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For a Mother's Day present, how about a little undying gratitude?

By Anita Renfroe, Special to CNN
Anita Renfroe says that moms prefer the "effort element" to Mother's Day gifts rather than the expected.
Anita Renfroe says that moms prefer the "effort element" to Mother's Day gifts rather than the expected.
  • Renfroe: Mother's Day gifts are like geometry class -- you have to show your work to get credit
  • "As a holiday, it only really works the first five years you're a mother"
  • "Motherhood is a piece of your heart walking around outside your body"
  • Mother's Day
  • Family
  • Parenting

Anita Renfroe is a comedian who takes her comedy concert tour across the U.S. Renfroe lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three children. You can learn more about Renfroe at her website or watch her YouTube videos.

(CNN) -- As a mom, I can tell you what a lot of us think but don't say out loud: Mother's Day only really works as a holiday the first five years you're a mother.

The first year, it's a new milestone of your life. People want to acknowledge the fact that you're a mother. It's sweet.

It's like they're saying, "Hey! Pay no attention to the fact that you're perpetually sleep deprived and will be for the next 18 years. Or that your lactating mammaries no longer belong to you and, in fact, betray you at really inopportune times. Or that beyond here only lie skeletons of your former social life. It's your day! We fete you!"

Then for the next four years or so it's really cute to be brought breakfast-in-bed with homemade crayon-on-construction-paper cards and macaroni necklaces. Oh yes, that works.

That tugs on every heartstring a mom has (disregarding that it will take you five hours to clean up the kitchen it took them exactly five minutes to destroy).

It's pretty much every year after that which will end up in the "disappointing holiday" column. You know why?

Because of Hallmark cards and grocery store bouquets, prepackaged chocolates and Mother's Day brunches at overcrowded eateries (because everyone else had the same idea: "I know! Let's take mom out for lunch and pay someone else to do for her what she has done for years for us for free!").

Those pre-packaged gifts all let mom know that her offspring know what day it is, but lack the single quality all moms love in a present: effort.

That's right, good ol' sacrificial time and effort that add up to the one sentiment we're really looking for -- undying gratitude mixed with just a pinch of sorrow for our stretch marks.

Good Mother's Day gifts are like geometry class where you are required to show your work in order to get credit.

Moms prefer the "effort element" because it's the only thing that remotely begins to balance out the fact that we get blamed for a LOT.

OK -- really -- just about everything: what we ate while our child was gestating, how we did/did not discipline them, whether we did not give enough hugs, read enough bedtime stories, gave too much smothering love, what we did/did not expose them to.

Also, opportunities we did/did not afford them. If we helped too much with the science project, did not feed them enough protein in their formative preadolescent years, rewarded them with M&Ms during potty training which led to their carb addiction as an adult.

Fill in the blank with your own mother issues. So we get 364 days of blame and one day of sorta kinda culturally mandated praise. Somehow it doesn't really balance out.

But I like to think of Mother's Day in terms of a really overused buzzword (isn't "buzzword" an overused buzzword?) these days: "awareness."

It's great for the mothered of the world to be aware of their gratitude for their mother (or mother figure) in their life, but I enjoy it for the awareness it brings to me.

Every Mother's Day I'm reminded of what an exhausting privilege it is to get a front row seat to watch these amazing people grow from helpless infants to become people I truly love to hang out with.

It's a gift to see them growing into all their gifts and talents and to watch with pride (and let's be honest -- concern) as they begin their own family units.

It makes me sharply aware of what motherhood really is : 1. the hardest job you'll ever love, 2. responsibility without control, and 3. a piece of your heart walking around outside your body.

And having a daughter and daughter-in-love (I call her "daughter-in-love because it's more than just a "law" thing) with babies, let me tell you what most every mother would really love this Mother's Day: a kiss, a hug and a nap.

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