I Learned the Hard Way What Not to Gift Your Wife on Mother’s Day, so You Don’t Have To

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I have a reputation as a thoughtful gift-giver. Of course, as any great athlete will tell you, playing your best means being unafraid to take a big shot, and those shots don’t always make it in. As my wife and I approach our 9th wedding anniversary, I can assure you I’ve swung and missed quite a few times. However, the best athletes also never hang their heads after a loss, and instead use it as a learning experience.

With that approach in mind, I’ve decided to turn my Ls into Ws by offering you my hard-earned wisdom. What follows is advice on what NOT to give your partner this Mother’s Day, paired with some winning alternatives to consider instead. Whether for your own wife, mother, mother-in-law, or stepmom, here is what to avoid gifting the moms in your life on Mother’s Day.

DO NOT Gift: Once, a friend and I road-tripped to Mardi Gras, and the morning of our departure, we realized we needed to find gifts for our significant others quickly before heading home. At a market near Bourbon Street, I found an acrylic (the very cheap, knit material you’d find in fast fashion chains... but even worse) hooded dress that featured a tassel on the end of the hood. In my defense, I may not have been seeing perfectly straight that morning. To this day, it represents the high water mark of bad gifts in our relationship. My wife has laughed about the hideousness of that garment so many times that, in a way, it is the gift that keeps on giving. Yet unless you want your gifts to inspire a lifetime of mirthful laughter, DO NOT give your significant other an acrylic hooded dress from a souvenir store in a tourist neighborhood.

Acrylic Hoodie Dress

DO Gift: Quince’s Mongolian Cashmere Padded Shoulder Tank.

Quince Mongolian Cashmere Padded Sweater Tank

A wearable, functional, and comfortable piece of apparel in a more elevated fabric, like Quince’s affordable Mongolian Cashmere Padded Shoulder Tank. This wearable sleeveless sweater top is great for transitional weather and feels like luxury without being over-the-top or overly presumptive about her sartorial tastes.

Buy Quince Mongolian Cashmere Padded Sweater Tank at Quince, $60

DO NOT Gift: My wife is both outdoorsy and appreciates comfort. I’ve tried to nurture her outdoorsiness in the past by providing inspo in the form of things I would want (a cool five-panel hat!) that end up collecting dust. Trust me, your wife, mother, or MIL doesn’t want a five-panel hat—save it for Father’s Day gifting.

Five-Panel Hat

DO Gift: The Luno Packable Camping Pillow.

Luno Packable Camping Pillow

Who knew that all I needed to do was nurture her luxe side when it came to outdoor and camping gear? An ideal gift for those who like camping and a good night’s sleep, this pillow has a customizable memory foam fill and packs down into a stuff sack. Now, a night in the tent does not have to mean a night devoid of comfort.

Buy Luno Packable Camping Pillow at Amazon, $69

DO NOT Gift: The sheer number of things we have to keep track of as parents with two young kids can be mind-boggling. So it’s no surprise that organization can slip from time to time. However, getting your wife a consultation with a professional declutterer is kind of like saying, “You are too messy, and you need some serious help.” Trust me, I tried this, and let’s just say it was not a hit, folks. Nobody—especially the mother of your children—wants to hear that on Mother’s Day... or any day.

Declutter Consultant

DO Gift: The James Brand Rowan EDC Key Carabiner.

Rowan EDC Key Carabiner

The Rowan is a nifty little carabiner that features a bottle opener and ruler, is made from heirloom quality stainless steel, and comes in a gorgeous rose gold colorway. There will be no more misplaced keys when the object that holds them is so lovely. Most importantly, it doesn’t come across as a tangible insult.

Buy Rowan EDC Key Carabiner at The James Brand, $29

DO NOT Gift: A facial at a random spa that has not been vetted by your partner (or researched at all, for that matter... oops!). A friend and I recently thought it would be fun to get our wives a gift card to a cafe and pair it with a facial at a spa next door. Both of our wives were bewildered and bemused. Apparently, not all spas are created equal. I suppose it would be like if someone gifted me a Bud Light since they know I like beer. Not all beers are created equal, either. Lesson learned.


DO Gift: Rei Retinol Cream from Monastery.

Monastery Rei Retinol Cream

I don’t know much about face creams, but I do know the Rei Retinol Cream from Monastery is the kind of facial product my wife truly appreciates. Plus, unlike the spa experience, this tube of hydrating botanical supplements should last a while, and even I can appreciate how beautiful the packaging is.

Buy Monastery Rei Retinol Cream at Monastery, $110

DO NOT Gift: My wife suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which can last for a significant chunk of the year in Boston. So, one year, I got her a therapeutic light that was supposed to help combat SAD symptoms by mimicking the blazing light of the sun. In theory, all she had to do was eschew any and all semblance of a normal life and post up in front of her fake sun lamp all winter to feel better. She was neither bewildered nor bemused—but she clearly didn’t like it. The light was promptly returned.

SAD Light Therapy Lamp

DO Gift: The No Reception Club Getaway Bag.

No Reception Club Getaway Bag

Okay, truth be told, this one is a low-key gift for me. Our very first fight over baby gear, before our first child was even born, was about the sheer domesticity of the diaper bag my wife purchased. Despite being a new parent, I didn’t want to look like a new parent, and would’ve preferred a less practical and cooler-looking backpack. Enter the No Reception Club Getaway Bag, which has been the practical and fashionable bag of our dreams. It’s equipped with compartments and storage galore, allowing for easy access to all the things one might need in an instant, from wipes to snacks. While it may not get rid of her SAD, it does help make her happier by making traveling with the kids easier.

Buy No Reception Club Getaway Bag at No Reception Club, $235


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