Best and Worst Mother’s Day Gifts

The “mother” of all giving events – MOTHER’S DAY!! Will you give your standard annual gift, or will you start a new and memorable tradition? With the right attitude, giving a gift to your mom can be something you look for!

I’ve received a lifetime of Mother’s Day gifts and homemade cards from my kids, and loved them all. Of course, not every mother loves the same things. Below are some Mother’s Day ideas that may spark some ideas for you.

The makings of a great Mother’s Day gift doesn’t have to be epic. As one mother put it, “all I would like is a little thought and preparations in my gifts and you can’t buy that.”

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Mother’s Day gifts etiquette

Dear Renee,

Who is supposed to give gifts to a mother on Mother’s Day? The husband/partner? What if a child is too young to buy a gift for their mother, then what happens? What’s a good gift? I suck at giving any kind of gift!

Signed, Desperate to not screw up Mother’s Day

Dear Desperate, I am so glad you asked me. There seems to be a shortage of common sense out there when it comes to Mother’s Day. I am also a bit shocked at the lack of effort. Let’s just say, that people who do not give Mother’s Day gifts have not been shown how to give Mother’s Day gifts.

In fact, I am so horrified at failed attempts (or no attempts) that I have to bring out the guilty mother face (times 8):

Let’ clear the air first. When it comes to Mother’s Day, there are no rules that say you must give your mother, wife, or girlfriend a gift. Now, one more time, look at the insulted mothers’ faces above – you don’t want to risk screwing up Mother’s Day, do you?

I didn’think so. You see, those women either gave birth, are raising shared kids, your kids, stepkids, adopted kids, and still is managinge to cook dinner and clean the house. Yeah, she may even be packing your lunch for you.

These are my thoughts on Mother’s Day gift etiquette:

Acknowledging Mother’s Day is an important way to appreciate mothers. Although Mother’s Day gifts should come from the child, the father can assist young children in picking out a gift and planning a special day. A good father leads by example by expressing his gratitude to his wife or partner with kind acts and thoughtful gifts, as well as extending kindness to his own mother.

A word of advice when it comes to Mother’s Day gifts: don’t try for amazing, just try.

If there is a boyfriend in the picture (not the biological father), he, too, can express gratitude for the nice things this woman does in his life. Ultimately, your life partner should “have your back” and celebrate you on Mother’s Day. Even ex-husbands have been known to help their children pick out a gift for their mother.

I’m going to give you one free pass here. There are some exceptions, such as a difficult mother/child relationship, and/or a narcissist relationship where the parent is child-like and you will never be able to give the perfect gift to them.

This is not a therapy session, this is a save-your-butt from messing up your Mother’s Day gift talk. So let’s move on to Part 2, where I share awesome Mother’s Day gift ideas, and the worst Mother’s Day ideas that you should stay far away from!

Mom alone time ideas

“Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a good night’s sleep!” say moms everywhere. Sleep tops the list of requested Mother’s Day presents for young moms.

Mom laying on bed, reading a book.
It’s important for moms to have alone time. Things like reading or taking walks are a great escape from the daily grind. Or, sometimes mom just needs to sleep!
  • uninterrupted sleep
  • quiet time to read a book
  • watch the kids so she can take a walk
  • interrupted shower time
  • mom’s with young kids and teenagers: time alone on Mother’s Day (some mom’s may request alone time in their own house)
  • cook or grill for your mom, or make an attempt and clean up (try to remember the food that mom likes and doesn’t like)
  • let her pick out the restaurant
  • watch movie of her choice

Relaxing (and indulgent) Mother’s Day gifts

Mom alone time also equals awesome relaxation time. The following list includes more planned activities or yummy things mom might like. Many moms report that they just want to take the day off and not be in charge of planning. That alone, is a worthy and relaxing Mother’s Day gift!

Important note: don’t fall for the marketing! The mom in your life may not be crazy about some of the things on this list. One mom said she received Lindt chocolates for Mother’s Day. I would have loved that gift, but she was not a Lindt chocolate fan. Just goes to show that you may not know your mom as well as you think you do. Gift giving is a great opportunity to learn more about those you love.

Freshly-manicured hands and feet on wood floor, surrounded by candles, coffee, and white towels.
Every mom has their own vision of what relaxing means.

This list of relaxing Mother’s Day gifts is just an idea starter:

  • a leisurely, uninterrupted slow morning with a cup of coffee
  • extravagant chocolate
  • spa/massage/foot rub/haircut/pedi or manicure
  • attend a chocolate festival (gasp! – It’s true, some places do chocolate festivals on Mother’s Day, brilliant!)

Thoughtful Mother’s Day gift ideas

As with all the Mother’s Day gift ideas on this page, most of them are low-cost or free. There really is no excuse not to treat your mom special on Mother’s Day.

  • say 20-100 nice things about your mom in a card (get specific, list why she is an awesome mom)
  • hugs, lots of them!
  • a NO REQUEST DAY from mom, zilch, zippo, none
  • say the words “Happy Mother’s Day!” enthusiastically
  • mom’s with adult children: spend Mother’s Day all together
  • big bag of awesome (all the stuff she likes, favorite coffee, chocolates, shower gels, etc.)
  • a rose bush or perennial flower that will come back year after year as a reminder of the gift
  • getting your mom exactly what she wants, this means listening to her comment about something she mentioned and then actually buying it
  • get mom something that matches her hobbies or pastimes.
  • make up for lost time (if you can pull it off) “Thank’s Mom for potty-training me!
  • anything that says “Best Mom Ever!” at least once in her life
  • make something together: a dessert, create art, make a craft!
  • make an effort to be pleasant (no fighting, eye-rolling, or bickering!)
  • play a board game or card game
  • try Zoom or another online conference platform to spend virtual time together if you live a distance apart (or phone groups)
Two sons in matching blue shirts walking hand-in-hand with their mother.
Spending a pleasant spring day together as a family would be a wonderful gift for any mother!

I want to point out the power of demonstrating listening when mom is speaking. One time I was helping move wedding gifts and commented how cool this mega-big wall clock gift was. My mother-in-law paid attention and that Christmas I received… a mega-big wall clock! Honestly, I didn’t see that coming, LOL! I was a bit more careful on keeping comments to myself after that (even though I have and still like my big clock!).

Worst Mother’s Day gifts

Not every Mother’s Day can be a dream Mother’s Day. Life happens, but that doesn’t mean that you have to make mom feel like the most underappreciated person in the world. To all those mothers that didn’t get enough recognition today – hugs.

Sometimes, we have to cut our loved ones some slack. They are honest when they admit they are not good gift givers. You may even have to turn the mirror on yourself – are you being overly picky? Give your family a fighting chance by giving them a wish list. They can still pick it out.

For example, I love coffee. One year, my husband and daughter picked out this chocolate coffee, it was incredible! Then nothing. I mean, years have gone by. It’s literally the perfect idea for a gift for Mother’s Day right in front of them. I can’t explain this phenomenon, I’m just the message carrier.

Another word of advice, don’t try for amazing, just try. If we polled mothers, many of them would be tickled to have: a card, a bouquet of flowers, a peck on the cheek, and maybe a nice meal. Simple acknowledgement. I would say that you’re safe to rinse, wash, and repeat every year (but occasionally try something different just to throw mom off!).

It’s when you don’t try that really makes matters worse. In fact, this year-in and year-out lack of recognition leads to predictable tears… and divorces. People, ya gotta make an effort!

Some of these “worst Mother’s Day gifts” may seem hilarious, if only they weren’t actual gifts given to moms on Mother’s Day. I think you can do better than this:

  • half-dead plant bought on clearance
  • plant with the expectation that mom must keep it alive
  • flowers (taken from the neighbor’s lawn)
  • fake flowers
  • gas station gift purchase
  • buying a last-minute Mother’s Day card you haven’t read, and then realize it’s inappropriate (after she reads it)
  • anything used for the action of cleaning
  • your favorite place to eat (not hers)
  • not getting your pregnant wife a gift (because she’s “not” a mom yet)
  • mom buys her own Mother’s Day gift
  • mom buys her mother-in-law’s Mother’s Day gift
  • nothing, because “you’re not my mother”
  • telling her she is a bad mother on Mother’s Day
  • cash
  • receiving random stuff
  • receiving nothing
  • completely ignoring mom on Mother’s Day
  • giving mom something you want yourself
  • your mom cooks for everyone else on Mother’s Day

Please refer to beginning of this article for AWESOME Mother’s Day Gifts, instead.

Ode to Homemade Mother’s Day gifts

God bless all of the teachers out there who used art class as a time to construct Mother’s Day gifts. I am the proud owner of hand-drawn picture mugs, hand-drawn Mother’s Day Plates, and clay pottery.

They are all clustered into a bit of shrine in my home by my desk. When the kids were older and they decided that some of their elementary school projects could be tossed, I had a different idea. I tucked the little critters into my houseplants and among the leaves of outdoor potted plants. They greet me with a happy memory every time I water them!

A shrine of past Mother’s Day gifts (only the clay figures take residence in the houseplants!).

There is nothing funnier when your adult self looks at their unidentifiable salt dough Mother’s Day gifts and grimace. All of us thought we were handing our mother’s chalices of gold! Years later, we probably thought, why hasn’t she thrown that out yet??

Then there’s the Mother’s Day spelled out with clipped pieces of magazine text that looks like ransom notes. You know that mom is going to hold on to all these precious memories for the rest of her life. Decades later when you’re sorting through her drawers trying to remember where she left her Last Will and Testament, you find them.

All of my cards and little notes are slipped into a folder in my bedside table marked “Important.” That’s the message I want to leave to my kids when I finally leave this earth, that I loved them and every gift given from their heart.

You can do this, go make your momma proud!

Woman looking in shock at her cell phone
What were they thinking?!? There are some Mother’s Day gfts that should never see the light of day! Here are good vs bad Mother’s Day gifts.
Renee Cavvy
Renee Cavvy

Renee brings over 30 years of gift giving experience to holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, workplace and faith events. Every life moment is cause for celebration or those times in life when we need the "the gift of support". Her mission: Let's all be better in appreciating one another, put an end to meaningless gifts that clutter our lives, and give from a place of love and kindness. This midwest mom (and grandma) offers novel and creative ideas to do gift giving better!