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Who loves ya, mom?

Men spend more on Mother's Day, but does that mean they care more?

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PSYCHO may be the last movie that comes to mind when thinking about Mother’s Day — at least for the lucky majority.

But it's in Alfred Hitchcock's film we hear a line that speaks volumes about males' approach to the holiday: "A boy's best friend is his mother."

In Canada and the U.S. alike, results of two recent consumer surveys suggest men plan to spend significantly more than women on the occasion, which generates the second-highest volume of weekend shopping in the year, behind only Christmas.

Certainly, much of the sex gap is due to men feting both their mother and the mother of their children. But experts say the complete explanation is more complex, with the mother-son dynamic playing a significant role.

"In general, the finding has been that men have a more positive relationship with their mother -- and a less conflicted relationship -- than they do with their father. Mom is seen as the preferable parent," says Michael R. Cunningham, a professor and psychologist at the University of Louisville.

"Women have good relationships with mom, too, but there's often more conflict than what's seen with men: boys fight with dad, girls fight with mom."

Results of a 1,500-person poll released Monday by BMO finds Canadian men expect to spend an average $105.02 to women's $61.99 for Mother's Day. Findings from a separate survey of 8,700 adults, for the National Retail Federation, suggest American men have budgeted an average $189.74, to women's $117.42.

Notably, in the latter poll, just 22 per cent of people buying gifts for Mother's Day planned to shop for their wife. In other words, there's more to the holiday's budget gap than meets the eye.

Cunningham, past president of the International Association for Relationship Research, says the fact men spend less than women on a routine basis is an important piece of the puzzle.

"Men tend to have their wallets out less often. But when they do, it's for big purchases," says Cunningham. "So there's a different expectation about what to spend."

Ontario mother Ann Douglas says her daughter is actually the most reliable gift-giver of her four children. But if males generally spend more on mom, she says it makes sense in light of such factors as salary disparity ("the income gap means fewer gift-buying dollars for women") and different ideas about what constitutes a meaningful present.

"A hand-knitted sweater may not cost as much in materials as a new cellphone or a gift certificate for a day at the spa -- the kind of gift a son might buy for his mom -- but that's only because the (time and labour) cost of making a hand-crafted item isn't factored into the price," says Douglas, creator of The Mother of All Books series.

This bears out in the BMO survey, which found men were much more likely to spring for such gifts as a meal at a restaurant or a gift card, whereas a personal phone call was named by three times more women than men.

But overall, the financial institution suggests the gift-giving gap may simply be a reflection of gendered shopping styles, with women more often taking advantage of sales or cashing in loyalty points for presents in order to reduce costs.

"Previous research we've done on shopping and budgeting behaviour suggests women are more practical planners," says Jennifer Weisman, director of marketing at BMO.

As for the perfect Mother's Day gift, results of a Linden Bay wine survey of 2,000 Canadians offers a clue, with more than 80 per cent of working moms saying they wanted more time in a day.

The cost? Clearly priceless.


The NRF poll, conducted April 3 to 10, has a margin of error of plus or minus one percentage point, 19 times out of 20.

The BMO and Linden Bay polls were conducted between April 23 and 29 and April 3 and 5.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 12, 2012 E1

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