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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

What Moms Really Want for Mother's Day (Hint: It's Complicated)

When your mother asks, ‘Do you want a piece of advice?’ it’s a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.” — Erma Bombeck

I have had a mother, been a mother, been a stepmother, and now am a step grandmother. Thus, I feel qualified to offer this advice on behalf of moms regarding what women really want ― and don’t want—for Mother’s Day.

I am performing this public service because most mothers are too kind to say that the device you gave her to eliminate calloused heels (and I’m not referring to lousy husbands, but there’s an idea) wasn’t exactly a pitch over the heart of home plate, if you know what I mean. Mothers are also too nice to say they really don’t want anything you made out of glitter glue and macaroni that they are expected to tack on their walls and pretend to like.

So, to spare you the backfires, disappointments and silent treatments, let me help you out.

First, when trying to figure out what to get a mom for Mother’s Day, you need to know, kids and dads, if you didn’t know already, you are on a slippery slope. It’s not that you don’t want to acknowledge the woman who brought you into this world, and who turned you into a semi-functional human being, or that you don’t want to honor the mother of your own children for the miracle of pushing something the size of a watermelon through a chute the size if a nostril.

It’s just that women are complicated even before they become mothers. When they do have children, the fun, free-spirited girl gets tangled with the maternal role model, and even the woman herself can have a hard time knowing who she is anymore, so how are you supposed to know? Finding that perfect-pitch gift for these multi-sided moms often requires extra sensory powers.

For example, a friend of mine, and mother of two, told me that her husband asked her what she wanted for to do Mother’s Day. She answered, “I want you to know what I want to do without asking!”

See what I mean? No wonder kids and dads get stumped.

To avoid having your expressions of gratitude fall flatter than a joke that needs explaining, here are some suggestions.

First, let’s go over what not to get the moms in your life:

· No home appliances. Do not buy her anything that makes it easier for her to serve you. That means, unless you want to get thwacked over the head with a waffle iron, do not get her an appliance of any kind. No blenders, no toaster ovens, no hand mixers. Just no. In fact, as a general rule, avoid any gift that says “variable speeds” on the box.

· No beauty devices. Gifts like blow dryers, hair straighteners, or home epilators (definitely no) send mom the message that she needs a little help in the looks department. If your aim is to get into her good graces, don’t give her anything for her double chin, cellulite, varicose veins or blackheads, or that otherwise says she is not beautiful just the way she is. Certain things a girl needs to get for herself.

· No exercise equipment. Similarly, do not get the mother in your life a treadmill, a full-length mirror that declares her weight and percent body fat with every viewing, a gym membership, or anything that says your body could use some work. See above.

· No stuff for you in disguise. She will see right through those hockey-game tickets.

What women really want:

· Gifts of time. This can mean alone time or family time. Again, you’re just supposed to know. Generally, moms with young kids at home crave time away for themselves. Moms whose kids are out of the house crave time together. If your mom is in the first category, and you send her off to the spa, possibly a good idea, be sure she doesn’t come home to a house upended. Keep the good vibe going by having her come home to a house that looks better than she left it. For empty nester Moms, take her out. If you can’t see her in person, pay her a Zoom visit. Let your presence be the present.

· Acts of service. Make her breakfast or dinner and clean up the kitchen—the way she would. Look for anything you can do to make her life nicer or easier, or to give her a break. Wash her car. Clean up the yard, or other areas of the house that bug her. Anything that lightens her load will show her you notice all she does.

· Little luxuries. Depending on the woman, whom you are supposed to figure out, consider splurges like flowers, jewelry, perfume (know her scent, don’t wing it), or other gifts in the pamper department that she would not buy for herself. To clarify, don’t get her a gift certificate for a manicure at the place where she gets regular manicures.

P.S. She neither expects nor wants you to spend a lot.

· Something for her non-mom side. Find a gift that speaks to who she is outside of being a mom. Does she like to read, paint, play tennis, raise orchids? Show her not only that you know what makes her tick, but also that you want her to do more for her.

· Appreciation. More than anything, moms want to know they matter, and that you cared enough to say so. Give her a card and say something genuine. You do not need to write poetic prose like Walt Whitman. Simply saying, “Thank you for being my Mom,” is enough. Believe me. You’re welcome.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, expectant moms, stepmoms, moms of furry kids, and grandmas out there.

What do dads want for Father’s Day? I’d like to know. Please send me your thoughts, ideas, and stories about the worst and best gifts you’ve received.

Photo caption: It’s complicated — What moms really want for Mother’s Day is something that speaks to the woman in her, not so much the mom, and something that shows her not just that you care but that you get her. Photo courtesy of Amarosy for Dreamstime

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