Mothers Day with Less Stress and More Meaning

ID-10097441Mothers Day can be such a wonderful day. It’s a great time to be with our kids and think about our mothers and celebrate  all that we have and are as moms.

But Mothers Day can also be stressful. What can you do for your mom, grandma and mother-in-law that would mean a lot to her? What are your husband and kids planning? Sometimes our hopes and expectations of ourselves and our loved ones can get a little out of whack and rob us of the beautiful things the day can offer.

To help you figure out how to make this Mother’s Day full of meaningful giving and reduce the stress that can be involved, here are some relatively simple tried-and-true ideas for you – and some you might want to pass along to your husband and kids (they generally appreciate some “hints”). You’ll see that the ideas here are mostly things you can do with a computer, a camera, and paper and crayons since that’s what I know.

For your Mom, Grandma and Mother-in-Law

Sometimes we get caught up in the lovely gift ideas we see on Pinterest, on blogs, etc. I think it’s important to keep focused on what would really mean the most to our moms and what would best fit with our abilities and bandwidth. Our moms love to be remembered and honored – but fairly simple, heartfelt things often mean the most.  Here are some ideas I’ve done and some I’ve gathered from others and hope to do one of these years.

MEMORIES: Write your mom an email or handwritten note including some favorite memories you have with her. Include photos if you can. If you live near your mom, you could treat her to lunch and/or a manicure or pedicure. While you’re together, tell her about some of your favorite memories with her or share specific things you appreciate about what she did for you growing up. Here’s one favorite memory of mine that I shared with my mom and emailed to her along with a photo (I did five memories and five photos – my mom likes emailed stuff that she can keep digitally but some moms would rather have a hard copy):

When I was six, I remember shopping with you for a new coat and I found one that I absolutely fell in love with – gray/blue velvet with fake fur trim – the most beautiful coat I’d ever seen. But it was wasn’t exactly cheap and you were all about shopping on the sales racks and making do with whatever was a good price. So I was over the moon when you agreed to buy me that coat. It was my most cherished piece of clothing for years. And then one day it disappeared from the school cloakroom. That was a sad sad day for me. Here’s the coat (and my best friends – my sisters)

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT YOU: Create a simple list or a little book of specific things you and your kids love about your mom or mother-in-law (you could also include favorite things from your siblings and their children). For a gift that keeps giving all year long, you could include 52 things, one thing for each week of the year. Here’s a really easy idea for making a “jar of love” – your mom can pull out one thing a week for a full year (click on the image for instructions). Even my non-crafty self could totally handle this one:

52 jar

PHOTOS: Gather favorite photos of your mom with her children and grandchildren (you might have to secretly raid your mom’s photo albums and get friendly with your scanner). Create a collage if you like, put a favorite photo in a frame, make a little photo album, or simply email or create a blog post of some old photos that will bring a smile to her face.

Here’s a nice collage I found online (you could do photos of all your mom’s grandchildren around the edges or photos of yourself growing up). Click on the image below for an actual template for making a collage/book like this for your mom or grandma.

mothers day


I recently did a special post on my personal blog as a tribute to my mom where I gathered tons of great photos of her into one place. (Click here or on the image below to see my whole blog post about my mom if you like.) She loved it so much! (And I’m glad to have so many favorite photos in one place now.)

blog post

** Don’t worry about whether you’ve got access to all the photos you’d like to include. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be meaningful!

NOTES: Have your children write down the top five things they love about their grandma. Their own handwriting and spelling is precious! Here’s my son Oliver’s letter to his Grammie (Gramy as he spells it).  I asked him about the artwork at the bottom and he said it means that Grammie is colorful and fun and she loves art.

VIDEO: Make a video of your kids sharing their favorite memories and/or singing “Happy Mother’s Day” (to the tune of Happy Birthday). If you upload your video to YouTube, you can easily send the link to your mom and/or grandma.

POSTERITY: Gather photos of all your mom’s children and grandchildren and make a collage that shows individual shots of all your moms’ posterity. You could put them all into a huge photo collage frame (my sister did this for my mom one year). Another idea is to gather some favorite family photos over the years and create a simple collage with those (I made this one below for my mom).

Ashton's Photography

GIFT CERTIFICATES: Create a special personalized gift certificate for your mom from you. The certificate could be for an afternoon together doing something she loves, a favorite treat or dinner you’ll make for her, etc. You could also help your kids create gift certificates of their own for Grandma. The certificates could be for hugs, songs they’ll sing to her, doing a job for her at her house next time you’re there, etc. There are lots of nice templates online that you can use – the one below is from a group of nicely designed templates that you can personalize at “Certificate Street.”  But handmade works great too!


ART: Create some original art that captures how you feel about your mother or have your kids create art for their grandmother. I asked my 9-year-old daughter Eliza to make something – whatever she wanted – for her grandma. She came up with this beautiful piece. She said the “G” in the middle stands for grandma and that all the pink is for love and all the spikes are for excitement and the happy faces are for happiness and the purple is because purple is grandma’s  favorite color and the waves are for calmness.

RECORDED MEMORIES: Record yourself sharing your favorite memories with your mom (you could call it something like “The 5 Best Stories Featuring My Mom”)–there are tons of apps that make it easy for you to record right from your smartphone and you can download and send the mp3 audio file right to your mom or grandma’s email or put it on a CD for her. You could even use (we use it for our podcasts) to discuss favorite memories with your siblings on the phone, record the call (it’s so easy – you just enter the code they give you at freeconferencecall) and send your mom the mp3 file (seriously not hard at all). Just set up a time and have everyone call the phone number provided by freeconferencecall.

MUSIC: Make a CD of favorite songs from growing up (What lullabies did your mom sing? What were her favorite songs to listen to in the car? What songs remind you of fun times together as a family?)

For Your Mom-Friends

Many of our good friends are moms and while we’ll probably want to focus on our own moms, mothers-in-law and grandmas when it comes to Mothers Day, it’s nice to do something simple for our friends as well. These ideas take just a few minutes at your computer and could mean a whole lot.

  • Send a quick email or hand-written note to a few moms you admire or who’ve impacted your life in meaningful ways. Is there someone whose example has really made a difference to you? Someone who’s helped you in a time of need? A simple note stating what you’ve seen in them that made a difference to you could mean so much! I received a note one Mothers Day from a woman who usually sat a few rows behind me at church. It said “I’ve noticed how you lovingly help your children behave so appropriately in church.” After years of working so hard (and often failing) to help my children sit reverently in church, it was such a treat to receive that note! I told her that I really appreciated her note but she’ll never know what a sense of accomplishment that note gave me – it was like finally getting an “A” in a class that was a real challenge!
  • Start a Learning Circle for the moms you know (it’ll be a gift for them AND for you). Sign up to be a Learning Circle Leader and at the beginning of the invitation email template provided, say something like “I really admire the way you mother your children and would love to learn more from you. In honor of Mother’s Day this year, I’m starting a Learning Circle and would love to have you participate” (then the text of the email template provided will explain the rest and you can personalize it).

Mothers Day ideas you could suggest to your husband and children

Husbands and kids often appreciate a few pointers to help them make Mother’s Day wonderful. Feel free to share ideas with them. I used to think they would surely know what I’d like for Mother’s Day. And then I was sorely disappointed when they didn’t read my mind. I’ve found it works much better to hint very heavily or go right ahead and give them a list of things you’d love as far as activities and/or gifts and encourage them to “surprise you” by choosing from that list.

Here are some things that could go on your list:

  • A new bike, hiking shoes, an ice cream maker, a board game (you could specify one you think would be fun – great ideas in our Amazon Store) or something else that is connected to fun family activities you’ll be able to do together throughout the year. Encourage something connected to family activities you really love.
  • A picnic at a favorite place (you could offer some menu ideas and some ideas of favorite pretty locations if you think they might need them)
  • Notes from your children sharing favorite memories they have with you or a list of what they like about you (One year I asked for this and my good husband helped the kids all write me a list of what they like about me – favorite gift ever! I’ll have those cute handwritten notes in my special things folder forever.)
  • An hour or two by yourself to think, plan, read, go for a walk, work on a project, whatever – with NO interruptions. My dear husband has made sure I’ve had a couple hours each Mother’s Day to myself and I’ve loved using this time to write about what I love about motherhood that year. I come away feeling so very happy about being a mom and more in love with my family than ever!
  • A photo shoot of you with your children. As moms, we’re usually behind the camera. So on Mothers Day every year, I ask my husband to take photos of me with the kids. I’ve got photos from every year (a couple of my favorites are below).




  • Coupons for hugs or jobs that your husband or kids will do for you (or you could make a list of jobs you’d dearly love to see completed around the house and your family could “surprise” you by doing a thing or two on the list while you take off to enjoy a couple hours on your own doing something you enjoy)
  • Some little luxuries for you. Give your husband and kids a list of things you’d love to receive and let them “surprise” you with something from the list. Your list could include some new make-up, a favorite treat, an article of clothing you’ve had your eye on, etc. (If you want something specific, be specific about brand, size, type, etc.)

Every mom likes different things – some of us love notes, some love store-bought gifts or cards or flowers, some love acts of service, some love the opportunity to spend quality time with those they love (you can usually tell what they’d love by what they tend to give). If you take a little time thinking about what might mean the most to the mothers in your life (including yourself), you’ll come up with your own unique ideas that can make this Mothers Day the best yet!

QUESTION: What ideas would you add to the lists above? What have been your favorite gifts you’ve given and received?

CHALLENGE: Do something new, simple and meaningful for the mothers in your life this Mothers Day. Plus make Mothers Day great for YOU by giving your family some helpful hints and keeping your expectations in check.

* Image courtesy of


  1. Jani says

    I just decided today that I’m going to ask my 4 children to each memorize one of my favorite (& short!) Emily Dickinson poems. That seems like great for you/for me gift! Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it’s clutter free! A few years ago my husband surprised me with a video he made of my kids talking about why they love me. It was the best present ever! Last year my lilac bush was overflowing with gorgeous blooms, so I cut about 50 bunches and delivered them to all the women at church and in my neighborhood. They were all thrilled to get some old-fashioned flowers that reminded them of their own moms and grandmothers. I’ve learned that trying to make someone else’s Mothers Day happy makes mine really happy. I’ve also learned that it’s my day to celebrate motherhood and I shouldn’t sit around waiting for someone else to celebrate ME! I’ve scheduled special outings just with me and my kids to celebrate how much I love being their mother. It’s made all the difference in how I feel on this ofttimes difficult day.

  2. says

    Please keep the ideas coming! My mum has double organ failure, she is 63 years old and at the end stage of both (kidney and liver). I want this mothers day to be so special for her as it may be her last. She is in hospital and is bedridden. I want the gift to be inspiring and encouraging, not depressing. We want her to give life a go and live for as long as God will allow her. We were thinking family portraits.

  3. Laurie Brooks says

    Amazing amount of meaningful ideas here Saren. Thank you for taking the time! You’ve definitely made my Mother’s Day brainstorming a whole lot easier.

  4. Risé B. says

    Mother’s Day is always a bittersweet day for me. My mother hasn’t been in my life for 12 years – let’s just say it made for one incredibly toxic relationship. Mother’s Day for me is always nice. My husband and kids aren’t card people and for me to ask them to buy me cards seems … rehearsed. I’d rather get a card or two because it was their idea, or that if they got me a gift it was their idea. I don’t let myself get bent out of shape when I don’t receive those things – it doesn’t mean I’m loved less, just loved differently. Mother’s Day is usually ‘my day’ – I get taken out for breakfast or breakfast made for me … it often involves a movie too. I have kids who say, “I love you.” What more can a mom want??

    Motherhood has been a real challenge for me – I’ve had to learn how to be a healthy mom; I won’t say ‘normal’ because everyone’s normal is different. Being a healthy mother has been a struggle, a delight, a weight to bear sometimes – but through it all, I have kids who love me who are not at all treated in any way I was treated growing up.

    So even though I don’t have a mother to celebrate, I have my kids to celebrate … that counts for Mother’s Day too, right?? :)

    • April Perry says

      You’re doing great, Risé. Of COURSE celebrating with your kids counts! :) There are also lots of ways to thank other women in our lives who have been good examples to us. I hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

  5. Risé B. says

    Thanks, April! And yes, I have many women in my lives who have had a lot of influence of helping me become a much healthier mother than mine was. :)

  6. says

    Now this is a list that has tremendous ideas for anyone! I love the focus on the meaningful and heartfelt. Thanks for putting this list together for all of us who haven’t made a plan yet. :-)

  7. Koni Smith says

    I am blessed to be married to a man who makes a big deal out of Mother’s Day. It’s my favorite day of the year!! I don’t have to do anything (change diapers, wash dishes, make food, etc.). His dad taught the kids that and my husband is teaching it to our children. The future wives of my 5 boys will be lucky women (and I hope that my daughter marries a man that does the same)!

  8. Elizabeth Harris says

    Saren, I just wanted to thank you for your great ideas and insight! I always struggle with what to “get” my own Mom for mother’s day. As a mother of 4 (almost 5) myself, I am slowly learning that my Mom doesn’t want any “thing” but just wants to be remembered. So, I set up a conference call time with my 5 siblings, my Mom, and my Dad (listening in). I asked all the siblings to be prepared to share some “mom” memories. Each of the 6 kids took turns sharing our memories and our love for our mother. We laughed a LOT and even a few tears were shed. We recorded it as well, and my Dad is now calling it “The verbal history of Sue”. He has even asked for his own father’s day call! Mom absolutely loved our hour on the phone. Thank you again so much for the fabulous idea!


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