Celebrating Mother’s Day When Mom Isn’t Nearby


I haven’t lived in the same state as my mom for the past seven years, and it has been rare for me to be with her on Mother’s Day. However, being apart does not mean that I cannot celebrate motherhood and honor my mom. With a little creativity, those of us who are not with our moms on Mother’s Day can still find many meaningful ways to celebrate, whether we are separated from our mothers by geographical distance, a strained relationship, or death. Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate Mother’s Day when Mom isn’t nearby.

Send a surprise gift

I have always sent a card to my mom when I can’t be with her on Mother’s Day. If I have my act together, I also like to send her a gift – even something simple like flowers lets her know that I was thinking of her. Now that I have kids, it’s fun to send homemade cards and crafts from the kids to their grandmas, too. Some of our favorite gifts have been specialties from the places we’ve lived: jewelry by local artisans or coffee beans from our favorite local roasters. Because we live far from home, we also enjoy sending travel-related gifts for Mom’s next visit: handkerchiefs, carry-on bags, luggage tags, and travel mugs (bonus points if it says “Nana” on it!). If I am ever truly out of ideas, there’s nothing my mom and mother-in-law love more than pictures of their grandkids, and we can take it to the next level by plastering those photos on coffee mugs, pillows, coasters…the possibilities are almost endless.

Share family pictures with our kids

My kids love looking at pictures. Every now and then, we pull out our wedding photos and pictures from when my husband and I were little (before digital cameras!). This is a fun way for our kids to learn about family members they do not see often or who have passed away. On Mother’s Day, we can specifically share pictures and memories of our moms, grandmothers, and others who have helped in mothering us over the years.

Give to local moms in need

I can’t treat my mom to brunch or go to the spa with her, but I can be generous to local moms who need a little love. Pregnancy resource centers, food banks, shelters for women and children, and career centers are some examples of organizations that support local moms. Beyond contributing financially, we can show our support as volunteers; some organizations even provide opportunities to serve as mentors for mothers seeking guidance. 

Thank the other “moms” in my life

Living away from home, I have been blessed with several “moms” in my life to provide love, guidance, and support when my own mom couldn’t be there. I know I haven’t thanked them enough for the hugs, free babysitting, and parenting advice they have provided over the last five years. Mother’s Day would be a great time to send a note of thanks to one of these maternal figures in my life.

Make Mom’s signature dish

One of my favorite things to do on Mother’s Day is to eat brunch at a restaurant. Not only do I love brunch, but I also think a meal tastes better when I didn’t prepare it. However, dinnertime on Mother’s Day provides another opportunity to break bread with my family, and share with them some of the foods that most remind me of my mom, grandmothers, and mother-in-law. My grandmother passed away last November, and there are a lot of foods that remind me of her: salt and vinegar chips, pickles, and windmill cookies are just a few. The food that most reminds me of her, though, is cabbage soup. My grandma knew that I loved her cabbage soup, and she would often have a pot of it warming when I arrived at her house. I got the recipe from her while I was in college, and whenever I make it, I appreciate again the work my grandma put into showing me love through cooking. I will continue to make this for my family as a way to celebrate and remember her.