La maternidad y aprender: Noticing Motherhood in the Absence of Mothers

The absence of my mother (and the distance between us) has caused me to notice motherhood in many places in my study abroad experience.

Throughout my life, I have been close with my mother, and I have always considered her to be one of my closest friends. I attribute this strong relationship in part to the fact that I am an only child, who was adopted into a very small family. Growing up, both of my parents worked many hours to support our family, but even when they came home from work, exhausted, they always set aside time to spend with me. Thus, family has always been an important part of my identity and life, in general.

Before going to Chile, I had never been away from my parents for longer than two weeks, let alone in a different country. Even during the academic semester at Notre Dame, I visit home at least once every other week (which, to be fair, is only 20 minutes away from campus). I was beyond excited for my trip, but I knew that me being away from home for so long would be difficult for my mother.

The first few days in Santiago were incredible—I was having the time of my life. I was getting to know the other students better, and I enjoyed exploring the city with them. I think that the excitement of being abroad distracted me from my homesickness. It wasn’t until the first night of staying with my host family that I finally realized that I was more than 5,000 miles away from home. My host family was so kind, and did everything they could to make me feel at home, but it still felt odd for me to be staying in a house that wasn’t mine. I felt even more homesick when I would see my host mother and her son together.

In the absence of my mother, I began to notice the presence of motherhood everywhere, including in my schoolwork. The Spanish course I was enrolled in was centered around a woman named Gabriela Mistral. Perhaps the greatest desire of Gabriela Mistral—Chilean poet and educator—was to be a mother. She raised her adoptive son, Yin-Yin (Juan Miguel Pablo Godoy Mendoza), until he took his own life during his teenage years. In 1950, she published a collection of poems known as “Poemas de las madres”, which reflected various themes regarding maternity and motherhood, including the emotions and attitudes (both positive and negative) felt by expectant and current mothers. Mistral published these poems to not only express her complex connection with motherhood, but also to create pieces that would be relatable and perhaps comforting to new or expectant mothers. Above all, Mistral desired to showcase the beauty of motherhood, and the beauty of the relationship developed between a mother and her children.

Mistral and Yin-Yin

Mothers are very special people. Without a doubt, my mother misses me, and I miss her. However, she is proud of me for choosing to study abroad. She is proud of my accomplishments. She is always there for me, even in my darkest times. She comforts me after my failures, and encourages me to stand back up and keep moving forward. I am grateful to have her in my life, not only as a mother, but as a friend. I can’t wait to tell her about my experiences abroad.

Un abrazo,