Coming up with gift ideas for Mother’s Day as an adult certainly seems a lot different than it did when you were a kid.

Back then, it really was just the thought that counted. But now that you’re a grown-up, there’s an expectation that your gift will be something of quality since you should now have the capacities to provide such a thing.

At the very least, that expectation is coming from yourself, even if the recipient of your gift – be it your mom, your mother-in-law, or your wife and the mother of your children – is playing coy and insists you don’t need to overthink it.

Still, we’re all flawed people and few of us are made of money, so how can we convey our appreciation for the mothers in our lives without just throwing money at the issue?

Well, it turns out there might be some virtue to keeping it simple. This is not to say you should make it too minimalistic, but rather think of something that would be meaningful and not just wasteful. Don’t gift harder, gift smarter.

Make the Little Things Special

Quick: what’s something everyone has to do, but nobody wants to do, and everybody would rather someone else do it for them? Is your answer something you can do for the mother in your life?

The gesture would preferably be something more personal than formal. Many would recommend cleaning her house or car for her or cooking her a meal rather than balancing her checkbook or changing a lightbulb. But you know this person better than we do, so you would know best what you can do for her that she’d really appreciate.

Keep in mind, it’s less about you taking the burden upon yourself and more taking the burden off her. If you’re going the “favors and tasks” route, make sure the objective is she gets the chance to relax, as opposed to just making her bored.

That said, children aren’t the only ones who give the gift of breakfast in bed. That might give you a great opportunity to get some stuff done while she’s eating. Alternately, you could give her the option to sleep in on that Sunday morning, and then skip straight to a homemade brunch (and knock out two meals at once). Just use good judgment for what time to use the noisy vacuum cleaner.

All Adults Are Just Grown-Up Kids

When you were young, you may have made your mother a crude sculpture, drawn an “abstract” picture, or wrote her a heartfelt – but poorly-worded – letter.

As an adult, you could take that spirit and make her a personal piece of art – except this time, much better.

Few of us are naturally-talented artists, but most of us can draw, write, or otherwise compose a piece of art better than we could when we were children. Perhaps instead of a clay rendition of a cup or a baseball, try your hand at a clay sculpture of her favorite kind of flower or a beloved pet.

Maybe dig through a photo album to use as reference when drawing a picture of the people she loves or fire up Google Images for help sketching her favorite places in the world (just remember to use pencil before you go for ink!). The possibilities for inspiration are endless.

Your art probably won’t be perfect, but if you take the time to pay attention to the details and learn about the artforms you’re trying to emulate, you could end up giving your mom something pretty impressive and certainly very special.

If the idea of faux-childish art seems like a good idea for an adult child to give to their own mother, it may seem less so for a parent buying for the mother of one’s own children. But you have options.

If you have a particular artistic talent, you can still make a more refined piece of art such as a flattering and heartfelt letter or a series of photographs of things she’ll find to be beautiful. However, remember the reason why you’d be celebrating your wife on Mother’s Day: your children.

Pitch in on your children’s gift ideas and make them better. Some may think that’s lazy, but nobody will be complaining if you can manage to take your child’s okay gift and make it great. Your kids would surely appreciate the help, too.

The Greatest Gift of All

It seems common for people to say, at a certain point, they grow tired of having stuff and start craving experiences. With the time we have, we want to spend it doing things and not just spend it with things.

Therein lies the key: the best thing you can do is spend your time with the mothers in your life.

Part of this includes things like having a nice meal with them, homemade or otherwise, or taking them to a park or a movie, and that’s absolutely recommended. But mixed up in all of that should be some time to do what she wants to do.

Sure, you could plant a flower for your mom or your wife, but if they enjoy gardening, why not plant it with them? You could go through the trouble of trying to knit Mom a scarf, but if she’s a proud pro with the old stitches, why not learn it from her? Take the day to share in what she enjoys doing, and by all means, let her choose. No online retailer can sell you pleasant memories.

Do the Math

Ideally, you can come up with some combination of big and small gifts and gestures that doesn’t seem like too much nor too little. The idea of Mother’s Day is to repay all the big and small things mothers have done for their children all year round, so the least you can do is go all-in for one day in May. If you think your mother would like something, it shouldn’t hurt to try.

With this information, hopefully you and your mothers and wives can all enjoy this Mother’s Day. Then on Monday morning, the clock will start for a bunch of people – perhaps even you – to start worrying about what to do for Father’s Day.