Flowers are nice, jewelry's great, but all Sue Shepherd really wants on Mother's Day is to see her kids.
"Family's not like it used to be. Everybody used to be close," she said. "Now we're all spread out doing our own thing."
Shepherd's kids are grown and managing families of their own. But for two days each year, Mother's Day and Father's Day, Shepherd's whole crew comes together for a family dinner honoring mom or dad.
"Twice a year we don't pick up the whole tab," she said.
This Mothers' Day, kids, husbands, relatives and friends of moms across the country are expected to spend $152.52 each on cards, jewelry, dinners and other gifts, the highest spending levels since before the recession.
Several area restaurants look to Mother's Day as the busiest of the year. Heather Wilson, catering manager for the Carrabba's Italian Grill by Hamilton Place mall, expects they'll be slammed from open to close.
"It's craziness, but we love it," she said. "There are a lot of mothers and families, which we love."
The National Retail Federatiton projects Americans will spend nearly $3.4 billion on special family outings this year. Overall Mother's Day spending is expected to reach more than $18.56 billion.
Even mothers like Shepherd tend to get in on the spending. She was picking up three cards for her daughters and friends -- also moms -- on Thursday.
"It's just a thing that says, 'Hey, I love you,'" she said.
The National Retail Federation projects Americans will spend $779 million on greeting cards leading up to Sunday. That's a help to local card shops, but card spending isn't as helpful as it was before the recession.
"Times are tough and people are just buying cards," said Mary Weaver, owner of Diana's Hallmark Shop in Hixson.
In years past, shoppers would come in for a card and pick up a gift or two while they were there. This Mother's Day has been good for the shop, just not quite as good as years past as customers skip the gifts.
Several other Chattanooga businesses have been dealing with similarly lukewarm customers.
It's not that people aren't buying, they're just a little more thrifty with their purchases.
"Really it's been the same as past Mother's Days. We haven't noticed a huge change in it," said Kelley Robison, a sales associate with Kennedy Jewelry. "People are looking at things that are priced better."
Since the recession, jewelry shoppers have shied away from more expensive metals such as gold in favor of more affordable sterling jewelry. Still, shoppers are expected to spend $3.7 billion this season on jewelry for the mothers in their lives.
Several of Robison's customers have sprung for charm bracelets and other jewelry able to be personalized.
"That's what mothers appreciate more," she said. "Not as much how much you spent as how much time you spent picking it out."
Department stores, which are expected to draw more than a third of Mother's Day shoppers, are seeing similarly flat sales.
Daniel Feiste, an assistant store manager at the Hamilton Place mall Dillard's, said this holiday has boosted sales, but not in any outstanding way.
"It's not falling, that's for sure. I'd say it's about average," he said. "It's not really anything to write home about."
That's not great news for retailers, but it could be outright bad news for dad. If moms aren't getting big presents, dads shouldn't hold out much hope for their day.
"There's a lot more spent on mom than dad," Feiste said. "By a considerable amount."