My Daughter Has Eight Mothers

My daughter has eight mothers. That’s a lot to remember on Mother’s Day. No, we don’t have a Big Love/Sister Wives situation. They are the mothers in the host families who sponsored her when she was an exchange student and Peace Corps volunteer. In Argentina for her junior year of high school, she had two host mothers, and in Germany after graduation, there were three host mothers. A Peace Corps tour in Ukraine gave her two more. While she maintains closer ties to some more than others, they’re remembered fondly in her heart all year, and especially on Mother’s Day. As a senior in high school, she burst into the kitchen on Mother’s Day and rushed to the phone, breathlessly announcing she had almost forgotten to call her mom in Argentina for Mother’s Day.

At first it hurt a little that she referred to them as “mom,” instead of “host mom,” as if we were all on equal footing, instead of a natural hierarchy with yours truly at the top. A part of me wondered if I’d been supplanted by someone she had only known for a few months.

Then I remembered that these women took her into their homes, sight unseen, and treated her as their own. They sheltered and fed her, kept her safe, got after her when chores weren’t done, corrected her grammar and pronounciation in their native language, and modeled how a woman takes care of her family. They’re like an international network of kindly aunts.

I, too, am grateful for their generous hearts. And so to Marilu, Maria, Helga, Iris, Sabine, Tanya, and Maya, I wish you each a Happy Mother’s Day in your mother tongue of Spanish, German, or Ukrainian, and thank you for looking after our daughter.

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