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What happens when mommy makes the oopsie

Dr. Ben Michaelis shares an open letter to the American mom.


Photo credit: Jean Assell/E+/Getty Images

t Dear Moms,

t Thank you for letting us in on The Secret Life of the American Mom.

tFrom your responses to the SheKnows Mother’s Day Survey we learned what goes on behind the scenes at home and in your hearts and minds. It turns out that what you really want for Mother’s Day is not flowers and chocolate, but peace and quiet, a homemade card; oh, yeah, and a trip to the spa would be nice, too.



t However, one of the most striking findings from the survey was how many moms out there revealed their most common “mommy mistakes,” such as saying a “bad word” in front of the kids (86 percent), calling one child by another child’s name (54 percent) or forgetting to pick the kids up at school (just over 20 percent of you). In reading your responses, I began to reflect on all of the various kinds of missteps I hear about in my work as a clinical psychologist and the intense pressures that moms face every day of the week. As I hope you realize, we all make mistakes so there’s no absolutely no point judging or berating yourself when you stumble. When you blunder there is actually only one thing that matters: What you do next. If you learn from what happened then maybe it wasn’t really a mistake after all, but an opportunity to learn. This is all a part of a concept that I call intelligent failure, not fearing mistakes but instead using them so you can learn and grow.


t As we take time to honor the mothers in our lives (or be honored), moms (and all of us really) can also use some of that peace and quiet as a time for reflection. You can set aside time on Mother’s Day to consider the love and effort you give your family and the gratitude they have for you, as well as some of the ways you can learn from the “oopsies” in your life.

t My hope in writing this is that by using Mother’s Day as a time for reflection and growth, we will bring some of the original gravitas back to the holiday. Although people tend to think of Mother’s Day as just a “Hallmark holiday,” its roots actually run much deeper than that. Mother’s Day was first thought of as a day when mothers could use their political power to prevent the violence of the Civil War. The first historical mention of Mother’s Day dates back to 1870, when Julia Ward Howe, activist, poet, suffragette, penned the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” which was intended to unite women to rally for peace.

t This Mother’s Day, as you bask in the admiration of those who appreciate all you do for them, take some time to appreciate your personal power, your accomplishments and how you can grow, with intelligent failures, even when you make a mistake.

t Here’s to all you mothers out there. Keep growing, learning and teaching. Oh, and I hope you get that peace and quiet (maybe even at a spa?) that you so desperately want and deserve.

t Sincerely,

t Dr. Ben Michaelis

t What are some of your mommy mistakes? What did you learn from them? And what can you do differently next time? Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #mommymistakes.


tDr. Ben Michaelis is a clinical psychologist in full-time private practice in Manhattan. He writes and speaks regularly about mental health, motivation, creativity and intelligent failure. Dr. Michaelis is the author of numerous popular and scholarly articles and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post , and many other prominent publications. He is also a frequent guest on national TV. He is the author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. Follow Dr. Michaelis on Twitter, Facebook, or email him at

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