Enough with the flowers.
Ditto for scarves (as much as I love them) and those fancy overpriced Mother's Day brunches. (Are you listening, guys?)
And there's no better time for moms to get that all-to-illusive time for themselves than on a family vacation — even at the airport. Kyle McCarthy, creator of http://www.familytravelforum.com, said she loves to steal time to get a pedicure at an airport spa. "I let them wait at the gate, since they always like to be early, and I relax until the plane is ready to board."
Any mom — or grandma — who has traveled with kids, especially young ones, knows that all too often a vacation is not a vacation at all for moms. "It's just like home without the washing machine," one young mom told me glumly as she watched her kids splash in a hotel pool.
What she meant was that on vacation with the kids, moms still do everything they do at home — arrange meals and activities, facilitate sibling squabbles, act as nurse when one child gets sick or another scrapes his knee — all without the conveniences of home. Too often, they come home exhausted, wondering why they left in the first place.
Don't get me wrong. Of course, dads and partners do their part — more than ever — on vacation as well as at home. It's just that I think most moms are still planners and organizers in chief and truth be told, typically feel guilty about stealing time for themselves. I know I always did. "Moms feel guilty about spending money just on them," agreed Schretter, the mom of two daughters.
Amie O'Shaughnessy, creator of the family travel website http://www.ciaobambino.com, suggests the gift ideally should enable moms to spend time doing something they never get the chance to do at home ... like taking an art or photography lesson, a cooking class, going to a gallery with a guide or taking an architecture tour in a city. "The key thing is it should be something she'd never do at home and something that wouldn't be more fun with kids," said O'Shaughnessy.
Nancy Schretter suggests you surprise mom with "a little basket with a note that lets her know that the whole family wants her to enjoy some special time because she's given them so much. It can come with a hotel or resort gift certificate to the spa, or a ticket for a special tour or shore excursion ... something that's uniquely her that you know she'd love. Have everyone give it to her — along with a big hug."
I stole an hour for myself at the Four Seasons Baltimore Spa (http://www.fourseasons.com/baltimore) after a day exploring the city's historical sites (more about that in another column.) Moms can do that even at Disney World with the new Senses spa at the Grand Floridian Resort.
But this me time doesn't have to cost a lot — or anything. You can sign mom up for wonderful free city tours designed around her interests and led by volunteers like those in New York with Big Apple Greeter (http://www.bigapplegreeter.org) and in Paris (http://www.parisgreeters.fr).
"The best gift my husband can give me is an offer to hang out at the hotel pool with the kids while I go off on my own to wander," said Pauline Frommer, co-president of Frommer's Media and publisher of the Frommer guidebooks and website, explaining that what she loves is "to have some time on my own to explore, away from the kids and husband."
Kara Williams, one of the Vacation Gals, http://www.thevacationgals.com, suggests it's easier to guarantee mom that time for herself if extended family or friends are part of the vacation equation. "We've invited my mom and mother-in-law on family trips — everyone wins," she said. "The kids get special time with beloved grandparents and the husband and I get time away together while they're being looked after by family."
If you're not traveling with extended family or friends, pick a place that has lots of planned activities for kids of all ages. Schretter suggests "great family-friendly all-inclusive resorts or cruise on a ship with superb kids/teens programs. With the kids busy enjoying so many fun activities it makes it easier (and guilt-free) for Mom to take a little time for herself."
You'll find deals this summer from all-inclusives like Palladium (http://www.palladiumhotelgroup.com) while ships, including those from Disney (http://www.disneycruise.com) and Royal Caribbean (http://www.royalcarribean.com), have added nurseries at sea and offer so many kids and teens activities that you may have to persuade them to spend any time with you. (For more ideas, check out the new Taking the Kids Summer Fun and Family Cruise sections on http://www.takingthekids.com.)
If your gang loves the outdoors, surprise mom with a guided family adventure trip (like the one we did to Yellowstone with Austin-Lehman Adventures (http://www.austinlehman.com) or a stay at a ranch like the C Lazy U (http://www.clazyu.com) or Vista Verde Guest Ranch (http://www.vistaverde.com) where we've happily vacationed in Colorado. Or try an Appalachian Mountain Club (http://www.outdoors.org) lodge in New Hampshire where you can easily borrow any gear you need. Here, there's no playing tour guide, cooking or even entertaining the kids.
Guided tours with special family itineraries overseas from companies like Adventures by Disney (http://www.adventuresbydisney.com), Tauck Bridges (http://www.tauck.com/family-travel.aspx) and Backroads (http://www.backroads.com) also can guarantee that mom — and dad — are freed from working on a family vacation.
"Mom can simply relax and have a good time," said Schretter.
And really, that's the best Mother's Day present you can give.
(For more Taking the Kids, visit http://www.takingthekids.com and also follow @TakingtheKids, where Eileen Ogintz welcomes your questions and comments.)
Taking the Kids
Taking the Kids: A Mother's Day gift guaranteed to be a winner