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Searching for a Mother’s Day gift can be terrible.

Yup, we said it.

Odds are that your mom—like ours—is hard to buy for. Either she has everything she needs, or she doesn’t ask for anything. To make this search even more nuanced, it means a lot to us to give her something she’ll like.

So when we started to put together a Mother’s Day gift guide (P.S. Mother’s Day is May 14), we decided to do something different. Something that would give us a better shot at getting the perfectly unique gift for our perfectly unique mom. Something tailored to the mama figure in everyone’s life, based on how that person shows up in their lives.

We shopped by love language.

If you’re not familiar with love languages, the TL;DR is this: Every person expresses love and care according to their own “love language.” There are five: words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service, and receiving gifts. (See the bottom of this story for the history and sources behind the idea.)

Not sure about the love language for the mother figure in your life? Take the quiz here, or read the examples below:

  • Words of Affirmation: texts you to say she’s proud of you; gives the best birthday cards; used to slip notes into your lunchbox; always quick with a compliment (cough, would love a compliment from you from time to time, cough)
  • Quality Time: asks you to put your phone away during gatherings; loves game nights with the whole family; shows up at every school play or sporting event; looks forward to family movie night (cough, gets a little too into making sure everyone will be together for the holidays, cough)
  • Physical Touch: group hugs; puts her hand on your shoulder when she’s speaking to you; gives back massages; is an easy cuddler (cough, you’re never too old to hug your mother, cough)
  • Acts of Service: does your laundry when you’re home on spring break; makes sure your favorite cereal is always in the pantry; keeps the gas tank full in the family car; drops off dinner when she knows you’ve had a long day; sends you a Starbucks gift card when you’re stressed and far away (cough, occasionally implies that no one ever helps her out around the house, cough)
  • Receiving Gifts: buys you your favorite snack without you asking; loves to be surprised with flowers for no reason; hangs onto keepsakes and mementos more than other people might; always makes sure your birthday is extra special and personal (cough, can spot a thoughtless gift a mile away, cough)

Words of Affirmation Gifts

Words of Affirmation is considered the first love language. Whether it’s a handwritten note, a thoughtful text, or a time to sit down and share how they feel, it’s all about expression.  

Note: Even a simple “I love you” or “I’m grateful for you” can go a long way. Authenticity is key when expressing how you feel to your mom or mother figure.

Here’s a gallery of “Words of Affirmation” gift ideas, followed by their links just below:

For you to do: Fill-In-The-Blank.

For them to do: Life Story books, One Line A Day: 5 Year Journal.

To tell the dog mom in your life: “I see you and I appreciate you”: Personalized Dog Face Pillow.

For audiobook and podcast addicts: A good pair of headphones.

To wear her words on her sleeve: An embroidered crewneck sweatshirt, or a custom bracelet.

Quality Time

Next up is Quality Time. This love language is pretty straightforward—spending quality time together (without phones) is most meaningful to these moms. The key here is paying attention without distractions. 

Being wholly present, even for a few minutes, can make a huge difference.

Set up a Real Housewives marathon for you and your mom, and/or pick up a copy of Not All Diamonds and Rosé: The Inside Story of the Real Housewives from the People Who Lived It to gossip about together.

S’mores and a personal fireplace, anyone? This is perfect for all the little outdoor nooks where she likes to gather with friends.

Did someone say salsa lessons?

Make your own candle at home (preferably together) with these super cool kits that come in a variety of scents.

For the mystery lover who wants to hang out and play games, a Murder Mystery Jigsaw Puzzle or the At Home Murder Mystery: Theater Edition are highly entertaining.

Have you done an escape room together? No?!? Do it. Do it now. (Yes, they’re cheesy. Who cares?)

Physical Touch

Physical Touch is the third love language. You know those people who are just made for bear hugs, pull-in-tights, and “c’mere kiddo“? These are for them:

A spa gift card.

A calming eye massager (with heat compression AND Bluetooth capabilities to listen to soothing music).

Mani/pedi gift card for her favorite salon. 

One of these highly rated weighted blankets.

Acts of Service

The fourth love language, Acts of Service, is the epitome of “actions speak louder than words.” Simple everyday gestures, like cleaning the kitchen without being asked, or bringing mom another cup of coffee in the morning, go a long way. So will these:

Clutter-busters and practical gifts (think cord organizer, emergency kits, letter opener and cutter, portable phone keyboard, portable charger, personal heater).

Digitize old home movies and photos for her.

Porch pots with plants and flowers in them. 

A Hatch alarm clock so she can wake up feeling restful and calm.

A quality candle she’d never buy for herself and also doesn’t smell gross. 

A collection of cards she can send to people for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.

Receiving Gifts

The fifth love language, Receiving Gifts, is all about showing your appreciation with a thoughtful present. You don’t have to invest in anything expensive. The idea here is to pick something that reflects one of your mom’s interests, or that will simply delight her. Like, for example, one of these:

Family or home portraits are meaningful presents that last a lifetime. 

Cool, classic jewelry pieces (pro tip: engrave the piece to make it even more personal).

Personalized wooden wall print of child’s drawing for moms who appreciate presents and are sentimental.

Weighted hula hoop for fun workouts

For something a little fancier, you can’t go wrong with Chanel hand cream.

Retro roller skates, because some moms just need them.

A cute monogrammed phone case that puts her front and center.

Good quality sunglasses (did you know REI has a selection of low-cost, high-cool sunnies?).

What’s the deal with love languages?

In 1992, counselor Gary Chapman wrote a book called “The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate.” In it, he suggested that the way to someone’s heart is to observe the way they care for others, and to mirror it back to them. Another approach to learning someone’s love language? Listen to what they complain about most. If your friend notes that they’re the only one in their house who loads the dishwasher, they might care a lot about acts of service. If your partner wishes you’d cuddle more, their love language might be physical touch.

A 2006 study found that the Five Love Languages might be more measurably useful than other ways to communicate affection. While it’s not a replacement for really getting to know someone, it can be a smart way to learn about how they see the world—and it’s just as handy for explaining your outlook on life to the people you care about.

Want to learn more? Here’s the website. In the meantime, happy Mother’s Day shopping!