What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day — and What They Don’t

Still don't know what to get her for Mother's Day? Follow these tips and you won't screw it up.

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It’s the one day of the year devoted to appreciating the moms in our lives, so get it right: If you make a lame breakfast, don’t think bringing it into bed is going to make it any better. Because, really, is it true that nothing says “I love you, appreciate you and want to celebrate you” more than runny eggs — especially if it’s mom who will end up cleaning the disastrous kitchen mess you made?

The Internet is full of helpful reminders of what moms really don’t want for Mother’s Day: having to worry about what to have for dinner, giving the kids a bath or dealing with sibling disagreements. And don’t even think about giving her a cleaning appliance (ugh), insipid store-bought cards with no hand-written message,  pre-packaged flowers or socks (yes, apparently people give a lot of socks on Mother’s Day). It’s actually possible to give gifts that mothers will adore. And they aren’t always extravagant and out-of-reach.

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Nancy Soriano, a lifestyle expert, says mothers want what they don’t have: time to themselves. But giving time as a gift needs to reflect a certain amount of thought and consideration on the part of the giver, reflecting mom’s personal passions. “Things that speak to moms’ interests make them feel more fulfilled,” Soriano says. “The really important thing is what they like and what is personal to them.”

If a mom likes to cook, for example, try signing her up for fun cooking class, giving her a package of hard-to-find ingredients,  making reservations at a great restaurant she’s wanted to visit or even—gasp!—getting her an appliance, but only if it allows mom to create. “Appliances that speak to their passion as opposed to cleaning are really great,” Soriano says.

Taking the time to fully research mom’s hobbies shows you care, and can result in a fantastic new gift that she wouldn’t have otherwise purchased for herself. Soriano says one of her techie friends has a spouse super into sewing. While most moms wouldn’t get too jazzed about a new sewing machine, the husband spent hours in the world of stitches and fabric—not a world he was accustomed to entering—to find the best sewing machine for his wife. Sewing is her passion; he found a tool to help her enjoy her passion.

Beyond getting to the heart of a mom’s passion, giving pretty much anything that requires thought — “something that is hand-made by the family or your spouse, a gift that really reflects a thought process that goes into it” — has the potential to melt a mom too.

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Remember, though, even if you’re totally stumped on the perfect token of gratitude, any gift is better than no gift at all (with the possible exception of socks.) And with a little effort even a typical gift can be turned into something special. “They need to feel proud and good about the gift they are giving,” she says. “If they have thought about it and really feel that this is what mom’s going to love and it comes from their heart, mom will always get that genuine sentiment.”

If you do opt for one of the old standbys, at least dress it up. Flowers are beautiful, but take time to really personalize the card, wrap them with unique ribbons or cut them from a garden, Soriano says. A box of chocolates is classic, bordering on cliché; but if the mom in your life loves chocolates, make sure you get her something very special—say, a half-pound of high-end, caramel-filled dark chocolate.

Once you’ve put the gift in mom’s hands, give her a little time to herself. Maybe she needs a little extra sleep in the morning, an afternoon nap, extra time to go out during the day or simply a chance to read a magazine in bed (another gift tip: download a new book or two to her kindle, or add some cool new apps on her smartphone, or even upgrade her old phone to a new model at the same time).

In the end, as with any gift, the perfect Mother’s Day present requires going beyond the mundane to make it special. “Find a way you and your family can make it personal and put some effort into it,” Soriano says. “People want to feel appreciated and that is what Mother’s Day is all about. It is stepping back and recognizing and saying ‘We really appreciate you and love you and want to do something you will really enjoy.’”

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