Mother's Day

Mother's Day poems help celebrate all motherhood has to offer.
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Mother's Day Poems That Celebrate The Complexity Of Motherhood

Because motherhood isn’t easy to describe.

by Elizabeth Helen Spencer and Abi Berwager Schreier
Originally Published: 

If the internet is to be believed, all a mom wants on Mother's Day is breakfast in bed and gifts that give her much-needed pampering — but I feel like there’s more complexity to this day than that, and these 15 Mother’s Day poems celebrate all those little details of motherhood if you’re looking for some inspiration for thoughtful Mother’s Day gifts this year.

Mother’s Day is not always a day of pampering (though that’s great sometimes, too), but it should definitely be a day of recognition and thanks for all the things mom does that often go unrnoticed. And sometimes Mother’s Day is even a day of remembrance — whether it’s in remembrance of a mom or grandmother who is no longer with us, or even a child — depending on the family. The truth is, the experience of motherhood, as well as our relationships with our own mothers, is more complex than any social media portrayal. But to be honest, I also wouldn’t mind being pampered and not having to do a single thing all day on May 10 this year — in addition to being gifted one of these poems and having my family acknowledge my hard work.

Some of these poems about motherhood offer the type of sweet sentiments you can find in the card aisle, while others touch on experiences like miscarriage that are part of the spectrum of motherhood but are often ignored. Some of these poets are mothers writing about their children, while others are adult children remembering or mourning their mothers. If you’re looking for some poem inspiration to celebrate the moms you love, simply share the poems that speak to your feelings and remind you of the women in your life. If you're looking for an original (and inexpensive) gift for mom this year, you can print one of these poems out on nice paper and place it in a store-bought frame. Then your mother will be reminded of your love for her all year long.


“No Charge” By Brian A. Bendall

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This beautiful poem for mothers by Brian A. Bendall absolutely goes through the different stages of motherhood, and sweetly offers his appreciation and acknowledgment for all his mother did for him — all for “no charge.”

I've tried to write so many times,

But it's been hard to say in rhymes.

I'll try once more and hope you'll see

Just what your love has meant to me.

Thank you for your pain at birth

That brought me to my life on Earth.

Thanks for all the time you spent

For cuddles and your nourishment.

Thank you for the stories read

As I lay cozy in my bed.

Thanks for your enlightenment

To solve new mysteries life had sent.

Thank you for the cures and care

When sickness caught me unaware.

Thanks for tucking me in tight

And kisses on my head, "Good night."

Thanks for comfort when I cried

And tissues used for tears you dried.

Thanks for courage to go on,

To see from night, a day will dawn.

Thanks for freedom that you gave

To go outside, the world to brave.

Thank you for the friends I'd meet

That helped with friendships I'd repeat.

Thank you for your help with school

And teaching me the Golden Rule.

Thanks for praise when I prevailed

And understanding when I failed.

Thanks for parties that you gave

And birthday cards I tried to save.

Thanks for meals I loved so much

And baking skills that few could touch!

Thank you for your help to write

My stories you helped bring to light.

Thanks for helping talents surface

That made me see my life had purpose.

Thanks for tears when I left home,

So I could make it on my own.

Thanks for tears when I returned

For visits that you long had yearned.

But now...

Your life I loved has run its course,

For time will take us all by force.

Your love for me, not kept inside,

And no conditions were applied.

So, thanks for all things, small and large,

Your love saw fit to do... no charge.


“Adoption Poem” by Candy Canan

For those of us whose mother wasn’t a biological one, this Mother’s Day poem by Candy Canan shows his appreciation and gratitude for his Grandmother for stepping in and being the mother he needed and who made him “the man he is today.” Perfect sentiment and gift for those whose Grandma stepped in and raised them.

I don't know when it happened.

I don't know when she came,

But she's the one I always knew.

Grandma was her name.

She taught me how to tie my shoes.

She taught me how to talk,

And though I can't remember,

I think she taught me how to walk.

When all the other kids in school

Would talk about Mom and Dad,

I wondered where my parents were;

That made me kinda sad.

And sometimes there were days I'd cry

Or hide my head in shame.

But Grandma took it all in stride

And loved me all the same.

She'd wrap her arms around me

And kiss me on the head.

She'd tell me that she loved me

When she tucked me into bed.

Being a teen, I remember the days

When being with friends was more fun.

And I wondered what it would have been like

To actually be someone's son,

To have a regular family,

Some siblings, a mom, and a dad.

What had I done to deserve less than others?

Sometimes I felt so mad.

"It's alright, it's okay," Grandma would say.

"One day you'll understand why.

Life just isn't fair to everyone, you see.

It's always okay to cry."

And when I went off to college,

I met the love of my life.

It was Grandma who was the first I told

That I planned to make her my wife.

Soon after I'd become a father,

For that I could hardly wait.

To have a child of my very own,

And to make my Grandma a "Great."

A little girl to share her name,

For all that she'd given me.

So much I owed to Grandma.

That was plain to see.

As time passed and life grew short

I hoped my Grandma knew

That it was her love and her support

That always got me through.

If I could tell her one more thing,

"Thanks Grandma," is what I 'd say,

"For loving me and making me

The man I am today."


“Mother o’ Mine” by Rudyard Kipling

“Mother o’ Mine” by Rudyard Kipling is a poem for mothers who are a bit macabre or have children who have a love of dark, dramatic, and lyrical poetry. Through all of the horrible fates this man could have gone through — which he describes — he knows who will always be there for him and who loves him most.

If I were hanged on the highest hill,

Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

I know whose love would follow me still,

Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,

Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

I know whose tears would come down to me,

Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,

I know whose prayers would make me whole,

Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!


“Mothering Sunday” by George Hare Leonard

This Mother’s Day poem by George Hare Leonard describes what his family does for their beloved mother every Mother’s Day, and how much they love to celebrate her.

It is the day of all the year,

Of all the year the one day,

When I shall see my Mother dear

And bring her cheer,

A-Mothering on Sunday.

And now to fetch my wheaten cake,

To fetch it from the baker,

He promised me, for Mother’s sake,

The best he’s bake

For me to fetch and take her.

Well have I known, as I went by

One hollow lane, that none day

I’d fail to find - for all they’re shy -

Where violets lie,

As I went home on Sunday.

My sister Jane is waiting-maid

Along with Squire’s lady;

And year by year her part she’s played,

And home she stayed

To get the dinner ready.

For Mother’ll come to Church, you’ll see -

Of all the year it’s the day -

‘The one,’ she’ll say, ‘that’s made for me.’

And so it be:

It’s every Mother’s free day.

The boys will all come home from town,

Not one will miss that one day;

And every maid will bustle down

To show her gown,

A-Mothering Sunday.

It is the day of all the year,

Of all the year the one day;

And here come I, my Mother dear,

And bring you cheer,

A-Mothering on Sunday.


“Rock Me To Sleep” by Elizabeth Akers Allen

We’ve all been there, in those scary moments or moments of sadness, where we need to return to being a child if only for a few moments and have our mothers rock us to sleep and comfort us in our time of need. This poem for mothers by Elizabeth Akers Allen definitely hits home for those of us who just need our mamas sometimes. Show your mom on Mother’s Day that you still need her by reading her this poem

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight,

Make me a child again just for tonight!

Mother, come back from the echoless shore,

Take me again to your heart as of yore;

Kiss from my forehead the furrows of care,

Smooth the few silver threads out of my hair;

Over my slumbers your loving watch keep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Backward, flow backward, O tide of the years!

I am so weary of toil and of tears,—

Toil without recompense, tears all in vain,—

Take them, and give me my childhood again!

I have grown weary of dust and decay,—

Weary of flinging my soul-wealth away;

Weary of sowing for others to reap;—

Rock me to sleep, mother – rock me to sleep!

Tired of the hollow, the base, the untrue,

Mother, O mother, my heart calls for you!

Many a summer the grass has grown green,

Blossomed and faded, our faces between:

Yet, with strong yearning and passionate pain,

Long I tonight for your presence again.

Come from the silence so long and so deep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Over my heart, in the days that are flown,

No love like mother-love ever has shone;

No other worship abides and endures,—

Faithful, unselfish, and patient like yours:

None like a mother can charm away pain

From the sick soul and the world-weary brain.

Slumber’s soft calms o’er my heavy lids creep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Come, let your brown hair, just lighted with gold,

Fall on your shoulders again as of old;

Let it drop over my forehead tonight,

Shading my faint eyes away from the light;

For with its sunny-edged shadows once more

Haply will throng the sweet visions of yore;

Lovingly, softly, its bright billows sweep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!

Mother, dear mother, the years have been long

Since I last listened your lullaby song:

Sing, then, and unto my soul it shall seem

Womanhood’s years have been only a dream.

Clasped to your heart in a loving embrace,

With your light lashes just sweeping my face,

Never hereafter to wake or to weep;—

Rock me to sleep, mother, – rock me to sleep!


"Morning Song" by Sylvia Plath

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One of the best-known female poets of the 20th century, Plath's work often described her experiences as a wife, mother, and daughter in frank terms. In this poem, she celebrates the birth of her second child. In the last three stanzas she writes about waking in the middle of the night to listen to her newborn breathe and respond to his cries. Whether you're a brand new mom or your own babies are long grown, this classic experience of new motherhood will return to your mind immediately.

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I’m no more your mother

Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow

Effacement at the wind’s hand.

All night your moth-breath

Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:

A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral

In my Victorian nightgown.

Your mouth opens clean as a cat’s. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try

Your handful of notes; The clear vowels rise like balloons.


"Hours Days Years Unmoor Their Orbits" by Rachel Zucker

Contemporary poet Rachel Zucker is known for her funny and wise depictions of marriage, motherhood, family, and daily life. In this short poem she evokes the love and nostalgia of remembering an older child's early days. Consider it the nuanced version of "the days are long, but the years are short."

tonight I’m cleaning baby portobellos

for you, my young activist

wiping the dirty tops with a damp cloth

as carefully as I used to rinse raspberries

for you to adorn your fingertips

before eating each blood-red prize

these days you rarely look me in the eye

& your long shagged hair hides your smile

I don’t expect you to remember or

understand the many ways I’ve kept you

alive or the life my love for you

has made me live


"Mother And Daughter" by Anne Sexton

Anne Sexton, who was a friend of Plath's and also known for writing "confessional" poetry, describes the empty nest feeling of her child turning 18, filtered through the lens of a mother/daughter relationship.

Linda, you are leaving

your old body now,

It lies flat, an old butterfly,

all arm, all leg, all wing,

loose as an old dress.

I reach out toward it but

my fingers turn to cankers

and I am motherwarm and used,

just as your childhood is used.

Question you about this

and you hold up pearls.

Question you about this

and you pass by armies.

Question you about this —

you with your big clock going,

its hands wider than jackstraws —

and you'll sew up a continent.

Now that you are eighteen

I give you my booty, my spoils,

my Mother & Co. and my ailments.

Question you about this

and you'll not know the answer —

the muzzle at the oxygen,

the tubes, the pathways,

the war and the war's vomit.

Keep on, keep on, keep on,

carrying keepsakes to the boys,

carrying powders to the boys,

carrying, my Linda, blood to

the bloodletter.

Linda, you are leaving

your old body now.

You've picked my pocket clean

and you've racked up all my

poker chips and left me empty

and, as the river between us

narrows, you do calisthenics,

that womanly leggy semaphore.

Question you about this

and you will sew me a shroud

and hold up Monday's broiler

and thumb out the chicken gut.

Question you about this

and you will see my death

drooling at these gray lips

while you, my burglar, will eat

fruit and pass the time of day.


"Frequently Asked Questions: #9" by Camille T. Dungy

Here's one for mothers of only children who are tired of being asked when they will have more.

Don’t you think you should have another child?

This girl I have is hardtack and dried lime

and reminds me, every groggy morning,

what a miracle it must have been

when outfitters learned to stock ship holds

with that one long lasting fruit. How the sailors’ tongues,

landing on its bitter brilliance, must have cursed

the curse of joy, as I did that morning the burst

of water brought my sweet girl into our lives.

But, already, she hates me sometimes.

Like I have sometimes hated my mother and she

must have sometimes hated her own.

After weeks at sea, the limes would desiccate and the meal

fill with worms. They would have eaten

anyway, the sailors, but taken no pleasure from anything.

Or taken no pleasure from anything but

the fact of their sustained lives. Which is to say it is all

I can do, most days, not to swallow her up and curse her maker, I swear. Like I have not

sworn since the morning she was born.


"Mother's Day" by David Young

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Besides recognition from their children, mothers love expressions of gratitude from their partners. This simple and sweet poem conveys a spouse's appreciation for the mother of his children and all she does for the family.

I see her doing something simple, paying bills,

or leafing through a magazine or book,

and wish that I could say, and she could hear,

that now I start to understand her love

for all of us, the fullness of it.

It burns there in the past, beyond my reach,

a modest lamp.


"To My Mother" by Edgar Allan Poe

Mother-in-laws love displays of gratitude, too. In this poem, Edgar Allan Poe shows his sweet side with a moving tribute to his MIL.

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another,

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of “Mother,”

Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—

You who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where

Death installed you

In setting my Virginia's spirit free.

My mother — my own mother, who died early,

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew

By that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.


"For My Mother" by May Sarton

In a tribute to her late mother, May Sarton remembers the characteristics that made her mom unique.

Once more

I summon you

Out of the past

With poignant love,

You who nourished the poet

And the lover.

I see your gray eyes

Looking out to sea

In those Rockport summers,

Keeping a distance

Within the closeness

Which was never intrusive

Opening out

Into the world.

And what I remember

Is how we laughed

‘Til we cried

Swept into merriment

Especially when times were hard.

And what I remember

Is how you never stopped creating

And how people sent me

Dresses you had designed

With rich embroidery

In brilliant colors

Because they could not bear

To give them away

Or cast them aside.

I summon you now

Not to think of

The ceaseless battle

With pain and ill health,

The frailty and the anguish.

No, today I remember

The creator,

The lion-hearted.


"The Courage That My Mother Had" by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Comparing a physical inheritance with the trait of her mother's she most admires, Edna St. Vincent Millay celebrates brave moms everywhere.

The courage that my mother had

Went with her, and is with her still:

Rock from New England quarried;

Now granite in a granite hill.

The golden brooch my mother wore

She left behind for me to wear;

I have no thing I treasure more:

Yet, it is something I could spare.

Oh, if instead she’d left to me

The thing she took into the grave!—

That courage like a rock, which she

Has no more need of, and I have.


“A Mother’s Love” by Kathryn Ann

This poem by Kathryn Ann could be a beautiful print to give mom on behalf of the child(ren). It simply celebrates everything moms do for their families, and describes things moms do that often go unnoticed. The fact that mothers become more and more beautiful to their children with each passing day is an important thing to note, because many of us feel like many parts of ourselves take a backseat to everyone else while we long to look like we did before we became mothers. But to our family, we will always be beautiful. And we should also look at ourselves with that same love and admiration.

A mother gives her children

Stepping stones to the stars

Her love is unconditional

Her heart has no bars

A mother teaches her children

To be confident and bold

Her special love for her children

More valuable than silver or gold

A mother picks up her children

And wipes away life's tears

She scares away monsters in the night

And silences life's fears

A mother celebrates

Her children's accomplishments in life

She hurts and cries with them

When life brings times of strife

A mother shares her love freely

With her tender loving way

She grows more beautiful

To her children with each passing day

Mother, I'm grateful

for all these things that you do

And on this special Mother's Day

I want you to know how much I love you


“Sacred” By Stephanie Paige Cole

For those of us who have experienced pregnancy loss, you’re still a mother, too, even if your child isn’t in your arms. This poem reinforces the feeling of what it means to be a mother of loss.

Your life began and

ended within my womb I

am a sacred space

because of you

Sometimes a poem can express our thoughts and feelings much better than we ever could (thanks, writers). And whether you need a poem for your own mom, a Grandparent who stepped up, for your spouse, or for someone who experienced a miscarriage, there are so many different poems out there for every type of situation. And we all know mom will love getting a gift from you, no matter what it is, as long as she can give you a squeeze. One of these poems are an added bonus gift.

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