By: Mary Fran Bontempo
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I’m a believer in goal setting. It keeps me focused and on track. I’m a list maker and a planner and have been since I was young. But here’s one goal I never thought would make my list: I want to be like my mother.

All apologies to my mom, but no girl says that they want to be like their mother. We spend our lives differentiating ourselves from our mothers—in dress, in attitude, in every way possible. So, when my own mother says, “You’re turning into your mother!” it sounds like a threat, or the invocation of a curse, or a sentence. (Sorry, Mom.)

Of course, I say the same thing to my daughters, and they have just as visceral a reaction, practically breaking out in hives and hyperventilating at the thought that they are becoming mini-me’s. This aversion to becoming our mothers is just part of the natural order of things and I accept it, for me and my daughters.

But in one respect, at least, I bow to my mother: She has never mowed a lawn.

Over the past week, I mowed two lawns—actually, three, as we mow the lawn of our older neighbors at the shore. And I have the mosquito bites, stained sneakers and sore muscles to prove it. (We have no “ride” mower. I’m pushing the thing all the way.)

Now, I don’t often admit to my age, nor do I have any intention of doing so now. But let’s just say that women of a certain age should not have to mow lawns. My mother has always understood this. In fact, to her way of thinking, women of any age should not have to mow lawns.

For the longest time, I prided myself on my lawn-mowing prowess. I am woman. I am strong. Watch me mow! I smugly looked at my mother and thought, Ha! My mother has never mowed a lawn. Look at how much more evolved I am!

That is, I thought that until my next thought, which was, Huh. My mother has never mowed a lawn. Look at how much smarter than me she is!

We women have been sold a bill of goods (an expression of my mother’s, in sticking with the theme, here) when it comes to the “progress” of feminism. We pride ourselves on being an entire gender of “unsinkable Molly Browns” as we continually crow, “Anything you can do, I can do better!” to any man who crosses our path.

Well guess what, ladies? Seems like the men are smarter than us, too. Somewhere along the line, they sang back, “Any lawn you can mow, I can mow better,” and we answered, “No, you can’t,” followed by “Yes, I can,” and so on until they said, “Fine. Be my guest. Mow the lawn. In fact, change the oil in the car, re-shingle the roof and fix the leak under the sink if you want. Oh, and when you’re done with all that, could you make me a sandwich? I’ll be watching the game.”

So I guess I actually have two new goals: Be like my mother and be as smart as a man. Because sometimes “progress” means taking a few steps backwards.