7 Terrible Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

3 minute read

Sunday is Mother’s Day and it’s not too late to buy mom a gift—but that means it’s also not too late to mess it up. Here’s what not to do.

Makeup and clothing

Unless you know your mom really well, you’re probably going to screw this one up. Makeup has to be matched with things like skin tone and really isn’t something you can give as a gift. Sometimes it’s hard to judge people’s taste in clothing. And unless you’re getting her a scarf (which you’re not—it’s May), clothing can be particularly dangerous if you pick out anything too small or too big.

Something that’s really for you

Do not get your mom a book you want to read, a movie you want to see or tickets to a play, concert or show to which you’d like to go. That’s a gift for yourself, not for her. She’ll probably play along, but if she’s smart, she’ll drag you to something she would rather see next year, and you’ll be stuck snoozing through an opera.

A pet

This probably falls under the something-for-you category. She doesn’t want another member of the family to clean and feed.

Anything that has to do with exercise or anti-aging

A gift that implies she needs to work out more or that reminds her she’s getting older is a bad idea. This rule is not limited to Mother’s Day. Do not ever buy anyone these things as a gift.

Cleaning supplies and kitchen appliances

Seems obvious that you shouldn’t give your mom a gift that says, “Happy Mother’s Day. Please clean up after my mess,” or “Please make me a sandwich.” However, I’m told that a colleague’s father once bought his wife a garbage can (albeit, a very pretty garbage can)… so maybe not so obvious.

Breakfast in bed made by children who can’t cook

A homemade breakfast by your small children sounds cute, but it’s not going to taste good. Same goes for significant others who never do the cooking. You’re better off springing for brunch reservations.

A homemade card if you’re over the age of 10

It’s not cute anymore.*

*One exception: if you make your living as a designer or an artist or something else creative, and you spent more than 2 hours on the card.

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com