What working moms really want for Mother’s Day

Marisa Mauer, 34, shares a precious moment with son Nathaniel, 13 months, at their home in San Diego on May 3, 2014.
Sandy Huffaker for NBC News

Ask working moms what they really want for Mother's Day and you might notice that chocolate, flowers or even a spa day don't always top the list.

Instead, many working moms say they crave something money can't buy: More time in the day.

"I don't even miss the time for myself," said Marisa Mauer, who works full time in staffing and has a 1-year-old son. "I would give anything to spend all day long with my son if I could."

Read MoreWhy a $100 Mother's Day bouquet won't cut it

Mauer, who lives in San Diego, enjoys her career and is realistic about the need to have two incomes to support her family. But she said she is constantly surprised by how quickly the few hours she gets with her young son vanish.

"It seems to be gone instantly," she said.

About 70 percent of moms with children under 18 do paid work, according to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of the most recent government data. Many also prefer it that way: The majority of working moms also told Pew in a 2013 survey that their ideal situation is to work full or part time outside the home.

And yet—as many moms said in interviews—the constant juggle to get everything done each day can be overwhelming, leaving them feeling like there just isn't enough time in the day to enjoy being a mom. Another Pew research survey released last year found that more than half of working moms have difficulty balancing work and home responsibilities.

"I had more ideas of these, like, wonderful picture-worthy moments," said Kelly Hofstra, 32, of San Diego, who works full-time in the tax division of a Fortune 500 company and has a 1-year-old son.

Hofstra said she too often feels like she and her husband are rushing to get out the door in the morning, or juggling to get bath, dinner and play time in with a young child who can often be tired and grumpy.

Read MoreStay-at-home moms growing among young and poor

Even though the time isn't always joyful, what Hofstra said she really wants is a clone who could go to work—and maybe the gym—for her while she got a bit more parenting time.

"The juggling act is not as fun, (but in) a lot of ways parenting in general is better than I thought it would be," she said.

'Stolen time'

Many working moms say their days rush along so quickly that they find themselves wishing for those unplanned moments when everything else can be put aside.

"I would love some 'stolen time' with my little guy during the week," said Courtney Stockberger.

Stockberger, 29, who lives outside St. Louis, said she was unprepared for how hard it would be for her and her husband to make it through the busy days of getting ready in the morning, getting their son to child care, picking him up in the evening and trying to find a little family time before he goes to bed.

"It hit me like a ton of bricks," she said of the transition back to work.

Kelly Hofstra gives son Mason, 1, a bath at their home in San Diego, May 2, 2014.
Sandy Huffaker for NBC News

Messy houses and piles of laundry

For many moms, the cost of prioritizing time with the kids and time at work comes in the form of a messy house, an endless pile of laundry or a kitchen that doesn't get nearly as much use as they would like.

Many moms say what they'd REALLY love was a day in which they could spend time with their families while the house magically got clean and dinner magically was cooked.

"My ideal day would be full of wonderful weather, where we could just make breakfast together and go outside and play or go to the park," said Katena Pershing, 35, who works full time and has three kids, 8, 5 and nearly 2. "And I know it's kind of cheesy, but I mean, ideally my husband would have the same day off."

Pershing is a program manager in auxiliary services at Montana State University in Bozeman, and her husband works two jobs. She said she was able to keep up on things like laundry when she had two kids, but that all changed after baby No. 3.

"After the third baby came along I kind of had to give up and be OK with giving up," she said.

Olivia Canales, 24, often finds herself pulled away from time with her 1-year-old son because of her job as a technician with the National Guard and her second commitment as a National Guard soldier.

One of the hardest parts about that has been missing the little stuff, like him crawling or saying a certain word for the first time.

Read MoreStay-at-home dads struggle to shake Mr. Mom image

Another challenge: When she is home, her son often won't want to go to bed even though he is overtired, because he wants to be with her. That can leave them both sleep-deprived and grumpy.

Canales said her partner, her son's other mom, also is kept busy working two jobs as a hairstylist and in a plastic mold factory. Canales, who lives in Clinton, Iowa, said she would love the simple pleasure of something like a family day at the zoo.

"Seeing him smile would make my whole day," she wrote in an e-mail.

Her other wish for Mother's Day? To be free of worries about her child's future.

"I think that's all that a mom really wants, is to make sure that her child feels loved and to always know they're going to be happy, healthy and safe," Canales said in an interview. "If there was, like, a little card that came in the mail that said that that was going to happen, that would be nice."

—By CNBC's Allison Linn.