Each spring, dads and kids of all ages spend hours trying to think up the perfect Mother’s Day gift to show Mom just how much they love her.
Despite their best efforts, however, most years it’s a swing and a miss. To make matter worse, gift-givers usually have no idea why their best efforts are somehow falling flat.
To help families demystify the meaning of Mother’s Day — and the gifts that make it special — I talked to Santa Clarita mothers to find out what they really want from their families on Mother’s Day.
Quite often, their deepest wishes were as simple as they were surprising.
“I talk to moms every day and, especially for the moms with young kids, the one thing we really want but never seem to get is to be left alone,” said Naomi Barnes with a little laugh.
As a hairstylist in Valencia and the mother of an 8- and 4-year-old, Naomi speaks with moms on a daily basis. She finds most moms don’t communicate their need for a day off because of the associated “mom guilt.”
“Your kids want to be with you, and dads or husbands don’t always understand why you want time away from the family. So there’s usually guilt attached,” she explained. “Of course, some moms may not need or want the break, but the moms who do want some time alone won’t ask for it because they feel bad. So they never end up getting it.”
One of the best Mother’s Day gift stories Naomi heard in her salon was a surprise hotel staycation — for one. Her client’s husband booked a hotel room for his wife and stocked it with all her favorite treats, gossip magazines and movies. The hotel was close enough that, if anything were to happen, she would be nearby. Then he told her to enjoy and, more importantly, sleep in.
Aside from the opportunity to catch up on precious rest, Barnes says the real gift is the time to step away and be introspective.
“That moment of alone time allows you to reflect and recharge,” Barnes said. “It gives you the chance to be reminded of how much your family means to you — and how grateful you are to be a mom.
“Some women may want the handbags and the flowers and the fancy jewelry, but that’s not me. And that’s not most of the moms I know,” Barnes continued. “We just want to be a little selfish on our day — without the guilt.”
As a mother of two boys, one in high school and one in the workforce, Ann-marie Bjorkman is not a mom who wants time to herself. With her youngest almost out of the house, she cherishes rare moments of quality time and the little things.
“For me, the perfect Mother’s Day would give me real, uninterrupted time with my family, no phones or distractions. I just want a sit-down conversation or a walk together,” Bjorkman said.
It makes her day when her kids go out of their way to show they care, she says.
“I always love when they write a special note in the card that says why they’re so grateful to have a mom like me,” Bjorkman said. “It’s funny — it’s the little, random things.”
And when it comes to gifts, Bjorkman prefers thought and appreciation to flowers and chocolate. One of her favorite gifts is homemade coupons that entitle her to different prizes or get her out of chores.
“They’ll say, ‘Take a walk together,’ or ‘Do the laundry for a day,’” she explained, “and I love those.”
While Bjorkman would always appreciate a little help around the house, what she really loves is when she receives those thoughtful gifts throughout the year.
“I just love the phone calls out of nowhere, when they say, ‘I’m thinking of you, Mom,’” Bjorkman recalled. “I even love when they just ask how my day was. That’s the best.”
In addition to being a mother of six kids, two of whom are adopted, Raquel “Rocky” Turner is a track coach for Saugus High School and founder of a nonprofit for orphaned children in Kenya.
“At one point, we had six kids who were 10 years old or younger,” she explained. “Now we have five teenagers and one who’s out in the world starting his life.”
For Turner, a full household has taught her how to focus on what’s truly important — not the small stuff or things she can’t control — because even two parents aren’t enough to get it all done in a day. That means asking her kids to do their own laundry or giving herself permission to invite a “healthy amount of selfishness” into her life.
And that valuable lesson doesn’t just apply on Mother’s Day but every day.
“There are times when parents need to be selfish without the guilt of being away from your tiny people,” Turner explained. “Being realistic about what I can change, and what I can’t, has really helped me, to the point where I don’t struggle with the guilt anymore.”
As for Turner’s perfect Mother’s Day for a mom of six, Turner’s wishes are simple.
“Life is just so busy, and as a mom, you’re always thinking about what other people want. It would be nice to have a day when you don’t have to make any decisions,” she said. “I’d want to have breakfast with my family and then be left alone, maybe go out with some girlfriends who feel the same way.”
Brendie Heter, mother of three young boys in Castaic, is a financial coach, speaker and writer who focuses on building happy families in her church and community. So the topic of mom appreciation comes up quite often in her line of work.
“Mother’s Day is one of those hyper-emotional holidays that touches something deep in your soul,” Heter said. “So when you’re disappointed, it can be extra crushing. There’s a lot wrapped up into how to make it special.”
For partners and kids who are trying to do it right, Heter recommends getting to know a mom’s “love language” before making any plans or buying any presents.
“There are always the easy answers, like massages, nail salons or fancy restaurants, and those can be nice,” Heter said. “But those aren’t the things that would make me feel extra special.”
Heter explained that, in the early days of her marriage, her husband wanted to do something nice for her, so he subscribed to a service that delivered exotic flower bouquets every month. Like clockwork, Heter would be surprised with a giant, over-the-top arrangement.
“Now that might make some women super happy, but it just wasn’t for me,” Heter explained.
As a financial coach, Heter didn’t see much sense in spending large amounts of money on something that didn’t have much meaning, use or staying power. Eventually, Heter had to talk to her husband about the gifts and gestures that truly speak to her — as well as the ones that stressed her out.
“My husband is the most amazing man, but when it came to giving gifts, he just missed the mark,” Heter said with a laugh, as her husband agreed.
Instead they decided to talk to each other about their “love languages,” or the different ways people show and feel love, according to author Gary Chapman.
“My main love language is acts of service. So one of my favorite gifts is hiring a videographer to come in and talk to the boys,” Heter explained. “They’ll ask the boys questions like, ‘What’s Mommy really good at?” I get their little voices captured on video forever, and it’s incredibly meaningful — and it lasts forever. The gifts I love point me back to being grateful for what I have.”
When it comes to finding the perfect gift for Mother’s Day, Heter says it’s going to be different for each and every mom. That’s why it’s important to do a little recon.
“I would encourage partners to find out how their spouse feels the most love,” Heter said, “and head in that direction.”
Joyce Carson, a mother and grandmother, says all she really wants for Mother’s Day is time.
“I have one daughter and one granddaughter,” Carson said. “On Mother’s Day, I want to be with them and spend some quality time together. That’s always what I want, for them to give me their time. It’s priceless, and it doesn’t cost a thing.”
Plus, Carson explained, Mother’s Day has been different for her since her own mother passed. While she used to focus on her mom, now she is the focus.
“When my mom was around, we always spent some really nice family time together with my sisters, usually a brunch or lunch,” Carson said. “It was always just about being together, and I want to keep up that tradition and sense of family for my granddaughter. That’s what’s important to me.”
If she’s going to be showered with gifts on Mother’s Day, however, Carson prefers a handwritten note or school craft to flowers and store-bought presents.
“I was a kindergarten teacher, so I love those little handmade things, especially when I see my granddaughter has written something in her own cute little printing,” Carson said. “Those are the special little memories that mean the most.”
As a single mom of two young kids and one young adult, business owner Martha Aguilera would prefer time to relax over gifts like kitchen appliances and flowers.
Without the luxury of another parent to take charge of gift-giving, however, Aguilera cares most about what her kids are learning from a holiday like Mother’s Day.
“I’ve been doing this alone since I was 18 years old. Not having a partner to remind my kids about Mother’s Day can be difficult,” Aguilera explained. “On one hand, I want them to be grateful for what they have, to appreciate each other and me every day. That’s what I want to teach them.
“But on the other hand, I don’t want to give my younger kids that kind of responsibility yet, so I don’t remind them or push them to celebrate me on Mother’s Day,” she continued. “It’s more important to me to remind them to be grateful every day.”
With her oldest child, however, the time came when Aguilera finally spoke to her daughter about the meaning of Mother’s Day.
“When my oldest was in high school, I sat down with her and explained that, once a year, there’s a day dedicated to appreciating your mom,” Aguilera recalled. “I told her it’s hard work to be a good mom, and I spend every other day of the year worrying about her. On this one day a year, it’s her job to make me feel appreciated and, more importantly, remember to be grateful for what she has.”
When asked what her community could do to better support single moms on Mother’s Day, Aguilera reiterated the same theme she teaches her kids daily: “In general, I always want people to just do one good thing for someone else. If you have nieces or nephews with a single parent, talk to them about the meaning of the day.
“But I don’t just push for single moms; I push for people who can’t do for themselves,” Aguilera continued. “If people really want to help, they can give to someone in need — without strings attached. Give simply for the sake of giving. That’s what helps build a stronger community for our kids, and that’s what moms really want anyway.”
Editor’s note: For single parents who are in need of support or community, local nonprofit Single Mothers Outreach provides resources, workshops and more. Visit https://singlemothersoutreach.org for more information.