Beyond Infrequent, Impersonal Expressions of Gratitude to Mom

Mother’s Day items featured in stores are becoming increasingly impersonal. Let's find personal, meaningful ways to honor mom throughout the year.

As I’ve looked at Mother’s Day items in the stores this spring, I’ve been struck by how impersonal the holiday has become. I’m bewildered by the mass-produced, impersonal gift baskets that appear to me to communicate one of three things: The purchaser (1) didn’t know what to get mom, (2) didn’t shop in time to get something personal, or (3) simply didn’t care. I’m flabbergasted at the sometimes elaborate greeting cards that are written from cats or dogs for their human “mommies.” I’m saddened when I read about a survey that found 67% of moms don’t want flowers for Mother’s Day, yet 73% get them.

cards from pets

Greeting cards that are written from cats or dogs for their human “mommies.”

What’s really unfortunate is that we need Mother’s Day. It’s not that I think there’s something wrong with having a day set aside to honor mom, it’s that we need a day set aside to honor her. Shouldn’t we communicate our gratitude to her frequently? Sadly, I know I’m guilty of not saying “thank you” often enough. While I have sent a gift to my mother this year, I’m also thinking of meaningful ways I can show my appreciation throughout the year. When coming up with these ideas, I was specifically thinking of moms of grown children. With a little creativity, they can be applied to moms of young children, too.

Personal ways to show appreciation for mom

  • Thank her. It’s simple, but it’s also very powerful. As you go about your day, let your tasks remind you of specific things for which to thank mom. When you bake cookies using a recipe mom taught you, send her a quick text message thanking her for teaching it to you. When you have a disagreement with your own teenage child, call mom and thank her for not giving up on you during your teen years.
  • Ask questions and listen to her answers. Moms often focus on their children more than anything else. This is especially true when they have kids at home, but it can still be true when they have grown children. Why not focus some attention on mom? Ask her what’s on her mind. Invite her to share about her social or volunteer activities. Give her opportunities to reminisce about her own childhood. Listen intently as she shares.
  • Take part with her in an activity she enjoys. What does mom enjoy doing for fun? Shopping? Bowling? Hiking? Playing bingo? Whatever it is, make an effort to go with her and spend some time socializing and relaxing together.
  • Help her around the house. If you live near your mom, consider giving her a hand around the house. Could she use some extra help weeding the garden? Maybe the carpet needs to be steam cleaned? Even if she doesn’t need help with a big job, she may enjoy your company while completing everyday tasks.
  • Show her you know what is important to her by giving her a relevant gift. Did she spend extra time admiring a particular blouse last time you shopped together? Has she mentioned a book she wants to read? Think of something she really wants. There’s nothing inherently wrong with traditional gifts like cards, flowers, jewelry, and gift baskets of soaps and lotions. However, these gifts are “traditional” for a reason—they are quite commonplace and you may have given variants of them to her in past years. If you choose to go this route, it’s nice to add a personal touch to them. For example, write a personal note in the card and select a bouquet of her favorite flowers or flowers that are her favorite color.

While I think these are some great ways to show appreciation, keep in mind that it was concerns about Mother’s Day becoming impersonal that got me brainstorming in the first place. If you don’t think these ideas would be meaningful to your mom, then find out what is meaningful so you can effectively express gratitude to her (your ideas may help the rest of us so be sure to share them in the comments section). I’m going to make an effort to use these ideas throughout the year, not just on Mother’s Day. I hope you’ll join me in this.

What’s your favorite way to express gratitude to your mom? Are you doing anything special for her on Mother’s day?


  1. Charlotte Thiel says:

    As a mom I know that some of the most cherished mementos I have from my growing children are the pictures and little notes that said “I appreciate and love you”–especially the notes from those rocky teen aged years! I remember writing a life-encouragement letter a couple of times telling how much I love them at specific “next step” times. If one would take the time to write a letter like that it would be something she would read over and over again and never get rid of.

    Some of my fondest times with my girls were those times when they would come home from high school and say that it had been a while since we had done anything together and could we go to a movie or shopping–not that we bought much but I’m sure security cameras followed and watched us looking at many things and laughing together–what fun! Yes, I would love help around the house or in the yard or shoveling snow… but my girls have lives and families of their own and I know that. When they call to check in or ask for that favorite recipe, or tell me they made that favorite recipe, that counts. I, too think it is too bad that society has gotten so lax in appreciating mother that we find it necessary to designate a day to say thanks and I love you. I hope my girls know I love them very much.

    Apparently this was a source of much concern for me since I had a lot to say. You had some great ideas and I am sure all your mom’s day gifts have been terrific. One other word? Be sure to remember your daughter for Mother’s day if she is one.

    • Shannon says:

      “Be sure to remember your daughter for Mother’s day if she is one.” The epitome of being a mom—always trying to care for your child. 🙂

  2. Norma VanMatre says:

    I am not a mother. I have, however helped to raise children. I lost my mother some years back and am very blessed to have a mother-in-law that has been a stand in for the task. She is the light of my life. We are very connected and I try very hard each day to contact her (as I did my own mother) with at a minimum, a phone call to make sure she is ok. I stop by from time to time when it is not expected. The light in her eyes and the look on her face is well worth the moments taken out of my “busy” schedule. These tiny things are what Mom’s of any age need and will always cherish. My main thought is simply to take the time all year long. Those years are all too soon cut short. Mother’s Day is a wonderful sentiment, but I have to echo the fact that it should be taken as an opportunity not an obligation. Thanks for listening!

    • Shannon says:

      Your mother-in-law sounds very blessed to have you.
      Thanks for mentioning her. I didn’t mention mother-in-laws in the post, but these ideas are certainly applicable to them, too.

  3. Shannon, I think partly to blame is our consumer driven society. We’re taught that the only way to show love is by heading to the mall and shopping. Your list proves that’s not true!
    My birthday is around Mother’s Day and every year I ask for – and receive – poems recited by my husband and kids. They pick a poem and memorize it for me and make sweet cards. No shopping, no wrapping, no spending – just wiping my tears!! 🙂

    • Shannon says:

      I definitely think you are correct about the influence of our consumer driven culture.
      The poems are such a great idea! You must have incredibly sweet memories of the poems being recited. What a great way for your kids to become familiar with poetry, too!

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