A Mother’s Day Grammar Lesson


MOTHER’S DAY: the second Sunday in May appointed for the honoring of mothers 

April showers bring May flowers and guilt trips.  The marketers are busy telling you how you should show love for the mother in your life this Mother’s Day.  Hallmark says love is best shown with an animated musical card.  The florist says love is best shown with colorful petals, ribbons, and an understated crystal vase.  The jeweler says the only way to properly express your appreciation is with something shiny.  Some jewelers go so far as to insist that the something shiny spell out “MOM.” The local restaurant says that what we need more than anything else is a day off from cooking.

It doesn’t need to be this complicated.

The secret to a properly executed Mother’s Day lies in a brief but important grammar lesson.

Mother is a noun.  Apostrophes make nouns possessive.   Apostrophes located before an “S” instead of after make nouns singular possessive.  This has several important implications.


Mother’s Day is a day set aside to honor a mother, not mothers.  Singular.  This is not a day about the attributes of motherhood or accomplishments of mothers in general; it is a day set aside to honor the attributes and accomplishments of a specific mother.  It is a day to get personal and focus, exclusively, on the mother being celebrated.  It is not a day to generalize that because women tend to like flower bouquets and sparkly bling that the mother you are celebrating needs those gestures.  Hallmark doesn’t know your mother.  Neither does the florist.  Or the jeweler.  Or the local chef.  Or Pinterest.


This day belongs to the mother being celebrated.  The apostrophe says so.  She should be able to spend the day as she sees fit.  Maybe she wants to spend the day laundering the sheets in which she consumed her lukewarm breakfast while her sticky-fingered children watch her chew each lovingly prepared bite.  Maybe she wants to put on control top pantyhose and heels to comply with the unofficial but still clear dress code for brunch at the neighborhood café.  Maybe she is willing to spend her morning telling her husband where all the picnic supplies are kept in order to enjoy lunch alfresco.  Or maybe, she just wants a bag of kettle corn, a growler of beer, a stack of chick flicks, and an empty house.  Ask her.  She’ll tell you.


The “mother” in Mother’s Day is a noun, not a verb.  Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the person (noun), not the actions (verbs) that society tells us are motherly.

This is confusing because all the messaging you are going to see this month will tell you that the reason you are buying a gift is to express your appreciation for the verbs.  For the laundry and lunch-packing.  For the cleaning, cooking, and chauffeuring.  For the thirty-six hours of bone-splitting pain she endured at the end of a pachyderm length pregnancy to bring you into this world.  For the all-nighters.  For the advice.  For the silence.  For the knowing smiles.  For the guidance.  For the shoulder to cry on when you ignored her guidance.

Those are things worthy of gratitude to be sure.  You can use Mother’s Day as an excuse to squeeze in a thank you or two, but your average Tuesday would also be acceptable.  Mother’s Day is about the person not the performance.  It is not an annual review to determine if she gets a raise.  It is an annual reminder not to let her fade into the background hidden in the dust of all the actions.  It is a day to let the dust clear and see the woman behind the cloud.

This is liberating when you think about it.  Buying the perfect Mother’s Day card does not require you to overstate your mom’s abilities in the kitchen or rewrite history to make her infinitely patient and attentive.  The perfect card is one that honors her.  Not for the verbs; for the noun.

We honor moms on Mother’s Day simply because they are moms.  That is enough.

A properly executed Mother’s Day requires only two things:

  1. A mom
  2. Someone to love her in the best way they know how








5 thoughts on “A Mother’s Day Grammar Lesson

  1. Such a great post!! My favorite is the laundered sheets due to all the sticky fingers–such a beautiful, even though messy scene. 🙂

      1. Haha! 🙂 I would love to be celebrated this way. . . if only my husband chose to celebrate me by washing the sheets!

  2. This is wonderful! I shared it with my preacher husband and he said to add “the preacher in the pulpit talking about mothers” to your Singular section (of people who don’t know your mother). I agreed. Thank you for your article.

    1. The good news is that preacher’s don’t need to know your mother to convince you to honor her. The honor instructions made the Top Ten so preachers just get to say “do it.” 🙂

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