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5 Free (Yes, Free) Mother’s Day Gifts She’ll Actually Want

May 08, 2018

Be a hero to your wife, girlfriend, sister or the mother in your life for zero dollars. (This is not a trick.)

5 min read

We mothers may swoon over those hand-print art projects from school or pretend to gawk over a flashy piece of costume jewelry. The truth is, most of these gifts languish on our dresser for eternity. So much dust.

No need to wrack your brains to figure out the perfect Mother’s Day present. Luckily, what we really, really want doesn’t cost a penny.

That’s right, some of the best Mother’s Day gift ideas are absolutely free. You could be a hero to your wife, girlfriend, sister or the mother in your own life for zero dollars.

Take notes and remember to read the fine print. Be sure to include a card, because, come on, it’s your mom.

1. Sleep.

I spoke to lots of moms about their ideal Mother’s Day gift and quality shut-eye was the top request.

It seems so simple, but it’s a treat that many mothers aren’t able to give themselves. There are diapers to be changed, breakfasts to be made, piles of laundry to get started, and dishwashers to unload. Why, oh why can’t the kids just make themselves a bowl of cereal and watch cartoons like we did in the ‘70s and ‘80s?

“I don’t want or need anything too big for Mother’s Day, but if my husband could get up and deal with breakfast and keeping the kids entertained in the morning, it would be amazing,” said Shana Westlake, a Washington D.C.-area mom of a 5 year old and a 2 ½ year old.

Erika Holmes, a Tampa, Florida mother of two toddlers, concurred: “Just let me sleep.”

The fine print: Sleep means actual unconsciousness when you are unaware of what’s happening around you. Letting the kids run around outside the door while you tell them to knock it off or letting them yell “When is mom getting up!?” does not count. Let her sleep til noon if you can and try not to have a million catastrophes waiting for her when she opens the bedroom door.

2. Free babysitting.

Massages and pedicures are popular Mother’s Day gifts, but when are moms actually going to get to do those things? That’s where free babysitting comes in.

Paying for a babysitter to go enjoy life’s luxuries not only sucks your wallet dry, but it also affects your guilty conscience. You start thinking about all the other things you could be spending that money on, or feeling bad that the kids are parked in front of the TV, while the babysitter updates her Instagram account on your dime.

That’s why having a partner, a best friend, a mom, a grandmother —anyone who offers, really—watch the kids for a few hours is such a gift.

Alice Gomstyn, a New Jersey mother of two young sons, said she’d love to work someday with a musician to realize her side hobby of writing song lyrics. But with two kids in school and extracurricular activities, a husband with a monster commute into New York City and a full-time job, it’s a dream that seems unattainable without some help.

Massages and pedicures are popular Mother’s Day gifts, but when are moms actually going to get to do those things?

That’s why this year for Mother’s Day, Gomstyn would love someone to come babysit her 5-year-old and 7 years old — for free. The time spent creating, she joked, it would benefit the whole family.

“The kids really don’t need to hear all of mommy’s angsty masterpieces,” she said.

The fine print: This gift is best given without any strings attached by a partner, friend, or even a grandma or grandpa. That means you can’t take mom on a guilt trip six months later to get time to yourself. Offer a few nights or afternoons and etch them in stone on both your calendars.

3. Quiet time

… alone. Mothers devote almost all of their waking hours to keep their kids healthy, fed, entertained and enriched. But those moms need all those things too.

“I would love alone time to sit and finish reading a book,” said Danielle Dreger-Babbitt, a Seattle mom of a 3 ½-year-old. “Or even time to read a chapter.”

Just to be clear, Dreger-Babbitt was referring to a book without pictures in it.

The fine print: As with sleeping in, quiet time means actual quiet. Preferably with everyone out of the house. Putting a movie on for the kids is not quiet time. Give her a time frame every week where she knows she can pull out that paperback for an hour.

4. Dinner duty handled.

Dinnertime is a mom’s ultimate Kryptonite. They may have big plans at the beginning of the day for a well-rounded meal that the whole family will enjoy, but the reality is that by the end of the day when she’s exhausted, the kids are whiny and the dog needs to be fed, that dream of a delicious dinner turns into a nightmare.

Cooking dinner for the mother in your life, then packaging up leftovers, doing the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen is worth way more than that trip to Bath & Body Works you might have been planning for her.

And you’ll get major bonus points if you do it for an entire week.

The fine print: A nice dinner means protein, some kind of veggie and a side dish. Handling dinner does not mean ordering pizza or Chinese. No, french fries do not count as a vegetable.

5. Appreciation from the kids.

Moms don’t do it all for the glory. In fact, there is actually very little glory in day-to-day parenting. We do it because we love our children and want to see them become happy, productive and kind human beings.

But a little thanks goes a long way. This is especially important to single mothers who don’t have the help of a spouse. Helping a child come up with a gift is a win-win.

“I am a single mother and rarely get Mother’s Day gifts. I hate to complain because it’s not my son’s fault no one has helped him do Mother’s Day,” said Debby Florence, a mom living in Montana with her 16-year-old son. “The best free gift I could get is if someone helped my son come up with nice little free things to do for me so he can experience what it is like to surprise his mom with something nice.”

The fine print: Let the child take the lead on this one. Helping the child make a drawing or art project, or come up with something nice all on their own will make mom melt every time.

The bottom line, mothers say, is that they’d love a break. Something that’s just for them. Something that shows them they are valued and loved.

That is worth more than anything money could buy.

Want to help a mom start saving for a child’s future? Setting up a custodial account is a snap.

Invest in their futures

Open a custodial account for the kids in your life

Start now

By Sarah Netter
Sarah Netter is a New Orleans based writer. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and ABC News.

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