Read on for Mother's Day gifts that say, I know everything is terrible and this won’t begin to fix it.

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What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Getty Images/Courtesy

I found out a couple months ago all the moms were crying without me. That is, they were "running errands" and adding time to sit in a parking lot and cry. In one mom group on Facebook, people shared which store's blacktop was their favorite crying place, and that's all I will say about that because I've already been kicked out of one such group, and other moms on the internet are pretty much all we have right now. That, and the places we cry. 

I hadn’t been crying in parking lots because I was pregnant in early quar, so my husband valiantly ran all the errands. While he was soaking up whatever pheromones one gets from existing in the outside world, I was becoming a shell of a human at home. I started clinging to my morning shower like it was a ticket to that Robyn concert in 2019 that ended with everyone singing together on the subway platform. Sometimes I cried in there. Often I just listened to the water and stared at tiles and left my shampoo in for too long and shaved the same armpit twice and then got out. 

But I started to suspect that many moms white-knuckling their way through the pandemic had a crying place, somewhere that they’d either go intentionally for an emotional release, or a trigger spot where a big accidental sob would fall out while they buttered toast, and they’d wipe tears with the back of a hand and keep buttering. I can tell by the nervous laughter and the way we all kind of “joke” about “losing our minds” in the group chat, and every once in a while someone will say ‘no, really, this is way too much and way too hard, right?’ 

And so there's a lot riding on Sunday, May 9, 2021. Mother's Day has perhaps never been more high-stakes than it is this year. Everywhere you look there's a report about the devastating toll the Covid-19 pandemic has had on women, and children, and the women trying to feed, teach, and protect those children. Also everywhere you look, someone is saying some trite bullshit about how mothers are superheroes and they don't know HOW we do it. (We don't either. That's the problem.) This is not a time for flowers. We are past the point of wine. (Though there's a cheeky wine called "Flowers" which I'll allow.) Bring anything bearing an inspirational quote with the word "mama" in it, and you'll be disinvited from the first in-person party we throw, which is guaranteed to be motherfuckin' LIT (in 2023, when our kids are vaccinated). So, what does a struggling mom want in 2021?

Moms want help. Moms want a break. Moms want to feel like people and selves, and they need time and space away from all their momness, which has literally been impossible for longer than a year now. So presents will do. 

But moms actually aren't a monolith; there are always subgenres in the category of 'mom' and this year they can be best dissected by their chosen crying place and what it says about them. For example, there's the #PelotonMom who needs a reminder she's allowed to leave the house, or Twitter mom who still says "I'm baby" and shares that "not great, Bob!" GIF whenever someone asks how she's doing. In the Mother's Day gift guide below, I've dissected their psyches and prescribed a present that will be just the right thing.

She deserves it. And most of all? She just wants to know you know that. 

For the Mom Who Cries In the Closet

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Left: Credit: Courtesy
Right: Credit: Courtesy

This mom misses fashion. She misses clothing. She misses having a life that necessitated any outfit other than the grungy leggings that are starting to sag and an old nursing bra. There is nothing you can do or gift that will solve that, but Missoma's line of layerable necklaces, and clip-on pendants are a cute way to bring style back into her life that also happens to look great with a tee shirt. There are birthstone pendants to celebrate each time she brought new life into the world, and an almost-grunge-looking onyx and gold one that slides open to reveal it's a locket. There are so many pendants that are so cool, I basically want all of them, so I'm sure at least one will suit her fancy, too. They are engravable for further personalization, and the brand's wide variety of chains (some sold as layering sets) will almost feel like styling a whole outfit. 

Shop it: Engravable Onyx Ridge Locket Clip-on Pendant, $143, Missoma.com.

For the Mom Who Cries on Zoom

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Left: Credit: Courtesy
Right: Credit: Courtesy

There are two ways to gift the Zoom-cryer, and it'll take paying attention to what's causing her to lose it. If you think the source is staring at her own exhausted face one too many times, the Instant Look of Love Palette by Charlotte Tilbury will be just the thing. It's essentially a paint-by-numbers guide for anyone born too early for the YouTube beauty tutorial revolution, from eyeshadow to blush, including an award-winning pore-blurring powder that puts the Zoom face-touchup feature to shame. The rose-gold compact and heart-and-lovey packaging makes it feel gifty, even if you are gifting her the ability to try looking a little better sometimes.

There is also a Zoom cryer who absolutely does not want to hear that she "looks tired," and this one just needs something pretty to stare at while dissociating during a meeting. Tell her she's still got a cool aesthetic, and she could have a cup of tea from time to time, with the Piuma teapot by Ichendorf Milano. A 6-inch-high personal pot made of pink borosilicate glass with matching strainer, it's perfect for her favorite loose-leaf blends.  

Shop it: Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look of Love Palette, $75, Charlottetilbury.com; Piuma teapot, $70, Comingsoonnewyork.com

For the Mom Who Cries on Her Peloton

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

What do you get the mom who has everything up to and including a near-pathological dependence on Cody Rigsby in order to experience emotion? A bike that can move, probably! This one from sixthreezero has that classic cruiser look, but it's actually an e-bike, so she can ride in style and without fretting about her "output" for once. The Around the Block 500W comes in cool colors like lilac-ginger (shown) and pine-marigold, and other models offer denim and periwinkle tones. And since she's used to the finer things in life, this can be custom fit to her using the brand's "bodyfit" tool online. Anyone who's ever straddled a too-tall bike will know, this in itself is an act of love. Reminding her that outside exists will be the cherry on top. 

Shop it: Around the Block 500W, $1,899, sixthreezero.com.

For the Mom Who Cries on a Walk

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

She used to do her best cries on the subway, sniffling behind sunglasses and daring someone to say something while hoping they couldn't hear Bon Iver moaning in her headphones. Now she takes her stupid little walks just to feel something and hates how predictable it is that it works, so when the fresh air hits her cheeks the tears come tumbling after. She forgets what it was like to have a life outside the four walls full of her children, and the woman she was beyond them. Perk her up with a gift that's plucky, not earnest, like this feisty combination of socks from Mother denim (you need both pairs to really pull this off). With the right mix-n-match, her ankles can announce "Badass Mother" one day, and simply "fucker" the next. 

Shop it: Baby Steps Bad Ass, $24, motherdenim.com; Baby Steps Ankle, $24, motherdenim.com

For the Mom Who Cries in the Car 

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

The car is the biggie this year, and an obvious choice because, like the closet or shower, it's one of very few respites where mom can be alone. That's why I'm calling in a beauty brand she will definitely know, love, and be thrilled to use even while weeping in the parking lot of soccer practice. With the Aesop Adventurer Roll Up, she gets a cool canvas travel pouch designed by sustainable fashion designer Christoper Raeburn (you have to see the map art inside), and a trio of products the pandemic truly calls for. The brand's category-leading hand balm, with its rosemary, cedar, and mandarin scent, is gift enough on its own, but the set also includes two different hand sanitizers (a gel and mist). For the car cryer who needs something a little stronger, consider the brand's Ardent Nomad gift set with the cult-beloved antioxidant-rich parsley seed skincare line, along with an essay collection in which the author wanders in the desert, experiments with drugs, and cross-dresses to live as a man for a while — which sounds just about right.

Shop it: The Adventure Roll Up, $65, aesop.com

For the Mom Who Cries in the Shower

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

If she's been using the running water to drown out her hopeless, gasping sobs, the only gift she really needs this year is someplace else to go where she can be alone. This can be achieved on a shoestring budget, and in quarantine, by just leaving her the hell alone for a day. For a slight upgrade, look into a staycation at a local Airbnb or VRBO where she can safely disappear for a whole night (or more!). Know a decadent lover of aquatic dramatics? Send her to the Mark Hotel in Manhattan for their "Do Not Disturb" Mother's Day package, which includes a massage, a Frederic Fekkai blowout, mani and pedi, Jean-Georges Vongerichten-prepared treats on arrival, and, most importantly, a whole entire room in which to cry. 

For the Mom Who Cries on Twitter

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

Has she joked about wishing she could get wrapped in a sleep sack and put to bed like a baby? She's not joking. Kyte Baby heard her cries and began crafting adult loungewear and pajamas using the brand's signature bamboo blend, which is so soft and plush, all the coziest babies on Instagram sleep in it. (It was specially crafted for eczema and other infant sensitivities.) This set of pajamas will let her cosplay as a 1950s husband (truly the dream), but feel like if the sensation of sleep were loomed into a textile.  

Shop it: Women's Short Pajama Set, $70, kytebaby.com 

For the Mom Who Cries in the Background of Zoom School

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Credit: Courtesy

This mom has zero ideas left as far as what the hell to do with her children and, don't look now, but summer break is coming. Not only is the name of this gift a cute nod to the kids, but the gift itself is a family-friendly activity — candle-making — without any of the prep work and supplies-shopping that will surely send her over the edge. You can choose a scent to match her vibe, like citrus, floral, fruity, woody, or a special blend for Mother's Day that features musky tuberose and heady rose damask. Since the kit comes with everything you need to make a candle except the vessel to house one in, you can add a family heirloom teacup, or perfect mug, to complete her present. 

Shop it: Siblings candle kit, $26, siblings.co

For the Mom Who Cries in the Group Chat

What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
What to Buy the Mom in Your Life Based on Where She's Been Crying Lately
Left: Credit: Courtesy
Right: Credit: Courtesy

This is a conscientious mom who knows what's going on in the world — and does not like it. She's the one in the text group who keeps dropping articles about how, actually, until your children are vaccinated you can't really change your habits all that much, Jennifer. Brighten things up with a hand-embroidered St. Roche mask ($25) made of hand-loomed organic cotton, or splurge for the matching blouse ($240). Both limited edition items benefit Every Mother Counts, an organization that works to make pregnancy and childbirth safer for people everywhere. And since the imminent re-opening of everything has this mom supremely stressed out, sweeten the deal with the Saje Mindful Pocket Farmacy Essential Oil Kit for Emotional Wellness. A palm-sized zippered clutch houses five essential oil roll-ons with targeted scents to inspire Confidence, Reflection, Connection, Revitalizing Energy and Unwinding Calm (a bestseller, for obvious reasons). She can take this anywhere for a quick boost  — like her closet, her bathroom, her car…

Shop it: Saje Mindful Pocket Farmacy Essential Oil Kit for Emotional Wellness, $65, saje.com.