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Supermodel Christy Turlington Burns defends her campaign to boycott Mother's Day

May 10, 2012 at 8:48 AM ET

Nicolas Newbold /
No flowers, kids! The Turlington Burns family: Ed Burns, Grace, Finn and Christy Turlington Burns.

Ever since Christy Turlington Burns announced that she would not be celebrating Mother’s Day this year – and asked other moms to join her, in her “No Mother’s Day” short film – she’s been catching grief.

Turlington Burns’ Every Mother Counts organization, which raises awareness about the 360,000 women who die each year from pregnancy or childbirth-related problems, wants fellow moms to spend the holiday in silence – no phone calls, no gifts, no Facebook, no fanfare from family.

The act of solidarity shows “just how much a mother is missed when she is gone,” the No Mother's Day campaign states.

Critics – from mom bloggers to Every Mother Counts Facebook fans – want to know why Turlington Burns has to be such a, well, downer.

One commenter on the film’s YouTube page wrote:

“There must be a better way to raise awareness. Asking me to disappear on Mother’s Day punishes me and my family.”

Mommyish blogger Shawn Cohen says that while the campaign’s message is meaningful, it is “totally confusing. In fact, it makes zero sense.” In response to Turlington Burns telling a newspaper her own Mother’s Day will involve having a meal with her sister and mother, Cohen retorts:

“…she won’t answer the phone but she’ll go out for a celebratory meal?”

Courtesy of Josh Estey/Every Mother Counts /
Christy Turlington Burns holds a newborn at a clinic in Bali, Indonesia.

The negative response barely dents the passion of Turlington Burns, a mom of two who told TODAY Moms she thinks of herself in this order: “I am woman first, then a mom, than an advocate, a sister, a daughter...” (Former supermodel is wayyy down her list.)

Turlington Burns says the "No Mothers Day" film, which she created with husband Ed Burns, was yet another way to bring Every Mother Counts’ mission into public dialogue. “I don’t presume everyone is thinking about these issues like I am,” she says. Marketing the film on Mother’s Day was a no-brainer. (It already has more than 70,000 views.) And her push for maternal solidarity mirrors the call made by 19th century suffragette Julia Ward Howe, who promoted an early version of Mother's Day in the wake of the Civil War, as a pro-peace effort for mothers who were tired of seeing sons and hubands killed in war.

“I find what she did so powerful,” Turlington Burns says of Howe. “She said, ‘Moms unite. Let’s use our collective compassion for the greater good.’ ”

 “No Mother’s Day” stars a slew of celeb moms, including TODAY host Ann Curry, mom blogger Heather Armstrong of Dooce, and actresses Jennifer Connelly, Debra Messing, and Blythe Danner, and a crew of “regular” moms who share sombering statistics about women who die from preventable maternal health complications.

Going silent, Turlington Burns explains, is just one of the ways women can support the cause this Mother’s Day.  They can change their Facebook profile to raise awareness about maternal health. Or they can refuse gifts and instead ask family to donate money to causes that support vulnerable girls and women.

As for Turlington Burns, her No Mother’s Day plans are mellow. She says her husband generally runs the show and in the past she's been gifted things like extra sleep, a run, a yoga class, or the simple  luxury of not being in charge of organizing things that day.

“I feel pretty loved on a daily basis,” she says of daughter Grace, 8, and son Finn, 6. The kids have recently been writing poems as part of a school project, so she has a feeling she might get one.

And, yes, she is going to share a meal with her sister and mom. 

When Turlington Burns first envisioned the No Mother’s Day campaign, she says “by no means did I expect everyone would jump on board.”

She’s glad people are moved by the film and realizes some are taking the idea of silence literally.  “For some women, it’s easy to take a day of silence in memory of women who have died,” she says.

But she also hopes people who don't want to "disappear" on Mother's Day and get creative in the way they show their support.

“We always say the best thing people can do is to use your voice,” she says. “Be mindful of the way you do or don’t use your voice.”  

Watch "No Mother's Day" here and tell us: Will you be going silent on Mother's Day? No phone calls, no gifts, no Facebook?

Do you know a mom hero who deserves thanks? Send her a TODAY.com e-card. 

For Mother's Day gift guides, video and more, check out our special section here.

"Like" TODAY Moms on Facebook, and follow us @TodayMoms.

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