On my first Christmas as a new mom — that is, the first time December 25 rolled around, after nine months of carrying a human in my womb, pushing them out, stitching them where the sun doesn’t shine, wearing an adult diaper for weeks , then I didn’t sleep for the next three months – I woke up on Christmas morning and was delighted to see what an AMAZING gift my husband had given me. You know, just a small gesture to thank me for bringing his offspring into the world.
I hastily peeled open the packaging and flung open the lid of the box to find… a gossip magazine and an empty cardboard box of Budweiser.
The next few minutes are left out as I passed out momentarily. Blackout as a mom is the body’s way of protecting you from itself in stressful situations, like when your toddler brings a Sharpie to the new white couch, or when your 6-year-old yells the F-word at a playdate with new school friends or when your husband gives you a cardboard beer carrier for Jesus’ birthday.
When I finally woke up, he was ready and waiting for me with a mimosa and an explanation of his gift: We were going on a child-free trip to St. Louis!
As I began to return to my body and my breathing began to regulate itself again, I could feel some excitement. A CHILD-FREE TRIP? Maybe this should be the best Christmas after all! But I still had questions… MANY QUESTIONS. Starting with what was in this box I was just unpacking.
As it turned out, there was a method to his madness. The Budweiser beer carrier was because Budweiser is brewed in St. Louis at the flagship Anheuser-Busch brewery. And US Weekly magazine dog-eared one particular page – I flipped to the page he tagged to find a massive selection from Justin Bieber (who, of course, happens to be my #1 celebrity crush, along with Conan O’Brien, of course) . . He then explained that not only were we taking a kid-free trip to St. Louis, but we also had tickets to a Justin Bieber concert during our stay. Once again I passed out momentarily, but this time it was my way of regulating my internal body temperature as I got nervous imagining myself in the same building as the Biebs, sharing the same air, and possibly even being discreet but flirtatious Make eye contact when we are with significant others not watching.
Six years later I still say that this was my favorite trip and my husband’s favorite gift and we still talk about that experience to this day. It wasn’t diamond earrings, but who needs diamonds when you have a weekend with no kids or obligations and you can stare at Justin Bieber on top of that? (I’m sure that statement won’t age well and I’ll soon regret it, but I’ll leave it to get my point across, folks.)
What I’m trying to say is that sometimes the best gifts aren’t necessarily tangible things you can pick up at Nordstrom. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with ordering a robe and some bath bombs from Amazon Prime, and most years will do just fine. But maybe this Mother’s Day is the time to think outside the box, right?
If Justin Bieber concerts aren’t your thing, first off, what kind of monster are you? But second, that’s totally fine (I think) — just go online and check out the tour dates of some of your wife’s favorite artists. But don’t just stop at live music, there are many other tickets you can buy for a fun date night: a play, stand-up comedy, art shows, movies, etc. Tired of traveling? Browse the old interwebs and find something in your own town or anywhere you can go.
Write her a letter
This might sound basic and self-explanatory, and it is, but there’s just something about a handwritten letter that makes a mom swoon a little. (Am I the only one who faints regularly? Isn’t it from alcohol? Do I need to see a doctor for this? Please let me know ASAP.) *Important difference: This is NOT a pre-made trademark card that you Write “I love you” below. This is a blank piece of paper with a heartfelt LETTER transcribed on it. Bonus points if you write it on pretty paper with some sort of letterhead, watermark, or design on it.
If you have children old enough to write, let them write letters too. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a note expressing how much you love and appreciate them. If you’re feeling particularly brave and complacent, you could even write a haiku or some lyrics and then brag about your brilliance in the days or weeks that follow.
Channel your inner Oprah Winfrey (minus all the self-righteousness) and ask your kids why they love mom and some of their fondest memories of her. There are many apps that you can use to record voice interviews as well as funny video messages that she will cherish forever.
Secure reservations at a new or fancy restaurant
This is a classic, but the trick is to make it feel extra special and go to a “hot spot” that she wouldn’t normally go to. It’s easy for mothers of young children to feel like they’re in a rut; Maybe the only restaurant they’ve been to lately is a McDonald’s, and maybe they forget to wash their hair 9 days in a row (just me?), and maybe they’ve had their own cleavage for months (or in my case, Years. It doesn’t exist. Call breastfeeding.)
What I’m saying is that I know O’Charley’s has delicious buns. Exceptional roles. How do you make these buns? But this dinner date isn’t an O’Charley night. This is a “hot new restaurant that just opened and it’s hard to get into but daddy came through so put your heels on baby cuz mom’s going out” kind of night. Unless you want to make it less weird, you don’t have to refer to yourself as “daddy,” or at least not in public. (You can stop by O’Charley’s on the way home and grab a basket of buns for the convenience of driving into town in your own car.)
Sign up for a cooking class together
Whether she’s a pro in the kitchen or has taught her kids that dinner is ready when the smoke alarm goes off (I’m the latter and it’s actually very handy), cooking classes are always a fun experience and a fun way to learn to improve their culinary chops. Look for cooking classes in your area (Whole Foods offers them, as does Sur La Table) or even a basic sushi class somewhere.
Book a photo shoot for the children and/or family
It sounds daunting, but it’s not: ask friends if they have a local photo they love, ask a creative friend with a decent camera to snap some pics, or do what I do if I need anything at all , and post it via an Instagram plea. If there’s one thing moms love, it’s a great family photo. Ask any mother. Any mother would walk through fire and swim one ocean and then swim another ocean while she burns if that meant taking pictures of her children all smiling and wearing shirts that didn’t stain.
Give her a gift certificate so she can shop ALONE
Alone is the key. Whether her happy spot is Nordstrom, Target, or TJ Maxx (or all three? The Trifecta, as I like to call it), it will mean a lot to her to have a reason to venture out ALONE and scour the aisles at leisure. Also, and this is important, she cannot be held liable at all if she spends more than the gift card says. I didn’t make the rules, I’m just gently but firmly passing them on to all of you.
Collect family recipes
My sister-in-law gave me this one year old and it still stands proudly in my kitchen. Type them in and have them printed and bound with the Shutterfly app to make an actual book, or go even simpler by photocopying the recipes and simply combining them into a 3 ring binder. Then every time she cooks one of the recipes from the book, she will have a sentimental experience and fond memories.
Go to the wine tasting
What mother doesn’t want to get drunk under the guise of a *fine* wine tasting? Inquire about a winery in your town or somewhere nearby and book a reservation for both of you to get weeeeirdddd — I mean for you both to hone your taste buds and sit around and indulge in nifty things like “Oaky,” “Buttery ‘ and ‘Tannins.’ Want to take things up a thousand notches? Of course you do. Book a trip to wine country and make her the happiest little lady alive.
Sign up for a dance class together
Okay, that might be overstating it a bit… but I thought I’d add it anyway on the off chance there are some people out there reading this who are just dying to put on their dancing shoes and learn to foxtrot or who Cha-cha shimmy slide but were too embarrassed to admit it and needed a valid excuse to actually do it. Voila: you do it for your wife! Nothing to be ashamed of. (Somehow.)
Book a couples massage
Kill three birds with one stone: give her a massage, get a massage yourself, and earn points for spending quality time together. Boom. Power move right there. This one is a no brainer.
Sign them up for an Instacart subscription
So this isn’t really an experience, but it will save them from the horrible experience of grocery shopping. Or, even worse, grocery shopping WITH KIDS IN THE TOW. A reasonable annual fee gets her unlimited grocery deliveries from a variety of local locations, saving her time, energy, and sanity week after week.