Dear Mrs. Riches:
I want to sing the praises of my mom this Mother's Day, especially this year. In addition to raising her own brood of us four kids to adulthood, she's now taken in my sister's two young kids to raise just at the time in her life when she could be thinking about elder hostels, painting classes, and meaningful volunteer work. You can see why the usual flowers and a card just don't seem to cut it this time around! Helping out financially is something I've considered, but my mom is very proud; a cash or check would surely offend. Got any fabulous ideas for those of us with great moms?
-- Mom's Biggest Admirer

Dear Admirer:
The key to making your mom's heart sing may be as simple (or as difficult) as regular calls, cards, and expressions of how much you care. Trite as it may sound, many of us moms are brought to tears by our preschoolers' lumpy pottery creations (note: these are less impressive from adult children) or a heartfelt card that tells the special or funny memories you have of your mother. Motherhood requires a mountain of small, regular, daily attentions and it is so gratifying to know that some of the extra efforts -- no matter how small -- were not only noticed but also appreciated.

But here you have your mom who, on the brink of retirement, has started a whole new career as a parenting grandma -- no small feat. Most likely, there's a huge and heartbreaking story behind why, which means that your mom has likely had a tough year. Caretaking for grandchildren is a hard job, and recognizing your mom's selflessness in personal and practical ways can only help.


  • Talk with your mom about her situation with the grandkids. Find out if she has worries she hasn't shared; for example, what if her health goes south or if it simply gets to be too much? Help develop backup plans to set her mind at ease.
  • Set up 529 plans for the grandkids and consider making contributions in whatever amount you can afford. Your mom is likely to be pleased that someone else is thinking about the children's welfare long into the future.
  • Make sure your mom is adequately covered for retirement by talking with her about her situation. How much has she saved? Does she have long-term care insurance? Is her money invested as well as it should be? The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter is chock-full of information that can help guide her decisions related to retirement.
  • Get your mom hooked up with support systems for grandparents raising grandchildren. She doesn't even have to leave the house to access many of the resources; just compile a list of websites. There are plenty of good ones, such as the AARP and its area on grandparenting, the National Center on Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, or the website, which contains this helpful information.
  • Offer practical help like babysitting if you live close by; if you live at a distance, consider sending a gift certificate for a whole house cleaning, take-out dining, or a babysitting service.
  • Send flowers and a card anyway; when it comes to appreciating dear old Mom, overkill never hurts!

Best of luck to you and a happy Mother's Day to your special mom.

Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter.