20 Truly Terrible Mother’s Day Gifts to Avoid Like the Plague

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Retro woman shaking her finger at camera.
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Mother’s Day is May 13 and, like any decent son or daughter, you want to get your mom something great. What you don’t want is to get her a crummy gift that might bore or offend her.

Knowing what not to get Mom is just as important as knowing what she likes. Before you go shopping for Mother’s Day, make sure you read this list of things to avoid.

1. Diet or fitness products

Dumbbells and jars of protein.
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I don’t think anyone’s eyes have lit up after unwrapping an Ab Roller. Ditto goes for a gym membership. Don’t ever suggest your mom is fat, and definitely don’t do it on Mother’s Day.

2. Wrinkle cream

Offended looking woman and younger man explaining.
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Did your mom give you acne products for your birthday? I hope not. If you give her wrinkle cream, you’re telling her she’s both old and wrinkly. Let Mom buy her own cosmetics and creams.

3. Roses

Young man with bouquet of pink roses.
Nikolas Saevich / Shutterstock.com

Roses are a Valentine’s Day bouquet. Instead, buy carnations and prepare a vase yourself. (Check out “Secrets to Saving on Mother’s Day Flowers.”)

4. A new pet

Dog holding leash in mouth
Javier Brosch / Shutterstock.com

Giving Mom a new puppy means more bills, more worries and more responsibilities. If your mom really loves animals, consider making a donation in her name to the local animal shelter or the ASPCA.

5. Cleaning equipment

Angry woman wielding a mop.
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Your mom is not your maid. Don’t ruin her day by suggesting she’s great at cleaning and should do more of it.

6. Bath stuff

Bath supplies basket.
Apollofoto / Shutterstock.com

As a teenager, I gave my mom gift baskets of bath products. Every. Single. Year. I would spot them in her room months later, unopened. The lesson? My mom already had her own soaps and shampoos she used regularly, and she didn’t have any use for my gifts, however well-intentioned. Let Mom choose her own bath products.

7. Potpourri

African American woman holding her nose.
Doglikehorse / Shutterstock.com

It might smell nice to you, but it could be an allergen to Mom. Several people I know can’t walk into a Crabtree & Evelyn store without getting a headache. If you’re not 100 percent sure, skip it.

8. Kitchen appliances

Disappointed looking women with bad gifts.
Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz / Shutterstock.com

If your mother specifically asked for a new KitchenAid stand mixer, by all means go for it. But otherwise, Mother’s Day isn’t the time to ask for a free homemade meal.

9. Perfume

Man shopping in perfume store.
Matej Kastelic / Shutterstock.com

Chances are you don’t know exactly what your mom is looking for in a scent, and you could buy something she wouldn’t pick herself. If your mom already wears perfume, that’s the perfume she wants. Don’t make her feel obligated to switch scents because you got her a new smell.

10. Snarky signs

My way/ highway sign
Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock.com

However well-intentioned those humorous signs are, many of them come off as snarky. While you might think a sign about cooking is great for the kitchen, or a sign about good moms keeping messy homes is great for her bedroom, she’ll probably see it as your way of saying she should do more around the house. Not the message you want to send on Mother’s Day.

11. Things that remind her of her mother

Housewife in curlers.
Ollyy / Shutterstock.com

Shower caps, muumuus, flowery bathrobes — these might have been appropriate gifts for women of another generation, like your mother’s mom, but not now. You don’t want to dress like your grandparents’ generation, and neither does she.

12. A self-help book

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Talk about a condescending gift: Getting her a book about building better relationships or other ways she could improve herself is a really bad idea.

13. A gift card or certificate

Gift certificate
vectorka / Shutterstock.com

They’re impersonal, and you run the risk of giving her one for a store or restaurant she doesn’t really like. Instead, take her out to dinner at her favorite restaurant. She’ll enjoy it, and you’ll actually spend time with her.

14. Money

Hand pulling money from an envelope.
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Even more impersonal than a gift card, money essentially says, “I don’t know what you want or like, but this buys stuff.” You can do better than that.

15. Clothes

Dog in clothes
WilleeCole Photography / Shutterstock.com

You don’t know her measurements, do you? If you do, that’s creepy. I don’t wear the clothes my mother buys me (Sorry, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day?) and she’ll likely have the same reaction to the clothes you choose for her.

16. An empty photo frame

Fancy gold frame
gillmar / Shutterstock.com

This gift tells her you don’t have any memorable moments with her. Even worse: a framed photo of you.

17. A really big painting

Man painting a picture.
India Picture / Shutterstock.com

Art is personal, and what your mother displays in her house is tailored to her tastes. Unless you’re absolutely sure she wants a 56-inch-high Vincent van Gogh print, don’t risk it. She’ll feel obliged to hang it in her home even if she dislikes it.

18. Wine and food pairing

Wine and bread and cheese spread.
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Like roses, this is not appropriate for Mother’s Day. You do not want to wine and dine your mother.

19. Candles

Burning candles
Gita Kulinitch Studio / Shutterstock.com

They seem like a good gift, but in reality candles only get used when the power goes out. You might as well give her a flashlight.

20. Something for you

Person holding out soccer ball.
luanateutzi / Shutterstock.com

Don’t get her tickets to a sporting event involving your favorite team, or to a movie you really want to see. If you get more excited at the thought of having the gift than she would, don’t buy it.

What’s the worst gift you’ve ever gotten — or given (fess up!) for Mother’s Day? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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