A handmade craft from her children would be OK, but mostly what she wants is to have a conversation about the important role that mothers — and grandmothers and great-grandmothers, too — play in families and in larger communities all over the world.
"I never was more appreciative of my own mom and all the other moms out there than when I became one myself," said Turlington Burns, a model, businesswoman and documentary filmmaker, whose children are now 6 and 8 years old.
Her No Mother's Day Mother's Day is a way to draw attention to maternal mortality, the cause at the heart of the Every Mother Counts advocacy campaign she founded in 2010. It's also a way to get back to the basics and, hopefully, cut through "all the noise" that now comes with a holiday that the National Retail Federation estimates will come with an $18.6 billion price tag in spending by Americans this year.
Typically, Turlington Burns said in an interview Wednesday, she "goes through the motions" and sends her own mom flowers, although that's lately morphed into a living plant that can go in her garden.
Turlington Burns worked with her husband, actor and director Ed Burns, to create a short online social-issue film. She recruited Jennifer Connelly, Kelly Rutherford, Ann Curry, Blythe Danner, Debra Messing and Dayle Haddon, among other famous and not-so-famous moms, to appear in it.
Pretty much everyone she asked to participate did, she said. "I had a few people that said, 'Good. I hate this holiday and I can say I'm not participating.' Some people have a negative feeling toward it, and I think it's because of all the commercialization."
Turlington Burns said her own feelings aren't that extreme — and she will enjoy a meal with her family, including her children, sister, mother and likely her mother-in-law — but she wants it to be a moment of solidarity with many other moms, and have those surrounding all those women to appreciate them.
It's not intended as an economic protest, she said, and she doesn't begrudge all the restaurants and florists who see boosts in business. What she's looking for is a shift in attitude. She was inspired by Julia Ward Howe's 19th-century anti-war proclamation that mothers were tired of seeing their sons and husbands killed in the Civil War.
Women banded together then, she explained, and the same could happen now to draw attention to the women who die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. Every Mother Counts puts the number at 360,000 annually.
The film, posted on Facebook, is mostly a message to other mothers, but she hopes they'll share it with their children, partners and husbands who typically plan festivities.
"My husband directs the film for that reason," she said. "He's the one who takes the lead on that day."