Attention men: There are certain dates on the calendar that can test the strength of your relationship. An obvious one is March 17, because many of your flaws will be exposed to your partner by the way you behave on St. Patrick’s Day. Other dates on the watch list include your wedding anniversary, your partner’s birthday and Valentine’s Day. The nice thing about these special occasions is that they never change—they’re fixed on a specific date every year.
But then there’s Mother’s Day, which occurs either the second or third Sunday in May. I can never remember. If you’re a guy, you probably have no idea when this special day is until one of your kids blurts out that they have been working on a Mother’s Day craft at school.
Read more: 10 Mother’s Day crafts for kids >
Mother’s Day is the ultimate test, because if you screw it up, it will open up questions about your competence as both a husband and a father. To avoid some common pitfalls, here are 10 handy tips for dads:
1. Let her sleep in
You might think it’s a sweet gesture to come barrelling into the bedroom with the kids and some poorly made pancakes but, for the love of God, just let your wife sleep in on Mother’s Day. Breakfast in bed is a good idea in theory, but she would probably like to continue snoozing until lunch in bed becomes a legitimate negotiation.
2. Plan brunch
For some reason, moms love to be taken out for brunch on Mother’s Day (don’t be offended, I’m sure it’s not because of your less-than-stellar culinary skills). And it has to be a nice place, not a restaurant that advertises “Two Eggs, Any Style For $3.99″ on the window. You will have to get out of your comfort zone and select a restaurant that meets these somewhat loftier standards. You’ll also need to get familiar with exotic things like mimosas, frittatas and (gasp!) cloth napkins. And FYI: Most nice restaurants are booked for Mother’s Day brunch until the year 2018, so good luck with that.
Read more: 7 Mother’s Day brunch recipes >
3. Take the kids away
You might think that Mother’s Day is the one day on the calendar a mom wants to experience the joy of being surrounded by her children. You couldn’t be more wrong. They should actually rename this day, “I used to be a single woman with dreams of my own, damn it!” So make sure you take the kids away for a few hours and let your wife watch Dirty Dancing with a bottle of red wine.
4. Buy her a card
I cannot stress this enough. Women love it when we pen our genuine thoughts and feelings inside a card. So I suggest you choose one carefully and then Google “thoughtful things to say to your wife.”
5. Buy her flowers
The last time you bought your wife roses was probably March 18—to apologize for the way you acted the night before. Surprise her by purchasing a bouquet without a “Sorry” card attached.
6. Don’t mention laundry
Saying the “L” word on Mother’s Day is the equivalent of mentioning your ex-girlfriend on Valentine’s Day.
7. Don’t buy her practical gifts
It’s a good idea to stay away from things like a brand new iron or a mop when choosing a Mother’s Day present. In fact, let’s just go ahead and say you should never buy your partner an iron or mop as a gift for any occasion.
Read more: Why I don’t want a Mother’s Day gift >
8. Don’t plan anything for yourself
If you are unsure of the exact date of Mother’s Day, don’t accept invitations to do anything in the month of May. If you casually mention to your wife that you’re going golfing with a buddy on May 11, you may wind up being chased out of your home with your nine-iron.
9. Make her dinner
Did you seriously think you were done after preparing breakfast (or lunch) in bed? Or that the puffed pastry that was supposed to constitute brunch was the end of it? You also have to plan dinner, and it had better not come out of a box.
10. Remember that Father’s Day is around the corner
This day is all about leverage, because if you mess it up, your wife will plot her revenge next month with Father’s Day. So set the bar high on Mother’s Day—and you will get to enjoy a day at the bar on Father’s Day.
A version of this article appeared in our May 2014 issue with the headline “Treat her right,” p. 42.