By Lisa Fleisher
May 8, 2023
When you ask moms what they really want for Mother’s Day, you’ll inevitably get a wide variety of responses, such as a day to myself; a night at a hotel, alone; a spa getaway, alone; and maybe, some wine and cheese.
I know because I asked dozens of moms and grandmas from around the world. (And because I’m a mom, too.) The common theme? They’d mostly love a break from the mental and physical demands of family life.
In fact, one mom named Mehvish tells me that what she’d really like is some acknowledgment of all of her invisible labor that makes things run smoothly. Here’s what she envisions: “My kids stepping into my shoes for the day (minus the driving), lunches arranged, school drop-offs, sitting down and working, checking grocery requirements etc.,” says Mehvish, a mom of two and a senior strategist in Dubai at an asset management firm. “So they have some appreciation of how much parents do.” Until someone develops a child-care startup that parachutes in to deliver that experience, Mehvish says she’d be happy with a spa day for a treat, or ambient lighting powder to make her look best in person and on screen.
Dani, a mother of two in New Jersey, suggests a voucher for something that would really block out the world, such as a sensory deprivation float tank. (A session at Chill Space in Manhattan costs $109.)
Mother’s Day in the US will come up on May 14. It can be a very difficult day for people who have lost children or mothers, or who wanted to be mothers but are not. Some families without a traditional mother use the day to celebrate parents, sisters or family in general. Keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to show love on such a holiday.
And here are some suggestions for gifts to get to make grandmas, moms or other family members feel special. Just make sure you don’t ask them to do any planning.
Don’t get mom a robe. Get her very nice pajamas. Kate, who founded a yoga and mindfulness business for kids in Dubai, says she wants pajamas that are “super comfortable but that I can also feel cute in,” like these from Tekla with the shorts option for bottoms ($300). Laura, a writer from Baltimore, would choose Desmond & Dempsey pajamas ($180). “They make me feel extremely well dressed for bed but also supremely comfortable, because they’re simply made and relatively loose,” says Laura, who has one child. “Very beautiful and polished looking. I like that they’re made of cotton and that I can get sets with shorts and pants.”
If you’re taking the robe route, try a kimono instead. Nadia, who lives in Manhattan, says she would love a kimono from Aratta ($188). She says it’s “very soft and luxe. Makes me feel fancy while watching Bravo.”
If you’re going for a specific article of clothing, it’s probably best to let mom pick her own styles. Jasmine, a data scientist and mother of two in San Francisco, wants a “frivolous, new, wild, expensive jumpsuit of my choice,” which happens to be a colorful coverall from Nooworks ($192).
Food & Drink
Ann Marie, a mother of two and grandmother of two in Perth, Australia, says she’d love to have a long lunch at a vineyard as a way to try new wines and get the family together in a lovely setting. “Wine tasting is always fun,” she says. Or there’s the subscription option: Ann Marie’s daughter Ashleigh, a marketing executive and mother of two who lives in Dubai, says she’d like a wine subscription as a way to try wines she wouldn’t normally consider. Subscription products, of course, in many food and drink options have become a popular choice for gifting. For the recipient, it’s a surprise every month—and for the company, well, it hopes you’ll forget to cancel the subscription.
Alternatively, just get a special bottle with no strings attached. Kate, the entrepreneur from Dubai, says she’d like a bottle or two of Ruinart Blanc des Blancs ($120) “to drink whenever I feel like it at home, without waiting for an occasion.”
Jennifer, a bookstore manager with a 12 year old, cites all sorts of things she would truly love: “I’d quite like the kid’s passport to finally come, to not be in a walking boot for our trip to Italy, for my wife to not be working on diagnoses for four different reasons for physical therapy,” she says before acknowledging that that these don’t meet the thrust of what we’ve asked. “I did order some single-origin chocolate for myself, arriving today,” she says, offering a link to Xocolatl Small Batch Chocolate. “Will probably eat it all before Mother’s Day.”
It’s tough to go wrong with simple jewelry that reminds a mom of family. Jennifer, a teacher and single mother of one, says she’d like a Cartier love bracelet ($9,500). “You can’t beat a classic,” says the New Jersey resident. “Get the slim one with diamonds to make a special thing even more special.” Arantza, a mother of two from New York, suggests a necklace or bracelet with her kids’ initials, such as this Dear Kaia necklace ($390). Kate from Dubai suggests jewelry from Jewel Bar, which sells necklaces that can be personalized with names, initials and other charms for about $400, depending on the options.
For another classic look, sans personalization, Julia, 37, of Seattle, says she would love celestial crystal nap earrings ($75, on sale) from Maison Miru. Julia had a daughter who lived only six days, and she would have been 2 now. Julia is undergoing IVF treatment at the moment and always wears a mask in the company of anyone outside her household; these earrings should be easy to wear while navigating mask strings.
Tech & Gadgets
Women love gadgets as much as men, though we might like different ones. “I wouldn’t mind this at all,” says Nadia, the mother of one from Manhattan, presenting a link to Toto’s Washlet G450 Integrated Smart Toilet ($4,269). “It’s the Rolls-Royce of toilets. I want to feel clean at all times and have all the bells and whistles.”
Erin, a mother of three in New York, says the digital ReMarkable notebook ($279) she received as a gift last year was “life changing.” She’s in the middle of an executive MBA program, develops transportation safety policy, handles vehicular crimes at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and is also on her child’s school board. The digital notebook allows her to carry just one thing with her at all times, keeping all her information and PDFs organized. It translates what she writes into text she can send to others.
Nat, who has a 14-year-old son and lives in eastern Pennsylvania, says gardening and landscaping services would be a dream: She wants help planting a new tree in her yard and new plants and fish for her pond. Eileen, a tech investor and mother of five in the UK, suggests a voucher for babysitter services (from £14 [$17.60] an hour) or a night nurse or mother’s helper who would come highly recommended for mothers with a newborn. For moms whose lives seem overly cluttered, or who could use a big reorganization, Bernadette, a mother of one, suggests giving a personal organizer or household manager for two to four weeks, at $100 per hour.
Virginia, a software technical trainer and mom of two, says she wants someone to take care of the task of helping with home decor. “I like a high-end picture frame from someplace like Jonathan Adler (in a color palette that matches some room in our house), where someone else has gone and found the right image and gotten the print in the right size and done all the work,” she says. “I am not good at follow-through for things like that, so someone else managing every aspect of it is huge.”
A professional photo shoot once in a while is a gift the whole family will cherish for years, so research a photographer who comes recommended. “I have no decent photos of the whole family that include our newest addition,” says Ashleigh, whose son was born late last year. “I would love a photo shoot so we get one picture where everyone is looking at the camera.”
Spa & Health
The easiest gift might be a certificate for a spa day or getaway. “I want to be transported to a place of ethereal beauty and calm for a bit,” says Mehvish in Dubai. Locally, she suggests the Talise Ottoman Spa Ladies Night at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray for $195. In London, Eileen suggests a spa day and session at the Como Metropolitan hotel, followed by dinner at Nobu. Alie, a mother of two, says to start with the 90-minute “Soothe” massage at Gurney’s Montauk in New York’s Long Island ($270 for 60 minutes on weekends) and then spend the day at the 30,000-square-foot spa on the beach. For a spa-at-home feel, Lynn, a mom of three in Queens, New York, suggests something you've probably seen on Instagram or elsewhere: Solawave skincare products ($201).
A well-researched gym membership could be just the right gift for someone. “Exercise is always something that gets pushed down the priority list,” says Ashleigh, the marketing executive. “Having a fitness class membership means that you need to go and can stop making excuses.”
Adventure & Travel
A bit more outside the box is the adventure gift. Ann Marie, the grandmother in Perth, says she would be thrilled by a skydive certificate. “It’s an experience that you would never buy for yourself because you’re too scared,” she says. “As you get older, you want gifts that will create lasting memories.” Long Island Sky Diving Center offers a weekend Tandem ticket at $259 for first timers; for $368 you can get the skydive, video and photo package. Skydive Australia in Perth offers a tandem ticket for A$459 ($310) and offers A$40 off with a Mother’s Day voucher code. Jasmine, the data scientist, suggests a paddle-boarding day. Allison, a senior manager at a large tech employer, says she’d like a certificate for a local racing school’s women-only track day. “HPDE stands for High Performance Driving Education, and it’s an amazing experience,” says Allison, whose 20-year-old is at university. “It makes me feel more capable and safer on the road.”
Finally, you could help the mom you want to spoil truly get away. Kate, the entrepreneur in Dubai, says she would like “a luxury staycation with another mom friend, where no one calls me unless I call them.” She suggests the Six Senses Zighy Bay in Oman, where a winter base rate is $1,595 for a pool villa for up to two adults and two children (though, in this case, don’t bring them.) This includes breakfast. And because Kate doesn’t want to have to worry or pay for anything, make sure to cover her dinner and any other bills as well. Dinner would come to approximately $150 per person, the resort says.
— With assistance by Bernadette Walker, Nikki Ekstein, Sarah Halls and Sarah Rappaport
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