The best gift for Mother’s Day is free

Photo and Words By Brittany Carlson


Some of the best things in life are free—including Mother’s Day gifts.

I’m a mom of two little boys, and spend most of my time with other moms, and I can attest to the fact that the best gift anyone can give a mom is free.

What is this special gift?

It’s thoughtfulness, and it can take many forms (many of which don’t require cash).

In an unofficial Facebook poll, I asked my mom-friends about their favorite (free) Mother’s Day gift. The top answers were:

  • Childcare

A few hours of child-free time is a wonderful gift to any mom, but especially moms with little ones at home all day who rarely get the chance to recharge. Personally, if I had some alone time I would probably visit my favorite store (Barnes & Noble) and read on a comfy chair with a cup of coffee. Options are endless: childcare in the morning to let mom sleep in, or later in the day to let Mom do some shopping. One mom friend told me that her annual Mother’s Day gift is getting two hours alone to shop at Target.


Another great gift from an outside family member or friend could include watching the kids at night and so Mom and Dad can have a date night out.


  • Housework

This includes doing chores around the house, making dinner, cleaning up the kitchen, doing laundry … basically anything that moms could use a break from. A thoughtful riff on this idea is to create a coupon book for household chores that mom can cash in later.

In a Money Crashers article, “32 Fun & Unique Mother’s Day Gifts on the Cheap,” Mallory Hall has a few more ideas to add to this, including cleaning mom’s car, fixing things around the house, or doing yard work. Other ideas for the coupon book include free hugs, a night off of cooking, breakfast in bed and a “get out of bedtime free” card (assuming Dad is able to help the kids with this one), according to Abbey Hayes, author of a U.S. News article, “10 Mother’s Day Gifts That Won’t Cost a Penny.”

  • Handmade gifts

These can range from small children’s artwork to a handmade card or note. A friend of mine said her favorite with a letter from her teenage daughter describing all of her favorite things about her mom (I hope I get one of those someday!).

Hayes suggests making art with the kids’ handprints, such as making them into flowers or butterflies or putting them on flowerpots or into a plaster mold. Footprints are another way to preserve baby prints (and I’ve found they are easier with wiggly babies). On my first Mother’s Day, I made myself a gift by buying a clay imprinting kit for my then-2-month-old son’s feet. I still display those footprints today.

 Other suggestions from Hayes include putting together a recipe file for mom, creating a homemade gift basket, digitizing/preserving family photos, or writing down special or silly family memories in a “memory journal.”


  • Planned quality time with family

The sky’s the limit with planning some time together, but the key is to consider what mom would like best. Is there a place she has always talked about visiting? Is she an outdoors type? Does she prefer staying in?

For example, one friend of mine said she enjoys sitting and chatting with her children while they cook her a special Mother’s Day dinner.

 Sometimes I enjoy a break from making any decisions, such as when my husband plans the entire day out with my kids, including the activity, where we will eat, etc.

 Hayes also has a few ideas for family outings, including a family hike, visit to a museum or movie night in. Older children could also plan to spend special time with Mom teaching her a new skill, Hayes writes. Personally, I remember my sisters and I teaching my Mom some of the latest dance moves, and she loved it!

In a Lifehack article, “21 Gifts for Mom That Don’t Cost Money,” Dianne Wilson suggests giving mom a spa day at home, including a hand or foot massage, a back rub or a manicure. Other gifts could be a day of no fighting among the kids, making mom a treasure hunt, or giving her a tea party, Wilson writes.

All these gifts have one thing in common: they require some forethought and show a knowledge of and appreciation for moms in individual ways.

In the end, what moms want most is to know that you were thinking of her — not just what she likes to do, but what she means to the family. I know a few sweet words from my husband or kids like “You’re a great mom” or “I love you, Mommy,” bring me more happiness than a massage or a brunch, although those things are very thoughtful as well. It is just nice to feel appreciated and loved, no matter what the gift or amount of money spent.


Brittany Carlson is a lifelong lover of words and all things chocolate. She is an Army wife and now has two sons, Adam (3) and James (7 months). She has written for several Army community newspapers, including the Stuttgart Citizen (Germany), Fort Leonard Wood Guidon (Missouri) and Fort Belvoir Eagle (Virginia). Brittany holds a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She and her family live in upstate NY. 

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