Some mothers are a breeze to shop for (they just love candles and bath stuff!), others insist that they want nothing and remain impossible. Same goes for the mothers you’ve married into, but with an added twist: You still don’t know them as well, and you’ll probably never stop trying to make a good impression. Finding the right gift for your in-law, be it for Mother’s Day, a birthday, or as a thank-you, takes some strategy. To cut to the chase, we turned to ten real mothers-in-law to hear about the best gifts they received from the people their kids married, and then found some easy-to-buy online versions.
Fancy olive oil
“My daughter-in-law of nine months gave me the following gift as a thank-you for assistance in planning the wedding: a shipment of a gallon of olive oil and an earthen jug to pour it in to use. In addition, an olive-oil tree was planted in Italy in my name. I am Italian, I love to cook, and olive oil is a staple in Italian cooking. So this captured so many pieces of my life. The tree was ‘icing’: I am concerned about the environment and sustainability in general.” —Gay Hartigan, Park Ridge, New Jersey
Jewelry (from your favorite designer)
“As a mother-in-law, you suddenly find yourself feeling surprisingly older, less significant, irrelevant. My daughter-in-law gave me some very forward, trendy pieces of jewelry made by a New York designer, Lele Sadoughi. I love the two pieces she gave me because they were created by an artist she enjoys wearing. I live in a small midwestern town where fashion isn’t a priority. It’s surprising to me how slipping on these bracelets gives me a boost in confidence at a dinner or a meeting.” —Kris O’Neill, Cadillac, Michigan, mother-in-law for seven-and-a-half years
A fire pit
“The best gift my son-in-law (and daughter) have given me was a fire pit for Christmas. We have a house an hour outside of New York that we go to every weekend. Our favorite thing to do there is to gather around the outdoor fire pit and listen to music while catching up.” —Linda Ensko-Johnson, New York, mother-in-law for one month
This celestial one is on sale.
A serving dish
“My son-in-law Steve gave me a serving dish the first time he visited our home and met the family. I frequently use that dish when our family shares meals and laughs together. And to me, time spent together is truly the gift.” —Joan Inwald, Franklin, Michigan, mother-in-law for five years
For the modernist mother-in-law: This teak serving tray was designed by Danish designer Finn Juhl in 1956.
All moms love Le Creuset. Get her one to match her Dutch oven.
Some feel-good face oil
“My son and daughter-in-law have given me numerous gifts of jewelry and self-care products. I especially love the Peet Rivko Balancing Face Oil they got me. My skin drinks it in and gives my face a smooth sheen without feeling oily.” —Donna Ray, Encinitas, California, mother-in-law for six months
One more: Yet another raved-about face oil, packaged as beautifully as a vintage perfume bottle.
The best water bottle
“Although my daughter-in-law, Stephanie, regularly joins me for dinner or lunch — just the two of us— and that means a lot, she has also given me material gifts, such as the S’well water bottle, which sits on my desk at work. I had never noticed S’well bottles before, and now I feel like a rather cool middle-aged woman because I know what they are!” —Linda Kanefield, Chevy Chase, Maryland, mother-in-law for three-and-a-half years
This groovy iridescent S’well (for the mom who loves music festivals!) is on sale.
“My son-in-law gives incredible gifts and puts so much thought into everything he does. One gift that I loved was my Loro Piana cashmere throw. I’m always cold — my family jokes that I even wear cashmere in August — and I wear the shawl year-round as a throw over a cocktail dress, or with my coat on cold winter nights.” —Rosa Capacchione, Manhasset, New York, mother-in-law for five years
Serious Italian luxury. Comes in eight colors.
“I’m also an avid golfer, and last year, my son-in-law got me a Garmin GPS golf watch, which is the perfect accessory on the golf course. The watch can do a lot more than what I use it for, so I’m sure other golfers would get more out of it, but for my purposes, it’s perfect.” —Capacchione
A book of family photos
“For a recent birthday, my adult children (including my daughter-in-law and two sons-in-law) gave me a hardbound book with our family’s portrait on the front. The book includes beautiful pictures from a photo shoot arranged while we were together for one of our five annual family weekend holidays. Since my children and grandchildren live in different states, this book sits on top of the open kitchen bar top across from our front door, welcoming us.” —Robin Inwald, New York City, mother-in-law for five years
“My daughter-in-law is one of the kindest and most thoughtful individuals and puts her personal touch on each and every gift, from specific occasions to times when she knows I could use some encouragement. She’s given personalized blankets, with a matching pillow.” —Karla Ingle, Loudon, Tennessee, mother-in-law for one year
West Elm makes this easy: Monogram these shams or the duvet cover.
“Before my son and his now-wife were even engaged, she gave me a charm for the Pandora bracelet my sons gave me for Christmas. It was a giraffe. Valerie put an awful lot of thought into this gift. She found out I liked giraffes, and found this one, and it was the first charm I had for that bracelet — and it is still my favorite. She knows me well. She gets me.” —Jean Ericson, Beverly Hills, Michigan, mother-in-law for five years
The original Pandora giraffe is sold out, but Etsy has some excellent look-alikes.
“[My daughter-in-law] has given me meaningful Pandora charms in remembrance of special events we experienced together — my trip to Chicago, their wedding, other special times.” —Ingle
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