Reclaim The Day

“Experiences” Are Fun But Exhausting — It’s OK To Want A Splurgy Item For Mother’s Day

Your reminder, from experts, that you deserve what you really want.

Written by Alexandra Frost
Woman opening expensive gift
AleksandarNakic/Getty Images

Somewhere along the way, someone decided for moms everywhere that we'd prefer "experiences" over a wrappable gift for Mother's Day. After all, what more could any selfless mom want than to walk around the zoo with her kids all day or head to the newest hottest park? Though these experiences can, of course, be downright magical and heartwarming, sometimes they seem to call for another day of what moms do every day — difficult, in-the-trenches parenting.

One survey of over 1,000 moms and 1,000 men in relationships indicates that 39% of moms want a handmade gift as their top choice, followed closely by a spa day or edible gift. Another study shows that one in 10 moms just want enough time to go to the bathroom alone in peace for once. But what isn't quantifiable, that moms seem to hold close to the vest like a terrible secret, is that some want a splurgy item that they'd never buy themselves because, well, moms sacrifice all the time.

"Sure, they might occasionally buy themselves clothes or splurge on a manicure, but asking someone else to take care of them? That's a rarity. Self-sacrificing is something moms practice each and every day," says Dr. Whitney Casares, pediatrician and founder of Modern Mommy Doc, where she coaches moms and corporate leaders.

So, this Mother's Day, it's time to reclaim ownership of the holiday created "for us." And that starts with reminding yourself that it's OK to ask for a splurgy item — and even spend money on yourself.

New York Psychiatrist Dr. Gauri Khurana works with moms and soon-to-be moms, with a subspecialty in reproductive medicine. She says that society's perceptions, moms' own families' judgments, time and financial constraints, and the perception that others will think you are "greedy" all prevent moms from spending on themselves.

Splurgy doesn't have to mean expensive.

In the survey referenced above, 7 in 10 moms have been dropping hints of what they'd like for Mother's Day. This points to the fact that splurgy doesn't have to mean expensive, just intentional. The definition of splurgy also varies widely by mom, from one who never pays $30 for a crisp new white tee to others hoping for literal diamonds.

"I don't think this is about a designer handbag per se or the monetary value of the gift, or it shouldn't be — it's about the more scarce resource of time and allowing the mom to have her own freedom and independence to take care of herself however she sees fit... I think bringing in money confounds the issue of the mom having space/time to take care of herself," Khurana says. "She doesn't have to go to a five-star spa for a massage — she can get a 10-minute massage at the nail salon and get the temporary break from giving that she needs to go back and be even more loving."

She adds that when moms have babies, they sometimes feel they've lost a bit of their identity and don't even know what would make them happy or help them. In this case, the space itself to find this out might be even more helpful than any tangible gift. "So, if her partner/extended family/someone close to her can just take care of the baby for a few hours, half a day, or even a full day/night, that would be the biggest gift of all — just the space to meet/find herself again. From there, she can see what she may need (if anything material) to help herself feel better."

But sometimes it's OK to ask for something expensive.

One San Diego-based mom of two, Jessi Kopach-Paulson, says she definitely has a splurgy ask this Mother's Day: a new Dyson vacuum. "The things that excite me these days… sigh. Definitely would prefer a Dyson over a paid trip to Hawaii," she says, adding that a clean house makes her happy.

Another San Mateo mom of two, Julie Lieberman Neale, says she's inspired to "ask her husband for that sauna I've wanted. Super splurgy! Maybe I'll get it?"

Does reading these requests give you anxiety sweats? You're not alone. But Casares reassures mamas, "If you're into getting something shiny and pretty for Mother's Day instead of the gift of an experience, you should NOT feel guilty. You aren't selfish or basic if what you want this year is a hold-in-your-hand, wrapped-and-tied-with-a-bow real thing."

If you don't think it will happen, you can make it happen.

Casares explains she used to feel extremely disappointed on Mother's Day when her husband had her kids bring some burnt toast to her in bed and then called it good. "I didn't ask for splurgy items because I never thought my husband would get them for me, and I was right! After a few years of motherhood, I started planning a few special events for myself on Mother's Day — a pedicure, a glass of champagne with a friend, or a mini shopping spree — and I was way happier." Though she acknowledges that thinking up your own gift adds to your to-do list, sometimes it's better than the alternative.

So, if it's looking doubtful that your hint-dropping will result in your new favorite pair of earrings, go ahead and hit "buy" on that e-shopping cart. On behalf of your kids, your partner, and society — you deserve it.