Figuring out what to do for a mom on Mother's Day can be a tricky thing. There's the standard flowers or candy, of course, and taking her out to a nice brunch is a fairly universal winner. But what do moms really want?
Speaking from experience—my kids range from age 12 to 20—a lot depends on the stage of motherhood. What I wanted when my kids were little is different than what I want now, and I'm sure when my kids are grown and gone I'll want something different again.
We asked our readers to share what they want for Mother's Day, and while the answers were varied, there were some common themes that emerged.
Moms of young kids want a break.
When your kids are little, motherhood is relentless. Precious and adorable, yes. Wonderful and rewarding, absolutely. But it's a LOT. And it's a lot all the fricking time.
Most moms I know would love the gift of alone time, either away at a hotel or Airbnb or in their own home with no one else around. Time alone is a priceless commodity at this stage, especially if it comes with someone else taking care of cleaning, making sure the kids are fed and safe and occupied, doing the laundry, etc.
This is especially true after more than a year of pandemic living, where we moms have spent more time than usual at home with our offspring. While in some ways that's been great, again, it's a lot.
Reader Heather W. wrote that she wanted "A night at a hotel by myself (Love my kids but after this year, everyone home plus having a baby I could use a bit of a break)." Tons of other readers concurred.
Some moms might not want or need time alone, but getting a break from the day-to-day mundane tasks of childrearing and/or housekeeping is always welcome. That's why reader Emma K. wrote that she wanted a day off: "A day where I don't have to cook or clean or think for anyone else. A day where these things still get done and not just left for the following day for me to take care of."
Tip for this stage: Clean the house, give her a short-and-sweet "Happy Mother's Day!" and then either take the kids away for a night or send her away for a night. If a night isn't possible, a big chunk of the day will suffice. Anything that will give her stress-free, guilt-free time to herself in a clean space.
Moms of tween and teens want to be appreciated.
As kids get older, the relentlessness of motherhood becomes less physical and more emotional. While moms of wee ones are physically tired, moms of middles are often emotionally drained. Older kids and teens can be a lot of fun, but they can also be oblivious to how much their mother does for them. Moms in the middle years really want to know their family sees and appreciates their years of ongoing dedication and sacrifice.
While a scrawled-out card from a little kid is super sweet, a heartfelt message from an older child is truly touching. The tween and teen years can be contentious and connections can feel tenuous as kids start preparing to leave the nest, so letting moms know that they are loved, seen, and treasured at this stage can go a long way.
Doing things around the house without being asked goes a long way too. That's huge at this stage.
Tip for this stage: Encourage older kids to communicate their love and gratitude directly to their mothers. Many don't realize how much their mom might appreciate a simple expression of appreciation. Also have them look for thing they can take off their mom's plate to help her relax.
Moms of adult children want family bonding time.
Once kids have flown the coop, what moms really want is time as a family again. Yes, it's ironic that moms want to get away when their kids are young and want nothing but togetherness when kids are older, but such is the nature of the beast. It's not that moms of younger kids don't love to have family time, it's that for many moms "family time" is most of the time. It may not always be as quality or relaxed as we want it to be, but it's still family time.
Once kids are gone, moms might relish the freedom and rejuvenation of getting plenty of alone time, and at the same time yearn for the fun family times that are now fewer and farther between. Flowers are fine, cards are nice, but for empty nest moms, a fun family outing or get-together at home is a gift.
Reader Lori C. summed it up: "My two grown boys are spending the afternoon with me. I can't wait just to be with them and talk."
And again, after the past year, this yearning is all the more relevant. As Christina S. wrote, "I haven't been able to hug my adult children in over a year because of COVID. I just want a hug."
Several moms said they wanted their family to get vaccinated for this very reason.
Tip for this stage: Coordinate a family gathering for moms of adult kids, in person if it can be done safely or virtually if that's a better option.
Moms want their own moms back.
Mother's Day isn't all sunshine and puppies; it's a hard day for a lot of people for lots of reasons.
A number of commenters said that what they really wish they could have for Mother's Day is time with their own moms who are no longer with them—a heartbreaking but real sentiment. Equally as moving are the comments from moms who don't have good relationships with their own mothers and wish they did.
These folks provide a needed reminder to treasure the relationships we have with our moms if we have them, while we have them.
Tip: Acknowledge the loss and grief some people might be feeling on Mother's Day. A special framed photo of a mom who has passed on might be appropriate. For others, a simple, "Thinking of you today, I know it's hard," message may be appreciated.
Whether a mom in your life wants a day away from family or a day filled with family, whether she wants a special creation from her kids or a day at a spa (or both), Mother's Day is her day. Ask her what an ideal day would look like to her, and then do what you can to make something like it happen for her.
Wishing all the moms out there a Happy Mother's Day! Hope you get what you want and need, whatever that means for you.
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