Michelle Burke used to spend Mother's Day sleeping in, working in the garden, and enjoying a special brunch cooked by her husband and kids.
But for the last three years, on the day designated to celebrate moms everywhere, the Collegeville mother has been at a softball tournament for her daughters. Sunday will mark her fourth sitting in a folded canvas chair on the sideline.
For softball (and soccer and baseball) moms, Mother's Day has become just another time slot dedicated to their kids' schedules, as youth leagues plan big tournaments for the weekend.
Though many may think it's blasphemous to interfere with handcrafted cards and hard-won time off, few will admit to feeling anything but love for an entire day spent watching their offspring while hanging with like-minded moms.
Even Burke - who will likely spend 12 hours Sunday watching daughters Meaghan, 15, and Rayna, 10, play softball - initially viewed the schedule conflict as a hit to Mother's Day. But when she arrives at the Xtreme Fast-Pitch Softball Mother's Day Madness Tournament at 7 a.m. Sunday in Upper Providence Township, she'll embrace it.
"It's actually a lot of fun, and you're with other mothers who are in the same boat as you," Burke said. "You're spending the day with your kids and your community, so I really enjoy it."
She also appreciates that this isn't going to last forever. "My kids are going to grow up and then I'm going to have my Mother's Day be very different again," she said.
Although Burke lives near the fields, many of the 48 U10, U12, and U14 teams - more than 750 girls - will travel from New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia to the tournament, now in its 18th year. Tournament director Michele Yeagley insists no mother during her tenure has complained or requested a change.
"They love watching their daughters play," Yeagley said.
Alan Klein, professor of anthropology at Northeastern University in Boston, notes that for these mothers, any drawbacks of missing a traditional Mother's Day dinner (or lunch or breakfast) are offset by "the social gains made by having strong ties."
"They've built long-term, close family relationships with other families, which becomes for mothers a way to expand their community," he said.
Tania Rorke, whose daughters Grace, 16, and Abbie, 14, travel for soccer games as far away as Boston and Virginia, agreed. The Chestnut Hill mother spends most of those weekends watching her kids play (and will this weekend, as well), but they also get to go out to dinner and hang out at a hotel with friends the whole family has made through the sport.
And, face it, Rorke said: "When you're a mom, it's never about you."
Besides, it makes sense for Mother's Day to mark the YMS 2017 Epic Tournament, now in its 29th year, said Michael Blundi, director for the Yardley event attended by more than 4,000 girls from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Maryland.
"Youth sports does so much to build strong, confident, healthy girls and young women," Blundi said. "What more would a mother want?"
Well, she might want a reprieve.
Kathleen Grace of Yardley, whose daughter Ella Marie, 13, will play soccer while son Eddie, 9, plays baseball on Mother's Day, loves watching her kids "do what they love to do, but I feel like our sports schedule dictates our lives, and I'd like to have a break on Mother's Day.
"In my fantasy life, I'd like to go to New Hope or the beach or maybe even take a nap, but, really, what ends up happening is that I go one way with one child and my husband goes the other way with the other child, and we'll meet back at the house for dinner" - which will likely be Chinese takeout.
The logistics can present a challenge, said Rachel Bolonski, mother of Sage, 15, Sydney, 13, and Sasha, 10, when "one kid is on one field and another is on another field 40 minutes away or more."
Still, the pace suits her.
"Some moms want to unwind and relax and have a day to themselves, but I'm not that girl," Bolonski said.
At least many of the tournaments acknowledge the moms with flowers or food. At the Newtown ROCK Girls Fast-Pitch Travel Softball League Mother's Day Challenge, eggs Benedict and grilled chicken are on the menu, sold by tournament director Joseph Garvey, who owns Joey G's Catering.
Tiffany Begg will be there, watching her 16-year-old daughter, Lauren.