What Not to Buy Mom on Mother's Day

An anti-gift guide to making your mother happy.

Pity the mother who gets bad gifts. She busts her butt to provide for her family, and when Mother's Day rolls around, they show their appreciation with an apron. Or makeup. Or Martha Stewart Living. Or some corny self-help book on dealing with spouses and children who take moms for granted.

Don't be that person.

Try to understand her. Do a little research. Heed her hints.

And read this gift guide—an anti-gift guide, really—to know what not to buy her.

Cooking classes. Your mother may already be an excellent cook. She may genuinely want to expand her repertoire, or explore a new ethnic cuisine, or study under a celebrity chef. But think about it: if you wanted a new car, would you be happy if someone bought you driving lessons? And if your mother is a lousy cook, she probably isn't going to change now. Take her out for dinner instead.

Spanx. Many women, particularly new moms, rely on "shapewear" to maintain their figures. But as essential as they may be, they are strictly off limits for Mother's Day. Because no matter how well-meaning or thoughtful you think you are, a mother receiving Spanx as a gift hears one thing: "You look fat."

This tip falls under a broader category of backwardly insulting gifts that also includes makeovers, gym memberships and anti-aging cream. Unless she specifically asks for one of these things, don't give it.

Any appliance. There is nothing less romantic, nothing that screams "I didn't know what else to get you" louder, than a blender, toaster, seltzer-maker, vacuum or some other homemaking gadget. For similar reasons, steer clear of pots, pans, dishes and teakettles. This rule carries the same caveat as above: if she says she really, really, wants it, then it's okay.

Too-small clothing. A new dress is great. But check her size first. There's nothing worse than showing a woman that she's not small enough. When in doubt, don't try to guess, or go a size bigger. Just buy her a gift card to her favorite shop.

Lawn aerator sandals. You weren't seriously considering these things, were you? They're uncomfortable, they're ugly, and they require pacing back and forth through your yard like some nincompoop with OCD. If you want the lawn properly aerated, do it yourself. With an aerator. Same thing goes for lawn mowers, by the way. Or any other lawn-care product.

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