I have a friend (we’ll call her Jesse,) who, over the years, has had, let’s say, a less than spectacular Mother’s Day each year.

It’s not that she doesn’t have a great husband – she does. But, her husband never really understood what a great Mother’s Day would be for Jesse. So he would do things she had asked for him to do months before – like repairing the screen door. Let’s just say that wasn’t what Jesse had in mind.

So years ago I suggested that she spell out EXACTLY what she would like for Mother’s Day. After three more years of disappointing Mom’s Days.

Jesse wrote her husband the following letter:

May 3, 2010
Hi Lovey,

I hope you receive this in the manner it is intended: to make Mother’s Day fun, your life easier and our day happier. 

Here is a list of ideas that you might find helpful for Mother’s Day.  No need to do all of these, feel free to choose from the list.  I’d just like a day where for some part of it I feel special. If you or the kids do choose to go the gift route, please no candles, bubble bath, shower gel, lotion, manicure/pedicure certificates or perfume.  If you guys decide to do something that’s not on the list, please let me know at the time because as you know I don’t get subtle hints.  Also, I want to be able to thank you appropriately.

There is one non-negotiable.  While I am not your mom, I am the mother of your children. At some point in the day please take the time to give me a hug, a smile and say thanks.

• Homemade cards from the kids (and you if you want, no pressure)
• A family walk or bike ride (I really enjoyed the hike)
• 2 hours in front of the TV to watch what I want, my way
• You and/or the kids could plan and execute at least one meal, or the whole day if you like (If you give me a grocery list before 8pm Saturday night I’ll even go get the stuff)
• Get the Sunday paper for me
• My choice:  cookies or frozen yogurt (either you go get it or take me to get what I want)
• Take me to the store and let me purchase one magazine.  Please don’t do this for me, I’d hate for you to get a duplicate because magazines can’t be returned.
• Send me to my room to read Dave Barry and laugh as loud and as long as I want
• Get fruit to make me a fruit salad – including any combination of the following: kiwi, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, pineapple and/or pears

So that no one is surprised, these are the things I WILL NOT be doing on Mother’s Day:
• Laundry – to be done on Saturday (yes, I will need help)
• Cleaning the bathroom – again, to be done on Saturday
• Going out to eat – more trouble than it’s worth  and every place will likely be crowded

One last thing.  While life is unpredictable and no one can control anyone else, please consult with the kids to let them know that I’d like them to be on their best behavior for the day.

Thank you for helping me to have a great Mother’s Day.  Love you. Jesse

Jesse’s husband THANKED her for the letter. He appreciated her spelling it out for him.

If there is one thing I have learned after writing two marriage books it’s this – the reason men stop trying to please their wives is that they fell like they will never get it right.

How do you think your husband would receive a letter like this? Or – having a frank conversation with him about what kind Mother’s Day would work for you?

How have you set expectations for how you celebrate your Mother’s Day in your house?