Eleven years ago, Suzhen saw a newspaper ad for the position of SOS mother at the Children's Village in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province in central China. With a degree in clinical medicine and a career in healthcare, taking on a new role would be a big change for her. However, Suzhen was so inspired by the difference she could make that she couldn't resist appearing for interview.
“Now, we are like friends”
For Suzhen, life as an SOS mother is immensely rewarding, but she'll happily admit that it's not always easily, particularly during those difficult teenage years. “It's one of the most enjoyable as well as difficult tasks to be an SOS mother,” she says. “When my eldest daughter entered teens, she became rebellious, lost interest in study, wanted to hang out with friends at night and was obsessed with make-up and clothes.”
Suzhen did her best to get a grip on her daughter's behaviour, but it soon became clear she needed help. “I attended a lecture on child and adolescent psychology in Sichuan university. The lecture helped me a lot. I knew how to communicate with children in different age groups while not making them feel reluctant.”
Thanks to her new improved parenting skills, things started to get better. “Gradually, my daughter started showing changes. She began talking to me as she would do in the past; when going out with friends she started asking permission and even shared secrets with me. Now, we are like friends, not just mum and daughter.”
“Tears rolled down my cheeks, I was touched so much”It's not just teenage angst which makes things tough. The big milestones can be emotional too. “Last year, my eldest son was selected for a football training school.” Not long after, he took up a residential placement. “For the first two weeks, he called several times a day,” says Suzhen. “I thought he just hadn't adjusted to the new life. One day, the teacher called me and told me that my son cried every night and it was because he missed the family too much.” For Suzhen, this was a bittersweet moment: “At that moment, tears rolled down my cheeks, I was touched so much.”
Being a mum may be a job for SOS mothers like Suzhen, but there's no rulebook for parenthood. Just like their children, every day brings a new experience, a new challenge, and a new learning curve. Suzhen's time at the Children's Village has taught her that raising a family is about more than just fulfilling basic needs: “For a child, mother is not only someone who takes care of his food and clothes, but far more important. As a mother I take care of their emotional as well as physical needs.”
So what does Suzhen value the most about being an SOS mother? The answer will ring true with any parent: “The love I get from my children. It is they who make me feel important and help me understand motherhood is one of the happiest things to be.”
If Suzhen's story has inspired you to discover more about the amazing work of our wonderful SOS mothers, take a visit out our dedicated page to find the answers to all your questions and meet an SOS mother on video.