How to Give Mom What She Really Wants for Mother’s Day

This one’s for you, dads.  I know some of you are scratching your heads. Shouldn’t this post be for the kids of moms?  Aren’t they responsible for celebrating their mom’s this Sunday?  To this I say, “Ha! You aren’t a mom, are you?”

Here’s the thing – if you’re a parent of a young child, you know what I’m talking about. While those sweet kiddos often interject with the best peanut butter covered kisses and unexpected hugs, they really don’t grasp the concept of big shows of appreciation nor can they recognize the full picture of what they should even be thanking you for. And I get it, these tiny self-focused beings aren’t built for that yet and that’s not what we’re in it for after all.  But after spending last Mother’s Day (my first) covered in baby throw-up and last night on the hard floor of my son’s room while he woke up every hour, I’m going to need a little bit of a celebration and I’m sure all you other mom’s do too.  This is where dad comes in.

The tiny one who made me a mom (and spent last Mother's Day thanking me by throwing up on me)

The tiny one who made me a mom (and spent last Mother’s Day thanking me by throwing up on me)

A cautionary tale for you dads who don’t think that it’s up to you to celebrate Mother’s Day because “she’s not your mom”.  These are the exact words my dad said on my mom’s first mother’s day (I was the ungrateful kiddo who’d bestowed that title upon her but none of the appreciation).  After a “talking to” from his in-laws my dad gave in and begrudgingly went out to buy her a dust buster to clean her car because it was what she really needed.  As I’m telling you this story 33 years later, you can guess that he’s never lived it down.  Here’s a list of the worst Mother’s Day gifts in case you need to know what else not to give.

I gave my mom her first grandkid so I'm probably off the hook now, right?

I gave my mom her first grandkid so I’m probably off the hook now, right?

That said, my dad has rebounded spectacularly and taken the helm for Mother’s Day celebrations for far longer than his slacker children probably should have let him.  In fact, to this day he still spends the night before making from scratch cinnamon rolls to ensure that she gets a homemade breakfast in the morning.  

I give you this parable to illustrate “what mom really wants for Mother’s Day”.  First of all, she’s probably already told you exactly what she wants, no matter how veiled. I’ve been dropping hints about homemade breakfast for about 2 weeks now.  The little guy hasn’t picked up on them yet, but I’m pretty sure his proxy has.  If what mom wants is a spa day, make it happen ON SUNDAY! Send her off, take over at home, and let her relax. If what she wants is a home cooked meal, don’t wait until the last minute, throw something together, and leave her with a mess to clean up.  What she (I’m) saying when she says she wants that is for someone to take care of her, to let her relax, and show they care.  And I’m willing to guess that this is at the heart of most Mother’s Day requests – the desire to feel appreciated, loved, recognized, and valued.  Is that too much to ask?

In the event that this all leaves you scratching your head, I’m here to help.  Here are the top 4 things to consider to make Mother’s Day great and give mom what she really wants:

  1. What hints has she been dropping?
  2. What’s behind those requests?
  3. How can you plan ahead to make this happen?
  4. What would it look like to take care of the full scope of this thing? (Scheduling an appointment for spa treatments and paying for it all ahead of time; shopping for, cooking, and cleaning up dinner; making reservations at a favorite restaurant)

Did the mom in your life, like me, request a homemade meal?  If so, I’m here to help you out! Here’s some ideas of great things to make for Mother’s Day brunch or dinner that are also easily made ahead for that “full scope” experience I’m sure she’d love.

Make Ahead Mother’s Day Brunch Ideas

I love the idea of making everything possible ahead so that you can clean-up the night before then just pop the dish in the oven in the morning while you make coffee and cut up some fruit. Easy and enjoyable for everyone!

  1. Pioneer Woman’s Cinnamon Baked French Toast
    • Make Ahead: Follow the instructions to put together the bread and egg mixture the night before. You can also make the cinnamon and butter topping ahead of time and store in a plastic bag in the fridge. 
    • In the morning: Assemble your two made ahead items, place in the oven at 350 degress for 45 min – 1 hour depending on preferred consistency. 
  2. PaleOMG’s Easy Breakfast Casserole (Paleo, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
    • Make Ahead: Follow the instructions through step 5. Basically you’ll be cooking everything but the eggs, mixing it all togteher, and placing the mixture in a covered backing dish in the fridge overnight.
    • In the morning: Bake in 400 degree oven for 25-30 minutes (step 6).
  3. Minimalist Baker’s Peanut Butter Overnight Oats (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan) – this one is for you non-cooks out there!
    • Make Ahead: Follow all the instructions up to 1 day ahead of time (but at least the night before). If you make this in a cute mason jar you can even serve it right out of the jar you made it in!
    • In the morning: Serve to mom. If she prefers to eat her oats hot, heat them up briefly in the microwave (about 1 minute?)

Make Ahead Mother’s Day Dinner Ideas

Even dinner can be mostly assembled ahead if you plan it right! Spend some time on this the night before so that you don’t have to spend time on Mother’s Day having her watch the kids while you make the meal and clean up.

  1. Truffled Mac and Cheese: This is hands down one of the best mac and cheeses I’ve ever made or eaten. You’ll want to feel generally comfortable in the kitchen to give this one a try and be prepared to clean up a bit of a melty cheese mess. I’d plan to serve this with a simple green salad to round out the food groups.
    • Make Ahead: The night before, follow the instructions through combining the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and placing it all in a large baking dish. Cover and store this in the fridge overnight. Pulse together the breadcrumbs, garlic, and parsley. Store in a plastic bag in the fridge.
    • To serve: Take pasta out of the fridge 30-60 minutes before you want to bake it. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture over the top of the pasta and bake 35-45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.
  2. Braised Lamb with Saffron, Raisins, and Pistachios and Lemon Coriander Rice: (Gluten-Free) Feeling really ambitious? This is one of the best lamb dishes I’ve ever made and it is almost entirely hands-off on the day you want to serve it so you can spend time with mom and minimize the mess.
    • Make Ahead: Make the marinade and place the lamb in it in the fridge at least 24 hours before you’d like to serve it.  At this point, I’d also chop up the onions and celery for the lamb and store them separately. While you’re at it, chop up an onion for the rice.
    • To serve: You’ll need to start about 3 hours before you’d like to serve dinner. Don’t worry! It’s almost entirely hands off (besides making the rice).
      • Soak the raisins in warm water for 30 minutes
      • Start at step 2 where you’ll be searing the lamb, adding in the pre-chopped celery and onions, and then pouring in the raisin/pistachio mixture.
      • Place in oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Then remove the lid and continue cooking another hour.  
      • Right around the time you remove the lid, start making the rice.
      • Slice the meat off the bone and serve in the sauce over rice.
  3. Crockpot Sweet Potato Lentils: (Vegan, Gluten-Free) This one is for those of you that have a vegan mama you’re cooking for.  It’s also perfect for those of you who who don’t have a ton of cooking skills or hands-on time to spend, but you’ll need access to a slow cooker. Serve this with some sauteed greens and store-bought naan and you can still get some brownie points for making the effort!
    • Make Ahead: About 4 hours ahead of time, combine everything but the coconut milk and lentils into the slow cooker. After 3 hours, stir in the lentils.
    • To serve: Stir in coconut milk and water to thin to desired consistency. Heat the naan in the oven and saute the greens if using.

So tell me, mamas, what do you really want for Mother’s Day? Or if you’re not a mom yourself, what are you doing to make sure the mom in your life has a great day?


  1. Jesep says:

    This may sound bad, but I’d really like a little time away from my kids. I’d love my hubby to wake up, put shoes on the kids and get the heck out of the house so I can sleep until at least 8:30. Then I’d like a long bath, maybe even shave my legs. I know, it’s asking a lot. 😊 I’d then like to have brunch somewhere and then head off to the spa for a massage and pedicure. Dinner and drinks with my family to end the day. That sounds perfect. Not holding my breath though. 😊

    • Amy Vig says:

      It’s funny, but I so often think that dads take the day away on Father’s Day but moms often don’t on Mother’s Day. I wonder why that is? I agree that a day off would be an awesome way to honor the mamas in our lives who are on 24/7. I hope your day went well, even if it didn’t match your exact vision!

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