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The 5 most insulting gifts to give Mom on Mother's Day (and what to give her instead)

Let's just say if you're thinking "bidet," you need to read this.

·5 min read

Guys. Lean in a second. You're shopping for Mother's Day gifts, right? Your heart's in the right place. You want to show her your love and appreciation. Good for you. Just one problem: You're going to screw it up. That gift set you think Mom wants? No. I speak from experience: I've had a mom for 54 years and a mother of my children for 22. So learn from my mistakes and avoid the following gifts — no matter how well-intentioned — at all costs. (Don't worry; I've also shared gift ideas for what to get her instead.)

Don't buy Mom these; buy her these instead.
Don't buy Mom a vac or a bidet; buy her a smart mug or a digital picture frame instead. (Photo: Amazon)

Most insulting Mother's Day gift #1: A traditional vacuum cleaner

Seriously? You're going to give Mom more household chores?! This is the classic Mother's Day blunder, the idea that she's just there to clean the house (and needs better tools to do it). No, dummy; why don't you get off the couch and grab a broom yourself? That would be a nice gift right there.

What to get instead: A robot vacuum

Now we're talking. It may not be the most glamorous gift, but anything that can take sweeping and mopping off the chore list is sure to be appreciated. Need help choosing one? Here's our list of the best robot vacuums of 2023. Alternately, here's a quick recommendation for a popular model that happens to be on sale:

Set it and forget it: The D10 Plus will automatically clean the floors as often as Mom wants, plus it can empty 45 days' worth of debris into its floor dock. Mopping requires a little more manual intervention, but it's still way easier than hauling out a bucket.
$350 at Amazon

Most insulting Mother's Day gift #2: A fitness tracker

OK, we're kind of split on this one, because it depends on the circumstances. If Mom has never mentioned a fitness tracker (such as a Fitbit), then we don't want to be there when she unwraps it. The implication: She's imperfect, she needs to exercise more, etc. Now, if she has dropped hints about wanting one of these, it's totally fine. Here's our list of the best fitness trackers to buy in 2023. But, if this is coming out of the blue, go a different way.

What to get instead: An item tracker

Forget fitness; what needs tracking is lost stuff. Few things in life are as frustrating as a misplaced keychain, wallet, phone or checked bag at the airport. Thankfully, Bluetooth-powered trackers can help Mom locate these and other items. To learn more, check our roundup of the best item trackers for finding lost stuff. But here's my top pick (as explained in the roundup), which happens to be on sale right now:

Why choose a Tile over, say, an Apple AirTag? For one thing, AirTags don't work with Android phones, only iPhones. But Tiles also add an invaluable feature: two-way tracking. That means a Tile can also find a misplaced phone, not just the other way around.
$23 at Amazon

Most insulting Mother's Day gift #3: A bidet

Bidets are great, no question. I started using one during the pandemic toilet-paper shortage and haven't looked back (or reached back, know what I mean?). But, come on, as a gift? For Mom? As with fitness trackers, unless serious hints have been dropped, you don't force a bidet on someone.

What to get instead: A self-heating coffee mug

If Mom likes coffee, she'll love this. A self-heating mug lets her nurse that java for hours, without having to run to the microwave every 15 minutes. I use mine daily, and so does my wife (aka my children's mom). It's a prized possession. Here's a look at the best heated mugs you can buy right now, and here's my favorite pick, period:

The Ember Mug automatically detects liquid and will start heating when it does. Mom can set her exact preferred temperature with the Ember app.
$150 at Amazon

Most insulting Mother's Day gift #4: A new TV

This may sound a little sexist, but I'm saying it anyway: Most moms don't care about the size of the TV. They don't care if it has a fancy OLED screen or built-in Dolby Atmos. In other words, they're fine with the TV they already have; they just want time to watch (or rewatch) Bridgerton. So let's face it: A new TV would be more of a gift for you, wouldn't it?

What to get instead: A digital photo frame

Talk about a gift that keeps on giving. Digital frames allow Mom to actually see all those precious memories that have been squirrelled away in her phone, in friends' and family members' phones, on Facebook and so on. Most of them can play video clips too. Trust me: This is a home-run gift. For help choosing one, see our roundup of the best digital photo frames for 2023. Here's a particularly good pick for Mother's Day:

If Mom lives far away, the Aura is a good choice because you can configure it for her ahead of time, pre-loading pictures and even setting it up for her Wi-Fi network.
$229 at Amazon

Most insulting Mother's Day gift #5: A sex toy

Hey, I didn't come up with this idea; I have a press release right here suggesting — no, outright stating — that "Mom deserves the gift of orgasm." First of all: ew. If this is your mom we're talking about, then just no. No. Ew. No. But if the mom in question is your wife, it's... weird. There's nothing wrong with the gift of sex toys between consenting adults, but for Mother's Day? No. Seriously. (If I sound like I'm cringing at the mere thought, it's because I am.)

What to get instead: An experience

I think that as a general rule, moms want less stuff and more experiences — and they especially love when you put some thought and effort into planning them. For example, pickleball is all the rage right now, so what about some lessons? (Bonus points if you join in.) You could also gift her something like a painting or cooking class. A day trip with some new, interesting stops along the way (bakeries, art galleries, etc.). A hike in a particularly scenic locale you researched, with some new hiking poles to unwrap before setting out. You get the idea. You don't have to spend a lot; you just need to show you care.

After all, this is Mom we're talking about!