momA Stand-in Mom for Other Mothers

Before I married, I used to think I wanted to marry a man with the last name of Baker and have 13 children. Instead, I married a man named Ojeda and we decided early on that as teachers, we could only afford two children.

These days my refrigerator holds certificates and graduation announcements from my kids from other mothers. After teaching for close to 30 years, I have a lot of children.

Sure, Pedro and I had two daughters of our own, and now we have a son-in-love and a grandson. A year or so from now, we’ll acquire another son-in-love and our nest will have none of our own fledglings.

But as long as I teach I’ll have fledglings who need a mom. Sometimes, they need me to pray with them. Other times, I cut their hair, fix rips in their jeans and caps, or teach them how to cook. When they come over to eat for faculty families, I ask about their days and gently remind them not to eat dessert until the host or hostess sits down.

At a recent meal, one of ‘my boys’ saw me take a bite of a taco and exclaimed, “Mom, I thought you were vegetarian!”

My other boys laughed and said, “That’s vegetarian taco meat.” We never suffer from dull moments around our table. Sometimes I wonder where my kids learn more—my classroom or my dining room.

My Kids’ LegacyI'm a stand-in mom for other mothers--you could even call it an 'unplanned pregnancy.'

Facebook has reunited me with kids I had back when I first started teaching—making me feel a bit ancient as I see their children graduate from high school and start college. Sometimes, a former student will contact me (usually through Facebook) and thank me for something I taught him or her.

I realize that I am NOT the real mom—I serve as a surrogate and mentor for kids away from home. The lessons I’ve learned from my own children stand me in good stead when dealing with other people’s kids.
• Do overs make life easier.
• Learn when to parent and when to mentor.
• Praise the product; encourage the child.
• Pray without ceasing.
• Trust that they will choose to do right.
• Expect great things.
• My phone is always on and my door is always open.

The joy of teaching lies in the long-term relationships I’ve developed over the years. I have learned so much from my kids:
• Compassion for the misfits.
• Corny jokes can brighten someone’s day.
• Courage isn’t easy, but it’s always worth it.
• Determination to succeed against the odds.
• We all just want people to accept us for who we are.
• We pretty much act like people expect us to.

Not My Plan, but His

I had no intention of teaching middle school and high school back when I started college. Or when I finished. When I won a scholarship to get my bilingual-bicultural teaching credential, I accepted it because I had no other opportunities.

#Teachers are like #moms for other #mothers. #mothersday Click To Tweet

Of course, God knew what I needed to do to grow into the person he knew I could become. So while we could never afford to have more than two children of our own, God has blessed us with hundreds of children over the years. Which goes to prove that when we allow God to work in our lives, he might send us in unexpected directions—with undreamed of results. I wouldn’t have it any other way.


  1. I relate to this in many ways Anita, feeling privileged to be mom #2 as one man calls me, a surrogate mom to many. What a place of honor God has led you to.

  2. Thanks for this Anita! My #fmf response is very similar today! I’m a teacher also, and my second group of 1st and 2nd grade students are graduating from high school this year. I feel like a proud mama to those kids! Thanks for voicing this perspective. #fmf #6

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart for you children and the ones you cared for as a stand-in over the years. The reminder to teach the truly important things is really encouraging to me as a mom of three children all under the age of 8. I hope that you have a lovely weekend!

  4. Love this! My office door, my fridge etc are covered with pictures and drawings from my friends kids and from church kids. I love when they want to share with me. They are so special. I identify so much with this post friend. I’m in the #7 spot this week.

  5. Great post, Anita, and I am sure it resonates with teachers everywhere. It does with me. I had to be a stand-in Dad to kids whose college experience didn’t match the anticipation…as well as a many-robed cleric, everything from a pastor to an imam.

    It’s the one thing about teaching I miss the most.

  6. Teachers are so very important, thank you for being such a great example to the kids who come your way. May the teachers my kids encounter have such a loving heart.

  7. A wonderful teacher is a gift and it sounds like you’ve blessed many a life through the years. My daughter is a teacher, and I was a speech pathologist and taught kindergarten for a few years too, so I relate to having ‘many children’. God does know what we need to grow, and I’m glad you followed the path He set before you. Happy Mother’s Day! I’m your FMF next door neighbor today : )

  8. i love your post anita:) i’m glad you have enjoyed your students so much. one thing i love about being older is seeing how those times in life when we did things b/c we didn’t have a better plan, were all part of a great plan for our lives that we have loved:) it’s the great thing about being on the “down” side of 40.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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