Don’t stress if you still haven’t grabbed a Mother’s Day present yet.
Americans expect to spend a record $25 billion this Mother’s Day, the National Retail Federation reports, up from $23.1 billion in 2018. And shoppers are shelling out $196 apiece on average to shower mom with love this weekend, with those ages 35 to 44 dropping around $248.
But honestly, the most priceless gift that you can give the woman who has devoted so much of her life to raising and nurturing her children doesn’t cost a penny: it’s just leaving her the hell alone.
“I don’t want any more stuff. I’d really like a day truly for me: Hair done, mani/pedi, massage,” Florida mother of three Kristin Randazzo, 36, told MarketWatch. “I’m ‘mom’ every day and night, so a day alone or with a friend sounds glorious.”
When asked about her perfect Mother’s Day, Valerie Morgan started describing a quiet day in the park with her husband, Jon, and 3-year-old son, Benjamin — but then she got real.
“To be honest, I would love for Jon to take Benjamin somewhere for a couple hours so I can just sit on the couch and watch some HGTV,” said Morgan, 42, from Brooklyn, “but I feel like I’m not supposed to say that on Mother’s Day.”
Maybe not — but that’s what every mother that MarketWatch talked to was thinking.
“I would LOVE to sleep in, undisturbed, until 8 a.m.,” mused Beth, a Manhattan mother of two children under four, who withheld her last name. “I would love to drink my coffee while it’s hot; eat a pastry without sharing and while reading the news quietly; and then to spend the day with my family and enjoy my kids/husband without worrying about weekend chores.”
Beth’s husband hired a monthly cleaning service for her first Mother’s Day, which was the “best present ever,” she added. In fact, almost half of moms (40%) give fake reactions to their gifts anyway, according to a Groupon survey, most commonly falling back on “thank you,” “awww!,” “I love it,” “wow — this is great” or “I really needed one of these” to mask their disappointment.
Make Mother’s Day a Mother’s Day Off. Partners and older children can handle the day-to-day chores like feeding everyone, loading the dishwasher or checking over homework for the day, to free Mom up for some blissful “me time.” Friends or relatives can also take the kids for the day so that Mom and Dad (or Mom and Mom) can enjoy some couple-time without also being parents for a hot minute. Or just let Mom spend the day by herself.
Annetta, a 32-year-old mother of two sets of twins (ages 3 and 10) in Maryland, who withheld her last name, said that the perfect day with her brood would be if “every time they’d normally ask me for something, they ask (husband) Don, instead,” she said.
And many of those well-meaning attempts to make Mom feel special on this Hallmark holiday — like going out to brunch or planning family portraits — really just create the mother of all headaches. After all, who’s the one often stuck cleaning up that breakfast in bed? Or the parent likely getting the kids dressed and ready for that family outing? The special lady of the day, of course, who may just want to spend Sunday wearing yoga pants in bed with a book.
“I’d like a quiet day where I’m not the only one in charge … and not to host a big to-do where I have to cook and clean up, or dress up, or dress (4-year-old son) Henry up,” said Kathleen Clarke, 38, from Mohegan Lake, N.Y.
“I definitely do not want high-pressure family activities like brunch or photo shoots, good God. The kids can’t handle it, so it’s miserable,” agreed Lee Helland, 38, a mother of three young children in New Jersey. “I prefer flowers and some combo of low-stakes family time, like a walk around the neighborhood or hanging in the yard, and then some alone time — like reading on the couch or yoga.”
Natalie Iovino-Schoenfeld, 36, who has a 3- and 5-year-old on Long Island, said most of her Mother’s Days have “been a bust” because they end up scrambling to do something special at the last minute that becomes stressful. “I’m expected to share in all of the same responsibilities that I always do — when really, all I would like is a break from them for one day. Maybe not have to be the first one up to change a diaper, or be allowed to stay in bed for an extra hour,” she said.
If you simply can’t restrain yourself from buying something, give her a gift certificate for a spa day, the movies, a class she’s been eyeing or her favorite restaurant for a future date. And be sure to sort the child care.
“Time outside of Mother’s Day for a break is more desirable, since I am guessing all of the spas and salons are going to be booked up this weekend!” said Katy Mangan, a mother of three in Elmira, N.Y. “I have had ‘get a pedicure’ on my to-do list for two months now, and I would love to have a few hours on the weekend to get that done, and then go to Barnes & Noble to spend the rest of my gift card from Christmas. Just time alone where I’m not rushing to get back for another thing would be heavenly.”
“It’s impossible to go wrong with a spa day as a gift,” added Eloise, a mother of two boys ages 7 and 5 in Westchester, who withheld her last name. “If you spend actual Mother’s Day doing whatever you want, and book the spa for a future date, you basically get two Mother’s Days for the price of one.”
This article was originally published in 2018, and has been updated with 2019 NRF Mother’s Day data.