Deng Qiong has no time for marriage or romance, because she's busy being a "mother" of 12 orphans.
Deng, 45, is the mother of No 9 family in the SOS Children's Village in Urumqi, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. She left her south China hometown in 2001 to join the charitable organization, which provides orphans with family care.
In each SOS Children's Village of China there are 12 to 18 families. Each family usually fosters seven to eight orphans aged below 14 with a single woman recruited to act as a mother. Deng is one such woman.
This year's Mother's Day is the 17th she has spent as a "full-time mother." For the past 17 years of her stay here, Deng has created a home for 12 parentless children, watching them grow up and leave.
"Every Mother's Day I receive different gifts from my children," Deng said. So far she has got flowers, cards, a necklace, perfume and a makeup kit, not expensive but they mean a lot.
This year she received a note saying "I love you mom" from her youngest son.
Every day she gets up at 7:30 am and does not rest until 1:00 am the next day. She cooks, washes, teaches, and does all a mother needs to do at home. The workload is much bigger than for ordinary housewives as she currently has five children to attend to.
She insists on celebrating all the important festivals, like Spring Festival, with her children. Sticking to this schedule, she has little time to go back home to see her own parents.
Deng says her parents have never understood her job.
A photo of Deng with her parents hangs on a wall, surrounded by photos of Deng's children.
Her friends advised her to quit, but she loves her children so much and is so touched by their love that she is determined to stay until she retires.
Deng admits taking care of the children is not easy. Considering the different background and personality of each child, she looks for the best ways to get on with everyone. She has to deal with childhood traumas, teenage defiance as well as homework of different grades.
Some of her older children have left home for college and work. But they miss Deng a lot.
"They call me a lot and tell me everything, that they have fallen in love, that they had a fight with their boyfriends, or even that they were stung by mosquitoes," Deng said. "I hope they can become more independent and capable. I hope they can grow up happily and start their own families."
In the village 14 mothers including Deng have maintained homes for 101 children of different ethnic groups from five provinces and regions in northwest China.
They have raised 210 children since the establishment of the village, and more than 40 of them have gone to college, according to Wang Xinxiang, assistant to the village head.
"We work to give these children family care so that they can grow up with dignity and a sense of security," Wang said.
Deng's cell phone has been flooded with messages and phone calls from her grown-up children in recent days.
She sometimes imagines how she would celebrate Mother's Day if she took a different job, got married and had children of her own, but she has no regrets.
"If someday I meet someone, I might think about leaving," she said, "But right now it seems less likely because I don't have many opportunities getting to know new friends. I will carry on with this for as long as I can."
(Source: China Daily)