No Mother's Day candy, please!
Honestly, do you know a mom who isn't trying to shed a few pounds? (Me included!)
This Mother's Day, give the moms in your life something they will really appreciate. My friend, Nancy Schretter, managing editor of Family Travel Network calls it "Me Time for Moms with a Bow."
Have the kids make mom an IOU card for "Me Time with a Bow" that they can cash in on their next vacation. Why vacation? For too many moms, vacations are as one mom told me "home without a washing machine." They are a lot of work -- the packing and unpacking, the organizing, the meal planning ... the list goes on and on. Too often, they come home exhausted, wondering why they left in the first place, especially when babies and toddlers are part of the equation.
Not that dads don't do their part. Of course, they do. But moms tend to be the planners-in-chief and the worriers. What if we don't have milk for breakfast? What if it rains when we plan to go to the beach? What if we run out of clean socks?
That's why I think the most thoughtful Mother's Day gift can relieve some of that vacation stress and enable mom to relax. Remember that moms often feel guilty spending time and money on themselves, though they are the first to pamper the kids on vacation. But if it's their Mother's Day gift, that's another story. Here are five ideas:
IOU FOR A VACATION DINNER. If you are staying at a condo or camping, the kids (with dad's help) take charge of planning the meal, getting the ingredients, cooking, serving and cleaning up. If you are going to be kitchen-less, surprise mom with a fun night out some place she hasn't been. (Ask some of the staff at the hotel where their moms like to go for dinner or brunch. Take Mom somewhere that's owned and run by locals!)
AN IOU FOR MOM TIME -- Book her a facial or a massage. The five-star spa at Mandarin Oriental Boston, in fact, has a new seasonal treatment, Mother's Pampering. If the mom in your life doesn't enjoy spas, book her a tennis or golf lesson. How about standup paddle-boarding? Maybe she has always wanted to learn to scuba dive. Now you can do most of the coursework online with Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and do the certifying dives on your next tropical vacation.
Mom Time ideally should be for something moms never get to do at home, said Amie O'Shaughnessy, creator of the family travel website Ciao Bambino! Maybe that means a museum visit with a guide, a cooking class or a special tour.
This doesn't necessarily have to be expensive, but it will require some advance planning. For example, the Global Greeter Network offers wonderful free tours geared to your interest in cities around the world -- everywhere from Shanghai to New York, Sydney to Paris, where we got an insider's look at the hip foodie neighborhood near where the Les Halles market existed for generations.
Many museums offer free docent tours, but you need to know when they are being given. (Just check out the museum's website!) If Mom is an art lover, maybe she would want to see a new exhibit where you're visiting -- but it may require advance tickets.
The key: This gift is not something she would want to share with her kids.
IOU FOR A VACATION DAY'S ACTIVITIES. If possible, let each child in the family "own" the itinerary for one day. With dad's help, they can plan where to go, how to get there, what to eat and purchase tickets, if necessary. If you are heading to a theme park, let the kids plan an itinerary that includes their top picks each day, relieving mom of having to negotiate each morning. If you are heading to a national park, let the kids plan the day's hike. If you are going to the beach, let the kids make sure you have what you need, everything from sunscreen to towels to sand toys and snacks.
IOU FOR TIME TO DO WHATEVER. Maybe the mom in your life just wants a couple of hours to go exploring on her own. Maybe she craves a couple of hours to read on the beach, or go for a long run. If there's a teen in the gang, he can give mom an IOU for babysitting. This would be a welcome present from Dad too, of course.
When it comes to Mother's Day gifts for grandmas, what they want most is time with the kids. So they get an IOU TO BE WITH THE GRANDKIDS ON VACATION. You are probably planning some sort of multigenerational getaway in the next year -- multigenerational travel is a leading segment of the travel industry.
Here's the chance to plan something special for Grandma and her little darlings. Maybe a Broadway matinee, if she's a theater lover and if the kids are old enough. Maybe a baseball game, if she's a big fan. (Take grandma and the kids to a minor league game -- much cheaper, more low key and a lot of fun!) Maybe an adult-child cooking class?
If your gang loves the outdoors and exploring new places, surprise mom or grandma with a guided family adventure trip (dates to be determined) with a company like Oars or Backroads, which offer special family trips and individual trips for extended families. There's no playing tour guide, cooking or entertaining the kids -- just having a good time together.
And that's the best gift you can give. Happy Mother's Day!
Eileen Ogintz is the creator of the syndicated column and website Taking the Kids. She is also the author of the ten-book Kid’s Guide series to major American cities and the Great Smoky Mountains. The third-edition of the Kid’s Guide to NYC has just been released.