Out with old clich gifts. Give your mom, grandma, spouse, friend, family or even nanny one of these fun -- and often free -- Mother's Day treats.
When you think of Mother's Day, do images of carnations, Hallmark cards and Sunday brunches come to mind? It's one of the most celebrated holidays of the year, but when it comes to gift giving, people often fall back on the old standbys.
"Mothers spend [about] 30 hours a week doing things for their families aside from their career, which means women are burned out," says Bonnie Eaker Weill, Ph.D., author of "Make Up, Don't Break Up."Instead of picking up the standard flowers and card, be creative this year and surprise her with a gift that celebrates all she does.
"The best gift choices are things that a woman would feel 'guilty' buying for herself," says Amy Belkin, a personal shopper with her own gift-selecting business. "But women just want to be appreciated, so a gift that shows thought is always well-received."
With the help of Dr. Eaker Weill and Belkin, we've taken old traditional gifts and reinvented them with gift ideas that suit today's moms (some are even free!). They can also work for the other special women in your life.
Tip: Moms also have to be more vocal about what they want. So if you're reading this Mom, send it to your spouse!
New: A New Tradition
Face it, a family activity is going to be more engaging than fleeting blossoms. Skip the bouquet of roses and head out to the garden center to browse for blooms -- then plant them in your yard as a family. Or buy a guide to area hikes for an outdoor-loving mom and try a new trail each May. Everyone will enjoy spotting the flowers along the walk -- you can even make a game of it or keep a yearly list.
"Rituals create memories that keep a family connected," says Dr. Eaker Weill. The tradition should hone in on something Mom will love and that everyone can enjoy. Plus, it's fun family bonding.
Old: Kid-picked Tchotchkes
New: Family Values Turned into Art
The kids lovingly picked out a decoupage, heart-shaped jewelry box for Mother's Day last year, but it started falling apart by June. Rather than giving gifts that simply pile up, focus on something more meaningful. In "The Secrets of Happy Families," Bruce Feiler writes about the importance of having a family mission statement. He explains that when your family knows its collective goals, you can all work together to achieve them. He suggests having a family meeting to brainstorm ideas, vote on them and create a mission statement you can display in your home.
Belkin suggests taking this idea a step further and presenting the statement as a piece of original artwork for Mother's Day. Use these personalized family rules as an example.
Old: Family Brunch
New: Girls' Brunch
Unless you're a master of French parenting, going out to eat as a family can be stressful. You want a great meal, but you worry about the long wait, the whining kids, the concern that no one really wants to be there. Try booking just a date night, a Mother-Daughter bonding lunch or a girls' lunch for Mom and her girlfriends-- the ones who get her through some of the most difficult motherhood moments (no offense Dad)!
Old: Full Day with Mom
New: Leave Mom Alone
As in, let her have the house to herself all day. It's a rare occasion that a mother gets alone time, says Dr. Eaker Weill. Let her sleep in. Remove yourself and the kids from the premises. Want to know what she's doing at home all day? Not the dishes (hint, don't leave any!).
Old: Mani/Pedi Gift Certificate
New: Spontaneous Adventure
Mom still deserves some pampering. Tight on money or time? Bring the exotic locale and relaxing vibe to her, says Dr. Eaker Weill. Cue up a reggae or steel drum playlist, serve nonalcoholic pińa coladas and jerk chicken and don your sarongs and swimsuits. Honeymoon in Hawaii? Have your local florist make leis and plan a luau. Always wanted to travel to Paris? Bring on the pan au chocolate and play some Edith Piaf!
Everyone in the family must have some good old silly, family fun. Get creative and make her an invitation that will keep her guessing until the Sunday holiday. When the trip is over, send her out for some relaxing time to herself.
Old: Store-bought Card
New: Card with Hand-written Sentiment
Sometimes, a well-thought out card is gift enough. Both Belkin and Dr. Eaker Weill insist this personal touch should not be overlooked. Write a meaningful note and get the kids to make their own cards.
If your kids are still in the pre-writing phase, a spontaneous (albeit planned), "Mommy, I love you more than ice cream!" can give a mother the energy to make it through the week when she encounters tough meetings in the office and spilled cranberry juice on the living room rug. It also teaches kids the importance of appreciation. Because most of all, a mom wants to be appreciated.
Alonna Friedman is a freelance writer and mother of two. She lives in the New York City suburbs and writes for national magazines.