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Emily Henderson

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by Jess Bunge
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Warning: This post is going to start out kind of sad but I promise it will end up happy and your heart will be full and hopefully even a little inspired. Okay? Cool.

Once you start reading this post you might think I was an odd choice to be its author (Jess, not Emily) but I feel I am actually the perfect candidate. My story is not unique but it’s a good reminder that future days are not guaranteed and showing appreciation to those you love should be at the absolute top of the priority list….duh. I lost my mom eight years ago. Well, I didn’t lose her, I always kept a very good eye on her (pardon while I laugh at my own jokes, humor is important). But when she died, it really put everything—including “things”—into perspective. Now I’m not saying all material things lost value (I mean I’m a Market Editor…I love things) but I definitely was able to look at them in a way that was much healthier. The value I thought they held, to my surprise, was not that much. She is a part of me and our memories doing special things together trump any gift she ever gave me or me to her (and she was a great gift giver). Time is truly the only priceless gift anyone can receive. Quality time is also my top love language so maybe I’m biased. 🙂 But regardless, you “can’t take any of it with you” so it’s my recommendation, at least for this year, to also invest in creating memories.

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I mean let’s face it, very few of us are able to send their mom to Tahiti (one of my mom’s bucket list items) so that means we need to get a little more creative. What I usually got caught up on is that I wanted to reinvent the gift wheel, be the BEST and most thoughtful offspring the world has ever seen. Guess what? She never cared about how “different” it was. Honestly, if she could have a nice day with my brother and I getting along for all 24 hours that would have been enough. But obviously, that’s not enough because our mothers deserve more.

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With all that said, I was put in charge of putting together a list of thoughtfully driven Mother’s Day gift ideas and to me, the best way to be thoughtful is to give your time (and some pampering, of course). As the great Ali Wong has coined, “She has suffered enough,” so treat her like the queen she is with your time and effort. So to help inspire, here are 10 super thoughtful and pretty easy ideas to make your mom or the mother figure in your life feel insanely loved…as they should.

1. A Beautiful Vessel Filled with Compliments or Happy Memories

This has turned into my signature present and has happily been co-opted by the EHD team for our office birthday present. But it effortlessly translates to Mother’s Day. It’s so easy, affordable and will make your mom feel so loved. All you have to do is find a wide mouth vase (so her hand will fit inside), planter or decorative box then fill it with handwritten compliments and/or thoughtful notes. Done and done. Tears.

2. Schedule A Massage While You Clean Her House/Do Chores

Moms deal with far more stress than they ever should have to. Sending her out for a massage while you clean her house or do some of her errands is a simple way to show her that you see how hard she works and you want to make her life a little easier.

3. Planner Or Calendar Pre Filled In With Dates To Hang Out (Even If It’s Phone Call Dates:))

Unless your mom doesn’t want to spend time with you (HA), this would be a crazy thoughtful gift. Find a planner or calendar she will love then mark off as many “mom dates” or phone dates (if you live far) as you can honestly commit to. Fewer things say I love you more than wanting to spend time together.

4. Make A Personalized Video

I have done this for a lot of friend’s birthdays (originally as a teenager on an old school video camera. It was hard and hilarious) but again works perfectly for Mother’s Day. It takes a bit of planning but you will definitely get the tears you want when your mom opens/watches her gift. I recommend using a program like iMovie to make your video (this comes with any Apple computer). I am not super proficient so I can vouch that it’s very user-friendly. Plus, if all else fails, you can always turn to YouTube tutorials. Throw in photos backed by her favorite songs and interviews of loved ones saying what she means to them. I can already see those tears. VICTORY.

I thought I would do a little preliminary research on iMovie tutorials that may help those of you who are beginners like me:

For a general overview go here.

If you want to add some music, this video walks you through that.

Then if you want to get very fancy, here is a video to show you how to overlay pretty text to an iMovie video.

5. Blindfold Her To A Surprise Location (SO fun for young kids)

We did this when I was little and my brother and I thought it was the BEST idea in the world. Not sure if my mom super loved it but she loved how much fun we were having. We took her a nice brunch and my dad had a surprise gift “we got her” already at the restaurant. It was a real win for everyone. Thanks, dad. 🙂

6. Professional Family Photo Session (classic)

Obviously, a classic but it’s for damn good reason. Family photos are special and I promise you that you will be happy you have them too one day. Plus, most moms LOVE them. They made and/or raised you and they want to look at their stunning work. I look back on the crazy dorky light wash denim, white turtleneck beach photos from 1993 so fondly. They are hilarious and make me feel connected.

7. Wine Subscription with Monthly Wine Date Night (so fun for big kids)

This is a bit more expensive but if your mom loves wine then this is a great idea to do for her. But to make it more thoughtful, tack on a monthly, weekly (whatever works for you) Wine Night date. Having girl nights with my mom was seriously the absolute best.

8. Start A Yearly Review Letter

This might be my favorite new idea (thanks, Julie) and I want to start it with my dad this Father’s Day (hopefully he’s not reading this). So every year, you reflect on the past 12 months. Recall funny memories, hard times she helped you through, a great vacation you had etc. It’s one step further than a card (which is great, too) that shows your appreciation and that you remember all she does.

9. Family Pizza Making Night

This is such a simple but fun idea that is great for all ages. Go shopping for all the ingredients to make a bunch of different kinds of pizzas. It’s super fun to come up with different concoctions, maybe even give them signature names. Then after all the eating has finished, tell her kindly to get out of the kitchen because she should relax while everyone else cleans up. Instant good family memories and she gets a little break.

10. Picnic With Homemade Goodies

This one isn’t rocket science but is still crazy thoughtful. Either whip up your own lunch or pick up food from her favorite restaurant and then head to her or your favorite outdoor spot. It shows you took the time to consider her and you get to spend some quality time together. Boom.

I don’t want this post to feel like a guilt trip. I don’t want it to put you in a mindset of fear for what might happen. What I want for you all to get from this (I’m sure) heavier than expected Mother’s Day post is that your mother is a gift and you should take as many opportunities as possible to show your love and spend time with her. My mom’s last Christmas was, to put it lightly, hard (Ha, and you thought I was done with the sad stories). Not only because it was her last Christmas (inconceivable at the time and honestly still is) but what gift do you give your dying mother?! You give her love and as much of it as possible. It’s just the only gift that matters that we actually can take with us. So don’t “put it off till next year.” Take that family trip now, call your mom now (YES, RIGHT NOW) and try not to waste time in frustration and anger as they tend to evoke from us from time to time….or a lot of the time. 🙂 My mom was a champ at knowing my buttons (despite our best friend-like relationship) but when all is said and done, all moms are just doing their best so you should try to do yours. Forget perfection and focus on heart. I hope whether you are a mom or celebrating one that you have a truly magical day filled with happy tears. Those ladies are priceless.

Oh, and don’t worry…I found that killer family photo I was talking about. No image has ever captured our individual personalities more accurately.

Jess: Hot mess but smiling

Mom: Warm and beautiful

Dad: “Oookay, let’s get this over with”

Brother: Pouting at any forced activity

Jess Bunge Fam Photo 1

I would love more than anything to hear your ideas for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts. This was just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s all share. Love you (and my mom), mean it. 🙂

Also, for anyone looking for purchasable gift ideas (mothers also like and deserve pretty things) as well, don’t forget we have this whole landing page as well as our Shop pages full of literally HUNDREDS (honestly, maybe thousands) of gift ideas organized by category/person you’re buying for. Check it out!

 

  1. I loved this post. And, yes, it made me cry.

    1. I’m so glad you loved it:)

  2. Thank you! Heartfelt and great ideas. We all need reminding, great post.

  3. Your mom was sooooooo beautiful! And I loved this post so much. I’m sorry you lost your mom so early, but thank you for the reminder that we need to appreciate and thank our moms while we still have them. I need to start thinking about what I’m going to do for my mom. These are great ideas.

    Also, I will be forwarding this post to my husband as a not-so-subtle hint so that he and my kids can start working on this, ha!

    1. Thank you so much for all of your sweet words! I hope you have the best mother’s day xx

  4. This gave me tears! So warm and thoughtful.
    Our family tradition as of 5 years ago: After church, my 3 kids, husband and I all go shopping for annuals for our billion flower pots. Kids get free reign to pick their faves for pots, I curate my own faves for our window boxes and hubby pushes the cart (the BEST part) and loads the potting mix. We go home and spend the afternoon planting. (And husband doesn’t have to think of a new gift every year). It’s a joy for so many reasons, and we always get a handful of great pictures.

    1. Love this!!!

    2. We also used to do this exact thing! We’d go to the nursery and my mom would pick out her flowers, I used to love it when I was a kid

      1. I love this! the last few years (having such young kids) I spent them with my girlfriends at a spa, then with the family for a dinner, but now that i’m less exhausted (HAHAHAH) i want a ‘together’ tradition. maybe i’ll steal this one!

        1. Please do steal it! 🙂 Same here – togetherness minus me making a meal is all I want. WOrd to the wise – Lay out all the flower pots in a group. Let each kid take turns selecting the pots they want to fill (like picking teams), and then they get to be in charge of watering their pots for the season. Family togetherness for the day + life lessons/responsibility for the summer. WIN.

  5. May favorite Mother’s Day gift from my daughters was a picnic lunch by Town Lake. Lunch was basic – sandwiches from Schlotzky’s or Thundercloud. They created a moment I still remember. Touché #10.

    1. I love that so much!

    2. Town Lake! I knew immediately where you were from. This sounds lovely.

  6. A lovely tribute to your Mom. I’ve been a Mom for 28 years and I can say that no Mom could ask for more. Unless it was the great gifts you recommended! Wondering if I can forward as a suggestion……… 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! It felt so good to be able to tell a small part of our story. And you should definitely forward:)

  7. This post was perfect! Thoughtful and sweet (the writing, the ideas, the matching turtlenecks… 😆). Thanks for sharing!

    1. Those turtlenecks are too much lol

  8. This is the best list of gift ideas I have seen! I love that they are more about making memories and having an experience.

    1. Thank you so much! I, of course, don’t want to demonize buying a beautiful gift but I am very partial to memories:)

  9. This was lovely. Personally though I’m not a mom who would enjoy a vase of compliments. I actually hate “inspirational messages” so if my kids are reading this: Mom just wants a nice meal out somewhere and good conversation. Oh, and an Arya Stark t-shirt. 🙂

    1. Absolutely nailed it Jess!! I just hung up on a frustrating phone call with my mum who doesn’t always get my ‘cues’ for ending the conversation and then read your article and I’m feeling guilty for not giving her the time she deserves… even if it means listening to her talk me through EVERYTHING that happened today 🙂

      1. Trust me when I tell you I get the frustrating mother-daughter moments. They are nearly guaranteed to happen more often than not! I don’t know if there was ever a dance in high school when one of us wasn’t pulling our hair out. But it’s also always good to check in and know that someday you will miss them more than you could ever imagine:)

  10. What a wonderful post! My kids make me cards for Mother’s Day. It started when they could barely hold a crayon. They are all adults now but I LOVE that they still take the time to sit down and make me a card. I have saved all of them and they are my most treasured possessions.

    1. That is so special!

  11. I really enjoyed this post because it was not about purchasing stuff to match a picture (don’t worry, I use those posts, too). It’s nice to see a post about creating memories and doing good that doesn’t necessarily mean buying a thing. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s definitely a balance and you so welcome!

  12. I love this because these are the things that legacy is made of. My dad died when I was fourteen and it totally changes how you view mortality and relationships. Soak in all in, in the time you have!

    1. totally agree<3

  13. Beautiful post with wonderful ideas! Your mom would be proud of you! I love the planner idea. Since I live across the country from my mother, I will be planning FaceTime dates. Thx again for your lovely post!

    1. Thank you so much and I’m so happy you are going to do the planner idea!

  14. Thank you for this! A great reminder of how precious time spent together is. My hubby and kids gave me a pro family photo session a few years ago and it was the best gift ever. My mom isn’t as sentimental but she just moved to a new house so I’m doing a large painting for her living room, I paint for a hobby and I hope she’ll love it. Also, brunch, because we like mimosas.

    1. That sounds like a BEAUTIFUL gift she will love!

  15. Jess! Me too, I lost my mother when I was 27. So hard! I feel your pain and you did such a great job on this post. Such beautiful and lovely ways to create memories to always hold dear. 🙂 x

    A fun thing that happened to me on Mother’s Day a couple of years ago… I have a friend in her eighties and I keep an eye on her and help her do things that are scary for her, like buy a new laptop, redesign her bathroom, but a new car/sofa, whatever. I do these things because she’s amazing! She’s funny to the max and has a way of describing things that’s a whole ‘nuther way of looking at the world. She’s a crazy-good gift yo the world!

    Mother’s Day arrived and I was feeling a little ‘lost’ as I do each year, with no mother to lavish with love. I went to check the letterbox and my friend had put a Mother’s Day card in it for ME?! She wrote a message saying that I treated her as a mother would (she had been orphaned) and that the care, guidance and watching over her that I provided made her feel so special and cherished.

    My heart burst open with love and I called her to thank her. Now THAT was an amazing Mother’s Day card, for sure!

    1. Thank you so much for sharing that beautiful story! Losing a mother is such a specific deep loss so having those special mother-like figures is so special<3

    2. Now I’m crying. That is so beautiful

    3. Rusty, that is such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it.
      Jess, I loved this post – such a heartfelt collection of gift ideas.

    4. This lovely human being is many, many decades older than me; so getting a Mother’s Day card from her really put “mothering” into perspective for me…mothering=nurturing.
      I agree Jess, think losing my mother will always feel ‘fresh’ and painful. It certainly is “a specific deep loss”, so well put. x

  16. LOVE this and all of these amazing ideas! You nailed it, thank you!!

    1. Thank you!

  17. Hands down the best Mother’s Day post I’ve ever read. I lost my mom almost 4 years ago and I’ve essentially steered away from Mother’s Day posts. Yours was raw and real and I really appreciate you opening up! My mom would always ask for “the gift of time” and I never understood it until now that I’m a mom myself. But it’s SO true! Now all I can think about is spending the day with my 3-year-old daughter – that is the best gift. I thought all your ideas were heartfelt and appreciated that it wasn’t just “stuff”. Thank you again, Jess!

    1. This means so much to me! There is just nothing more precious than time:)

  18. This is so sweet. Thank you. I lost my mom eight years ago. She was a wonderful mom. I used to have old boyfriends come over just to visit my mom! She was that special. I miss her every day.

    1. O that is so wonderful! I always say that even though I lost her way too soon, the fact that I got to have her for as long as I did was the greatest gift I could have been given. The other amazing part is that we get to walk through life as actual pieces of our mothers and that will never change or end xx

  19. Brilliant post! And thanks for the reminder, just booked brunch for Mother’s Day to spend some quality time with my mom!

    1. Fantastic! Hope you both have a great time xx

  20. Beautiful post and wonderful ideas, thank you! So much more meaningful than the usual “things to buy” with robes, candles, junk. I’m starting on the jar right now. Thank you! And as a mom, I can also tell you ANYTHING handmade, whether it’s a thoughtful hand-written note or a kindergarten frame covered in glitter with a photo of the two of you–I’ve kept and treasured every single one!! As someone who lost someone near and dear to me last year, I will also give the advice: PUT IT IN WRITING. Being able to reread and treasure your memories or feel genuinely appreciated is more valuable to me than anything.

    1. Thank you and everything you said is so true!

  21. Gosh, Jess, you’re the spitting image of your mother. It really is like she’s living on in you. Not that you’re not your own person, but I think I might find it comforting. Maybe?

    1. Thank you so much! It’s honestly one of the best compliments I could be given. While it’s hard for me to see because I looked up to her so much:) But I love feeling like she is not only a part of me on the inside but also on the outside:)

  22. This post punched me right in the tear ducts! Mother’s Day is a double edged sword for me after losing my mom but these ideas are amazing- loved the pizza one and I’ll bet I can get my kids on board too.

  23. Mother’s Day is so hard for me. Not because I lost my mom. But because my mom is an abusive narcissistic woman who I can not seem to please. Ever. Posts like these make me wish for a better relationship with her. But I can not keep someone so toxic in my life. I can not bring myself to even get her a card.

    The closest woman I had to a mother, I lost this past February and so this Mother’s Day will be particularly difficult. I’m choosing to focus on being a mom instead. Something that brings me joy.

    1. I am very sorry for the difficulty Mother’s Day brings. Family obviously doesn’t always equal positive relationships. I am so glad you had a beautiful chosen family relationship. Sending my love this year on Mother’s day xx

  24. You were right! totally crying and loved your ideas.

  25. 1st – Thank you for a gift round-up type post that doesn’t feel materialistic. Sincere & such a breath of fresh air!
    2nd – Just wanted to endorse the picnic idea. We did a beach picnic last year (my first mother’s day) and it was so nice and peaceful. Plus – great scenery for pictures!

    1. So happy you liked the post and had such a great first Mother’s Day! Hope you have an equally wonderful day this year:)

  26. Fantastic post, I love the idea of the vessel!

    I do have to take a quick moment to rain on the parade, WINC is literally the worst customer service I have ever experienced. Anyone interested in them should take a look at their BBB reviews, they score an “F”, wished I had looked at that before making a purchase with them.

    1. Thank you much for the kind words and for the info! I hope they can get fix their customer service because it’s such a great gift idea.

  27. Bawling! And you’re right, we don’t know how much time we have with anyone, including ourselves. I “lost” my dad 9 years ago. It was sudden and unexpected. He was there telling the usual horrible puns and then he wasn’t. I’ve also lost one of my best friends to breast cancer. Now I just made this sadder! Mostly I just wanted to say that your post wasn’t as sad as it was honest. It’s a message we all need to hear.

    I love all the ideas you posted—so thoughtful and clever. This year for mother’s day I’m sending my mom a framed print of a photo I took last year in her garden. She has the most amazing climbing clematis flower—huge white flowers and dark green leaves. I think she’ll love it. (used Artifact Uprising for the print–love those guys!)

  28. Yes- crying but feels ok. Thank you.

  29. I’m sorry you lost your mom. I think she’d be so proud of you and would love this post. xo

  30. I absolutely love this, Jess.

    My dad passed away unexpectedly a year and a half ago. The memories I cling to aren’t the gifts we gave each other, but the many special memories we made over the years.

    What you said is so true: Celebrate moments. Celebrate time together. Try to have the perspective: if this were my last conversation I had with this person I love, what would I say?

    I think your first idea will be my mom’s gift this year. Lots of love and light to you. ♥️

  31. Best mother’s day gift idea post I’ve ever read!
    Thank you for your honesty, and for sharing such thoughtful and meaningful ideas.

  32. Jess, I had a terrible, terrible day and am feeling like a pretty lackluster mom, but this reality check meant everything to me. I’m giving my awesome mom a jar of compliments and I’ll be thinking of you and yours while I write them. I hope you have a wonderful mother’s day with your dad and brother, remembering and loving your mom.

  33. As a mom, thank you.

  34. Jess, beautiful article and oh my goodness, you are your mother’s mini-me!

  35. My mother in law was just not into shopping and stuff but she loved her family and her garden. Her birthday was in early May. So we’d plan a weekend day near or on Mother’s day for the whole family to gather at her house for a chore day. She’d save up tasks inside and outside and we’d show up with gardening equipment and tools and weed, paint, replant, shore up fencing, fix screen doors and then gather for a big potluck dinner and birthday cake in the garden.
    She had her family with her for the day. Her chores got done. And her garden looked wonderful with all the extra attention. For her, this was the perfect gift.
    Beats buying her yet another bathrobe she didn’t need…

    1. I’m totally stealing this idea for my mother in law!

  36. Thanks for sharing! So many good ideas! I’m sorry you lost your mom at too young an age! I also did and it’s very hard, isn’t it?

  37. I loved this post and globbed onto any suggestion that could work for a mom that lives in a different city. I love the vase idea but would rather ship it straight to her and then I couldn’t add the personal notes. Annnyyway, I love the wine subscription and weekly wine night date idea! It has been weighing on my heart lately that I don’t talk to my mom enough, and we have a good relationship! A weekly, planned, facetime call while we both drink a glass of wine is perfect! Again, it’s not always as easy as it sounds since she’s 2 hours ahead and I have children to put to bed first, but if she’s okay with a 10:15 glass of wine, then this could work!

    Thanks for a great post.

  38. My favorite. gift. list. EVER! Well done!!!

  39. Wow. Massage and house cleaning. You get the daughter of the year award! I think I love your first idea and I will try that jar full of love messages with the massage for my mom!

  40. What a beautiful tribute to your Mum.

    Mine passed away when I was 25 and my Dad said “I’m both now”.So we started a new tradition in her memory and he received the cards, flowers, presents and lunch from us, on her behalf.

    Now that he is also gone I understand what his motives were – continuing to buy/make something for her and be able to ‘give” lifted the mood a little on the day as we celebrated the beautiful person that gave us so much.

    Nowadays, I find someone to give to when Mother’s and Father’s days come around on the calendar and it makes my heart smile in their memory.

  41. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  42. Thanks- I loved this post. Sadly, I do not have any mothers left at 57 I have three children two of my children have children. I lost my Mom when I was only 22 and newly pregnant with my first. Now they are all adults and raising their children and I so so wish they could read this and really GET IT. But they are not subscribers and I can not send them this, I just wish they would know how much I miss them -they are so wrapped up in life – it’s just hard

  43. wonderful post. meaningful and deep..!!

  44. Wow! So cool and unique ideas! I was searching for something unique and different gift for my mother on mother’s day. Last year, I found a jar from KindNotes with beautiful messages. My mother loved it. On this mother’s day, I will make a personalized video. Thank you for sharing this amazing idea.

  45. This post is so lovely. Great job Jess, and another reason I faithfully read this blog-its genuine and the best hang space on the web:)

  46. Best post! One Christmas, my husband and I gave my mother-in-law a calendar for the new year. We planned a shared activity for each month (the movies, brunch, chore day: one time each season, a play, trip to museum…). She loved this so much, we did it every year thereafter. I always planned on making a calendar with family photos, but then I’d forget until Christmas Eve. That would be a nice addition.

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