Gifts You Definitely Shouldn't Buy Your Mom

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According to the European Institute of Gender Equality, women do a disproportionate amount of housework compared to their male counterparts. The discrepancy is especially-prominent in heterosexual couples with children — 91% of women with kids spend an hour-plus performing daily household tasks, whereas only 30% of fathers can say the same. Brigid Schulte, author of "Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time," explains how the COVID-19 Pandemic accentuated these household inequities. "There's been a lot of invisible labor that women have done, that people, particularly men — even in the same household — haven't been aware of or haven't paid attention to," Schulte told NPR, noting that household labor gaps became especially-evident during months of quarantine.

Even when women earn more than their husbands, says The Washington Post, they still end up doing the majority of domestic tasks. According to Professor Joanna Syrda, "We see these top female earners as compensating in doing more housework." This specifically applies when "mothers out-earn fathers," adds Sydra, explaining that, "parenthood seems to have that traditionalizing effect." Hoping to buy the perfect gift for your mother? Best to steer clear of household items so as not to imply certain expectations or stereotypes. Here are the presents you definitely shouldn't buy for mom during her next birthday, special event, or holiday.

Cleaning products send the wrong message

When shopping for your mom — or that special mother figure in your life — there's no shortage of options for sale based on her specific interests: travel accessories for a mom always on the go, a pre-ordered book by her favorite author, a cozy set of pajamas. So why buy a vacuum? While you're at it, don't wrap up any cleaning products as gifts — they imply that there's work to be done. Behavioral science professor Nicholas Epley tells The Washington Post, "Putting a lot of thought, spending time thinking about what a recipient might like tends to make the givers feel closer and more connected to a receiver." Think about something your mom has mentioned, but would never buy for herself.

Coupons don't cut it anymore

We know, we know. This one was a big hit when you were in 3rd grade. But gone are the days when coupons guaranteeing "one free hug" or "making the bed" are acceptable gifts. Your mom deserves more, and (let's face it) cleaning up after yourself is common courtesy, not a gift. So, if you're hoping to elevate these tried-and-true "coupons," consider upgrading to a gift card instead. Pick a restaurant she loves, or a spa she's always want to try. If you want to personalize the present further, give the gift of a shared experience. Insider recommends booking a cooking class or going to a concert for a band you both love — sometimes, one-on-one time is the most valuable gift of all. 

Don't offer unsolicited advice with a self-help book

Yes, books can make for great presents. But take care to choose an appropriate title, one that doesn't imply anything, well, offensive. In general, it's best to steer clear of self help books — unless, of course, your mom has asked for something specific. A title like "How to Make Friends as an Adult" may send the wrong message. As noted by The Guardian, books often signal the gift-givers taste rather than the receiver's. Take note of what types of novels your mom already reads, and buy her one that aligns with her preexisting taste rather than your own.

A gift card to a store that just isn't her style

It feels good to include the people we love in the things we love — fashion, for instance. However, if your mom doesn't share your particular aesthetic, don't force her hand with a gift card she won't use. Even if you love shopping at Zara or adding new items to your Madewell cart, these places might not align with your mom's wardrobe preferences. Consider where she shops most frequently, and buy her a gift card for a brand she already loves. Consider mom-founded (mom-approved) clothing brands like Lain Snow, reviewed highly by Forbes

No more candles, please

Candles are a go-to gift, so common that the concept was even spoofed on "SNL" in a 2016 sketch entitled "The Christmas Candle." Though this isn't the worst present to buy for your mom, it certainly isn't the most creative. If you want something equally-scented (and far-less flammable), go for an essential oil diffuser humidifier or a luxurious hand cream. Alternatively, the Strategist recommends replacing that classic candle with incense. "I can tell the house likes it, and there's just a good vibe when it's burning," says Ottessa Moshfegh, author of "My Year of Rest and Relaxation." However, if you do decide to stick with a candle, make sure to choose a scent you know she'll love — the "Schnitzel With Noodles" Yankee Candle, for instance, should be a no-go. It's often described as one of their worst scents of all-time.

A sign inscribed with a less-than-loving saying

There's a lot of "mom signs" on the market, wood inscribed with phrases like "home is where the mom is" or, "put away your laundry or I'll punch you in the face" — yes, this particular sign is available on Amazon. Some signs can be borderline offensive, and (at the very least) your mom just not might not have the wall space to hang up a big block of wood. So, if you're looking to buy a sign that reads "Your mother isn't here ... So clean up after yourself," consider the implications. Instead, Oprah Daily recommends gifting her something like a sentimental, handwritten recipe cutting board (available on Etsy) or even a custom birthstone bracelet. A personalized present goes a long way.