The item that 76% of mums feel guilty about buying (and what they really want for Mother’s Day)

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The poll with mums from across the UK and Ireland has revealed some of the key challenges faced by mums, from ‘mum guilt’ to limited time for themselves

77% of mums say they feel guilty spending money on themselves and 27% say they get just 15 minutes to themselves each day, according to new research from Town & City Gift Cards ahead of Mother’s Day.

Mum guilt has been a hot topic lately with famous mums talking about the strain. In the research, clothes, shoes and bags are the items that 76% of mums feel guilty spending money on, followed by nights out/days out and holidays (60%), beauty treatments (59%), meals out (43%) and the gym/health/fitness activities (28%). 

And it’s not only spending money on themselves that mums feel guilty about with 84% saying they’ve felt guilty about spending time away from their children.

92% of mums have wished for more time for themselves and 78% have wished for more time with their friends. 36% are spending 7-8 hours per day in paid employment with 15% spending 9-10 hours per day, and 17% spending over 10 hours each day at work. A massive 69% are working into the evenings and weekends.

Almost a third of mums are spending more than 90 minutes each day on household tasks, with a quarter of mums saying they get just 15 minutes each day purely to themselves. 

95% of mums said they worry more since having children, with half of mums saying children are their biggest worry, followed by finances (32%), partner/love life and work.

The research was undertaken with 370 mums across the UK and Ireland by local gift card specialists Town & City Gift Cards as part of their ‘more than a mum’ Mother’s Day campaign. The local gift cards can be spent with independent and national shops, restaurants, salons, attractions, hotels and service providers, locking spend into local economies.

A huge 96% of mums surveyed said they’d like to receive a local gift card for Mother’s Day, with beauty treatments and a meal out being the top items mums would spend their gift card on. 

A host of mum influencers, and local business owners who are part of Town & City Gift Card programmes, are taking part in the Mother’s Day campaign talking about being a mum in 2024 and the importance of supporting local businesses.

Lauren Jamieson, 42, is a mum of three and founder of The Colourful Edit, colour and confidence styling for women.

“I’m pleased to be a part of the ‘more than a mum’ campaign because I think it’s a powerful message. For mums, I think it’s about finding joy in little things, going gentler on themselves, and still trying to carve out time to do what makes them happy, professionally or personally. Colour analysis can impact how you go about your day, and It doesn’t have to be massive changes either; it can be as small as wearing a coloured t-shirt to lift your mood. There is a lot of financial pressure now, especially with the cost of living. I understand why mums can feel guilty about spending money on themselves, but I believe that things start to fall apart if you aren’t looking after ‘you’.”

Alex Blair, 24, set up her TikTok account in 2022 and has now amassed over 1 million likes

“I think ’mum guilt’ is a huge challenge for mums and it can be so conflicting sometimes. On one hand, mums feel guilty about spending time away from their children and on the other hand, they want and need time for themselves. There’s also that ‘mum guilt’ about spending money on themselves which I think stems from wanting the best for our children and putting them first. Worry is a big challenge too, from whether we’re doing the right things as a mum, to financial pressures. When we’re happy as mums though, and when we do take that time for ourselves, we’re arguably better mums because we’re in a better place and feel more positive.”

Kelly Mitchell, 42, is the owner of Cherry Vintage in Chichester:

“Becoming a mum, you can sometimes lose yourself because your priorities change or you don’t have as much money to spend. It’s something that I experienced personally. As a mum, I think you still have to look after yourself and do the things that make you happy, whether that’s buying yourself a little something because you love it and it suits you perfectly or having a catch up with a friend. A local gift card is really good as a Mother’s Day gift because mums can get exactly what they want, and it’s a chance to treat themselves and have a little time for themselves, which most mums need.”

Lisa McElroy is the owner of mySHoo in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland:

“I think the ‘mum-guilt’ about spending money on themselves is something that many mums struggle with because they tend to put the children and family first. And if they are buying for themselves, it’s probably more about practicality than treats. It’s a funny thing, but you just don’t feel the same guilt about spending a gift card on yourself as you would with cash, it’s guilt free and it’s waste free because mums can buy what they want.”

Anna Gill, 26, started her Instagram page Aberdeenshire Walks in lockdown:

“We have so many brilliant local businesses in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and across the UK, founded by amazing, passionate people, and we need to support them as much as we can. By spending local, you get products and services of better quality, with better customer service and put money back into the local economy. That’s why the Aberdeen Gift Card is such a good idea, especially on Mother’s Day. As a mum, I just don’t prioritise spending money on myself anymore, it’s more about buying something for our baby or for the house but with an Aberdeen Gift Card, I have the chance to really treat myself to something I love from one of my favourite local businesses. I’d never usually get my nails done nowadays, but I would with a gift card. Unlike money that you earn at work, a local gift card feels like a bonus and a chance to enjoy myself.”

Helen Smith runs Byres Farm in Moray, Scotland:

“Being a mum and working is a juggling act. I think sometimes there’s a perception that if you’re working at home, it’s not working, but you definitely are. We’re not super-mums, we’re real mums and being honest about the challenges is so important. For me, seeing the families having a fantastic time at Byres Farm is a wonderful feeling. Every time someone supports a local business, they’re supporting a family, employees, and the local economy itself.”

Nilufer Zerener, 34, known as Nili, is the owner of Vegana café in Dundee:

“Vegana is the third business I’ve opened. I cook almost everything sold in the shop myself, serving homemade and healthy meals. I’m happy to be a part of the ‘more than a mum’ campaign because I think it’s important to highlight the many roles of the mum. A local gift card is a wonderful idea for Mother’s Day because it offers real support for small businesses like mine, many which are run by mums. With a gift card in their hand, mums can treat themselves to things they might ordinarily not be able to treat themselves too, like a meal out with friends, new clothes or a pampering treatment.”

Colin Munro is the managing director of Miconex, founder of the Town & City Gift Card concept and said: “For Mother’s Day this year we wanted to delve into what it really means to be a mum in 2024, and some of the challenges that mums face. 77% of mums feeling guilty about spending money on themselves seems extraordinary but it actually aligns with our research about gift cards generally.

“People give gift cards because it encourages the recipient to treat themselves, and the recipient sees the gift card as ‘free money’ so they have a chance to spend on things they might otherwise think twice about. The survey is a great reminder to think about what mums really want and need this Mother’s Day, supporting local at the same time.”

Research respondent profile: Research was undertaken with 370 mums from across the UK and Ireland between 17th January and 4th February 2024. 59.1% of mums were in the 35-54 age group and 34.4% of mums were in the 25-34 age group, 4.1% of mums were 55 plus and 2.4% of mums were in the 16-24 age group. 47.8% of mums surveyed had 2 children, 32.7% had 1 child, 11.6% had 3 children, 5.9% had 4 children, 0.5 had 6 or more. 59.1% of mums surveyed were employed, 15.2% were self-employed, 12.5% were full time mums, 11.1% were on maternity leave, 1.9% were retired and 0.2% were volunteers. 49.1% of mums had an eldest child in the 4-12 years age range, 20.1% of mums had an eldest child in the 0-3 age range, 15.5% of mums had an eldest child in the 13-17 years age range and 15.4% of mums had an eldest child who was 18 plus. 7% of respondents were also grandmothers and 23.8% of respondents also undertake care for their parents.

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