time.  Oh, and guess what she said right before she got on the plane?  She said, 'You guys are the best friends I could ever have.'  Isn't that sweet?”

I knew Johanna was happy that we could be there for Sandra in her darkest hour. 

“Good,” I respond, relieved.  “Sandra deserves the best.  I'm glad that we got her a spa vacation.  What a wonderful escape! This is definitely better than anything the contest people could dream up for a prize.”

“Yeah, really, tell me about it,” Johanna laughs.

When I get off the phone, I decide to check my email. Since I was the one to book Sandra’s reservation, it appears that I am suddenly part of Lake Austin’s general email list. The title of this latest email is “Coupon, and Special Programs”. What the heck, I think, clicking it open. There, in 16 point font, is the headline: “This week-end we are proud to host the annual ‘Mom of the Year’ awards. Grand Prize: a lifetime contract with a nanny, maid, cook, chauffeur, and of course, the additional cash prize of one million dollars.”

I gulp: Sandra might not be very relaxed and happy after all.


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