Come Mother’s Day, our Facebook and Instagram feeds will fill with loving messages to mothers everywhere. From the excited husband who posts doting stories about his wife and their newborn to the granddaughter who praises her grandmother with a picture of last year’s vacation, Mother’s Day celebrates great work that moms do across ages and seasons.

I’m glad we do it. I think the work mothers do to raise children and make a home is valuable and vital to our society, and it may be the only thanks some moms get all year.

But our public celebrations often rank moms on their accomplishments, what they do or don’t do on behalf of their kids. Mother’s Day has moved from a celebration of mothers’ roles to an unspoken competition for who does the most—or even the least.

Take the loving families who label their matriarchs the #bestmomever. As kids and husbands proudly declare, the best moms are the ones who stay up late with the baby and get up early to make breakfast. They make cookies for the soccer team and keep the garden blooming for spring. They run 5Ks while pregnant. They romance their husbands and keep the playroom tidy. (Seriously, these posts can go from moving tribute to “check out my awesome wife” really fast.)

Who are these women who can juggle all these aspects of life without breaking a sweat? So many moms deny wanting to “have it all,” but when you look at their schedules, that’s what they’re gunning for: a nice house, well-behaved kids, clean kitchen, and dinner by 5:30. And when the rest of us pale in comparison to the real or imagined “best moms” we know—we either feel sorry for ourselves or boast in our failures.

That’s ...

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