What Does Mom Really Want This Mother’s Day?

Who needs expensive gifts? The No. 1 present moms want for Mother’s Day 2013 is something handmade from their child. But the second most wanted? Skip the store-bought greeting cards and flowers: What makes mom happiest is a day off entirely for herself.

According to a survey of 2,123 U.S. mothers with children under the age of 18 we conducted this April with NPD Group, 14.6% of moms prefer handmade gifts, followed very closely by a day off (13.6%) and a spa day (12.9%). Clearly, moms need a break more than breakfast in bed (1.3%).

Unfortunately, while most moms think they will receive their top choice this year – 25.6% expect handmade presents from their children – only 3.0% foresee being gifted with time entirely for themselves.

Their expectations are based on past experience. For Mother’s Day 2012, 21.1% report receiving something handmade from their kids. Only 3.2% got a day off. Most–31.8%–received a card. Amazingly, 23.6% got nothing at all.

Some of moms’ favorite past presents are sentimental, such as “my kids themselves,” “hugs and kisses from my kids” and simply “time with the family.”

Spa certificates are also big favorites. So is a clean house, when the work is done by Dad and/or the children. Other most appreciated past gifts include a cruise, an iPad and a car. For one mom, it was “a grill for my husband to cook on” so she wasn’t stuck behind the stove.

Although jewelry as a category rates low in terms of most wanted gifts (3.5%), “mom” jewelry – such as necklaces that say “No. 1 Mom” and rings with the children’s birthstones — is listed among favorite previous gifts, as are diamonds in any configuration.

Worst Mother’s Day gifts from the past? Nearly two dozen moms mention receiving vacuum cleaners. Other least favorite Mother’s Day presents: kitchen appliances, jumper cables and weed eaters. One mom was presented with divorce papers.

Several cite having to cook or clean up after a Mother’s Day meal for their mothers-in-law or having their kids fight all day. Many moms say they have never received a bad Mother’s Day gift. Hundreds of moms, however, say that the “worst gift” was receiving no gift at all.

In fact, 21.3% of moms say that their families will spend nothing on gifts for them this May. “Zero” is the price range with the highest percentage of responses, followed by $10 (16.7%) then $20 (15.3%).

As a mom who has always enjoyed flowers and brunch with my family on Mother’s Day, the fact that so many mothers receive no recognition then is both surprising and sad. I was also struck, once again, by how important the gift of time is to moms.

Offering them an opportunity to step away from the responsibilities of home and family is an ideal way to give back to them for all they do, and Mother’s Day is the ideal time to do it.