Ah, Mother's Day, that one day of the year when we do special things to show Mom how much we appreciate the efforts she makes the other 364 days to keep the house running, the kids clothed, the finances balanced, the horses brushed, the cows milked ...

Sorry, got carried away for a moment there.

The point is that being a mother is hard work. Sure, June Cleaver made it look easy, what with the pressed white apron, the freshly baked pan of cookies and the morsels of pithy maternal wisdom, but she had writers and stagehands. Your mom has, if she's lucky, a maid who comes in twice a week and NEVER remembers to wash the baseboards.

So it's important that you get the right gift for the woman who brought you into this world. You need something that will show her just how much you love her, what you think of her and how much she means to you.

Herewith, five things to avoid giving Mom if you want to get your message across ...

cook books, cooking, recipes, food

No. 5: Cookbooks

Your mom loves to cook. She's really good at it. You have fond memories of family dinners in your youth where her culinary skills shone forth and you left the table with a full belly and a happy heart. Her little plastic box of recipes, scribbled on index cards and clipped from magazines, is a treasure trove of food wisdom.

So here you come with a cookbook. What exactly does that say to Mom?

Say your mother is a great German cook and you buy her a coffee table-quality Italian cookbook. You're saying, "Mom, your spaetzle stinks. Try making ravioli instead."

Of course your mom won't SAY anything. She'll smile and thank you for your lovely gift. She might even leave the cookbook out on the coffee table and dust it regularly. But she won't use it, and its very presence will reinforce to her that you are the black sheep of the family.

But, unlike our next choice, at least the cookbook doesn't go out in public ...

purse, handbag

No. 4: Purses

Is there a more iconic piece of motherly accoutrement than the purse? Mother's purses have a legendary place in childhood lore, being the repository of everything from Band-Aids and tissues to peppermints and Life Savers.

If your mom was anything like ours, her purse resembled something a GI would have had strapped to his back on Omaha Beach. It was huge, with flap pockets, zippered compartments and seemed to have a tucked-away time-space continuum hole that permitted her to store the entire contents of your house inside.

In case you haven't noticed, though, you've moved out of the house. When Mom does carry a purse anymore, it's one of those little things big enough for some makeup and mad money. If you go and buy her a purse like the ones you remember from your childhood, she'll likely end up using it to hold scrapbooking supplies or to sort coupons.

Oh, and speaking of makeup, that brings us to our next bad idea ...

mother-in-law closeup woman's face

No. 3: Makeovers

Every Mother's Day, every salon in the country starts peddling makeovers. "Show Mom she's still beautiful!" they'll say, or "Help her recapture her youth and show her you love her."

Let's break down the logic here, shall we? If your mom was truly beautiful, would she need a makeover? Do you really want some spike-haired beauty school graduate slathering foundation like spackle over the face that used to look down on you when you were sick and used to light up when you got home from school?

And as for recapturing her youth? Pal, you were no picnic to raise. It's a safe bet that now that you're out of the house she's feeling younger than ever. If you're still living in her basement, this might not apply -- but there's a whole different set of issues to be dealt with there.

And speaking of issues ...

black lingerie on red silk sheets