For many families around the nation, Mother's Day isn't Sunday brunches, heartwarming cards and tear-jerking tokens that say "I appreciate you, mom."
Thousands of children are living with a mother who's incarcerated, like 9-year-old Jabari Sullivan. He's one of 65,600 children under the age 18, with a mother who is incarcerated, according to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Justice who surveyed prisons between the years 1991 and mid-2007.
Other children are dealing with the loss of their mothers, and are often pained by the yearly reminder of a day dedicated to her existence. Blogger Ty Alexander is one of those children, who's turned her grief into a book to help others.
Many same-sex couples are also raising children. According to a 2011 U.S. Census report, of the 594,000 same-sex couple households in the U.S., roughly 115,000 reported having children.
Some couples, like Elaine and Cherish Ross have decided to put their own twist on the day and others, like T.J. Sullivan and Scott Strong make the day about celebrating other mothers.
Single mothers have built a reputation for holding down their households despite heartbreak and deft sacrifices. So, of course, this holiday belongs to them, too.
"Good Morning America" spoke with six families, who shatter the limiting expectations of a nuclear family and asked them how they're celebrating Mother's Day.
Here are their stories:
One autistic child, whose mother is incarcerated, still celebrates
Chimise Hill "never really wanted children" growing up, she told "GMA." But when her sister, Tiana Sullivan, was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted for felony murder and felony aggravated robbery, she found herself the sole caretaker of her then 4-year-old nephew, Jabari Sullivan.
Little did Hill, 33, know at the time that Jabari Hill would later be diagnosed as a high-functioning autistic boy, and would need constant attention. Hill looks after her nephew, whom she legally adopted, and gets him to school, occupational therapy, psychiatrists and psychologists.
"It's constant -- every week, every day," the Atlanta woman told "GMA." "I'm super grateful for him now, but at the time, I asked 'why' a lot."
With tears in her eyes, Hill continued, "Sometimes still I ask God, 'Why me?'
But Hill finds joy in watching Jabari Sullivan, who's now in third grade, but reading at a sixth grade level, "develop."
"He's super smart," she boasted. "He is very intelligent; an honor-roll kid."
Like every year, the two plan to sit down and write Jabari Sullivan's mother a handwritten card to put it in the mail for her.
The young student told "GMA" what he wrote in his card this year: "I wish you were here so we can spend time together, and she can spend time with my aunt on Mother's Day. And I just wish she was here so I can play with her."
Hill said it feels "weird" to celebrate the holiday for her own efforts. But Jabari Sullivan said he considers Hill his "parent."
"I'm happy to not be in foster care," he added.
"Jabari said something to me the other day. He said, 'Auntie, Mother's Day is coming up. I wish that my mom was out and that you and me and my mom could spend time together,'" Hill recalled. "That was the first time that he ever acknowledged that there's this woman taking care of me and who's handling the responsibility that my mom should be handing."
A single mother celebrates herself
This Mother's Day, mother of two Katharine Fox plans to start her day by running a 10K with two friends.
"Their husbands are kind of enough to take the girls for me that morning, so our girls can be at the finish line," she said, referencing her two daughters -- 3-year-old Zoe and 13-year-old step-daughter Stella.
Her step-daughter is still in her life, even after she divorced Stella's father back in 2016.
"I married two people and those weren't two mutually exclusive commitments," Fox, 32, said. "It's so gracious of Stella's mom that she spends every other week with me."
The Lutherville, Maryland, mother added that after she split with her ex-husband in 2015, it was Stella and her daughter, Zoe, who were the reasons "why I got through."
"I told myself, 'You’re going to create a bada--- life for this little girl, regardless of the circumstances, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get it together because this little person needs you and she deserves nothing less of an exceptional life," Fox said.
It's why Fox buys herself Mother's Day presents every year, like a card or even hydrangeas. "I tell the girls that they got it for me," she quipped.
Her favorite gift, however, was an early Mother's Day present to herself. It was a necklace she randomly picked up from her local Target that held an anchor.
"I wore it everyday for three years," Fox said, noting that the anchor necklace symbolized to her "strength" and reminded her of her youngest daughter.
"Life didn’t go according to plan, but you've got to get going and build something better and that’s what we’re doing," she said. "Who knew that my life mantra could come from a $19 necklace at Target?"
Two mothers choose one woman to celebrate
Stay-at-home mom Elaine Ross desperately wanted to be a mother all her life.
"Since I was a child that was like my only thing in life," she told "GMA." "I knew from the get-go I wanted to be a mom."
But massive fibroids caused Ross, 32, to need a hysterectomy that "destroyed" her, she said. "I went through depression for a while. It was definitely a struggle."
Thankfully, Ross' now-wife, Cherish, who said before that she never wanted to have children, agreed to carry their babies. Cherish Ross, a 35-year-old firefighter in Baltimore, Maryland, gave birth to 3-year-old Declan and 1-year-old twins Kallyn and Korban, using a sperm donor.
"She carried all three for me and it was hard to accept and hard to handle," Ross explained, "but the fact that she did it was amazing because ... it was never something she wanted to do."
Still, Mother's Day is Ross' holiday, and her wife celebrates herself on Father's Day. The two got the idea of splitting holidays from Ross' mother, who's also in a same-sex relationship.
"We get our own special day with the kids," she explained, "instead of us having to share."
This Mother's Day, the couple plan to have brunch and "hopefully if the weather is great" end the day at a playground, Ross said.
Two fathers find a way to celebrate the mothers in their lives
T.J. Sullivan told "GMA" that the "biggest reason" he had trouble coming out when he was a teenager was because he saw himself as a father.
At the time, Sullivan said, the school of thought was "if you’re gay, you’re never going to have kids."
"That was part of the struggle for me," he said, "but at a certain point I'm not going to fake it. For me, I’m not going to go marry a woman and have kids and ignore this part of me."
Sullivan, a 49-year-old public speaker, said he and his former partner, who lived in Colorado at the time, adopted their first child Isaiah in 2003.
"We felt a little like pioneers," he recalled. "At the time, two people of the same gender could not adopt at the same time ... my former partner had to adopt him legally and then add me on as a second parent at a later date. That's changed since then."
Three years ago, Sullivan adopted another child with his now-husband Scott Strong, 15-year-old Tim.
The Portland, Oregon, father of two admitted he did have some reservations initially about his modern family.
"You’re always concerned that you’re not providing the completely perfect experience," he said, "but then you realize that these children in foster care, they’re not looking for a perfect experience. They’re looking for a place where they can be loved and secure."
Although Sullivan admitted that Mother's Day is sort of a non-holiday for his nuclear family, they still plan to celebrate.
"We send the cards and sometimes we’ll take out the grandmother if they don’t have other plans," he said.
Another single mother cherishes the small things
For Danielle Brock, she didn't know what it was like to raise her two children in two households.
"My parents have been married for 53 years now," the Baltimore, Maryland, civil engineer told "GMA."
But when she and her ex split in 2009, she was forced to raise 8-year-old Anaya and 9-month-old Gavin, by herself.
"I don’t know what it’s like to live in two separate homes, so I'm trying to get them to be comfortable," she said. "I'm overdoing it -- taking them on these trips and buying things; just trying to normalize their experience. I'm sacrificing so they feel, 'I've got to two different houses, but it’s fine, I’m not missing out on anything.'"
Still, sacrificing has affected her social life, she said.
"I haven’t found what that balance is because I have a great village," Brock, 33, continued. "Between family and friends, I’m covered, but taking time for myself, a day or two to three hours, [doesn't happen]."
Although she's shouldering all of the responsibility, Brock said about Mother's Day, "I have Mother's Day everyday so I don’t need a special holiday."
"I take Mother’s Day to celebrate my mom," she explained. "They’re not old enough to buy me the massage and the flowers. So it will be about me when they get older. But now it’s about my mom and grandmother."
For Brock, simply appreciating the small joys that her children give her are life's greatest gifts.
"Every morning Anaya will say, 'Mommy, I love you,' or she’ll give hugs just because," Brock gushed. "Gavin now when he sees me walk into a room, he’ll light up. The affection makes it worth it."
Brock added that she just hopes her children "will make better life choices" and become "productive members of society."
"I hope that at 33, they would have better lives than I have and that they will surpass me in their life’s decisions and that they’re just great people," she continued. "I want them to say, 'Danielle, you did a great job,' and that they recognize the sacrifices I’ve made for them."
A blogger's loss inspires her to give back
Baltimore-based blogger Ty Alexander lost her mother Yolanda Brown in 2013 after she had been diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma.
Alexander, 41, has been documenting her grieving process on social media and even opened up on her blog about how she plans to get through Mother's Day.
"Through my grieving process," she wrote in 2016, "I realized that I had to re-imagine the love my mother and I had shared."
It's one of the many coping mechanisms Alexander said she continues to effort in advance of this Sunday. And although previously, the blogger said she logs off of social media on Mother's Day for fear of being triggered, she's now turning to Facebook where she's created her own community of like-minded women.
"Mother’s Day is a little different for me this year. After writing my book "Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died," I decided to really focus on my healing. And that meant more just logging off Facebook for the day," Alexander explained.
"I write my thoughts, even the bad ones, in my gratitude journal. I spend a lot of time with the people I love because I’ve realized and witnessed that no one is promised tomorrow," she continued, adding that she also created a community on Facebook called Destination Heal, targeted to women of color.
"We are all so ready to heal, but often we don’t know where to start," the mother of one explained of why she created Destination Heal. "Healing alone can be tricky, but ... I’ve found it comforting and a much-needed release from the world."