On Being a Host Mom: Different Perspectives…

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of a pink sofa with grey ottoman on "On Being a Host Mom: Different Perspectives..." on Not So Mommy..., a childless blog

When I started Not So Mommy…, I had two major goals.  One, make sure that no one else suffered the isolation of an infertility battle and being childless not by choice.  And two, show others (including those on the CNBC journey) that there are many different ways to grow a family, many different ways to have kids…  To fulfill my second goal, I was passionate (still am) about talking about how I am redefining momhood by being a dog mom and a host mom.  Our fur baby, Maddie, and exchange daughter, Bruna, are truly two of my most beloved bright sides.  In fact, I wrote about both of them in one of my favorite posts, “The Bright Side of Infertility,” which I published way back in October 2017 (just six short weeks after starting Not So Mommy…)

Sharing My Story…

Nervously trying to find my voice, I messaged a leader of a childless group I had recently joined.  I asked if I could please share my blog, “The Bright Side of Infertility” within the group, giving a link to the post.  When the response arrived, I was crushed.  The leader said, “No,” with the sole reason being that I mention Bruna in the post.  This person was afraid others might be “jealous” of my relationship with our exchange daughter.

Having just begun to share my story openly with the world, this response caused quite a wobble.  Not only was I not in the “real mom” club, but now, I wasn’t welcome in the childless club, either?  This was disappointing, to say the least, and made me question if telling this part of my story was the right thing to do…

The Bright Sides…

Well, as you’ve guessed, I continued to share about being a host mom, despite this person’s reservations.  And my blog, “The Bright Side of Infertility…”  Well, it is the second most popular post on Not So Mommy…, having received 21 likes on the blogsite, plus 11 comments.  I chose to make it the pinned post on Facebook, believing it makes a wonderful first impression, highlighting what Not So Mommy… is all about.  Currently, that single FB post has reached over 3,000 people, receiving over 100 likes & loves, with 18 comments and 17 shares.

In fact, the only negative feedback I have ever received from someone within the CNBC community concerning my relationship with Bruna was from that one individual.  Most people are simply curious about what it means to be a host mom.  And recently, I’ve received several messages from childless women wanting to learn more about hosting a foreign exchange student, which makes me so happy!


Desiring to give a full picture about the hosting experience, I reached out to two ladies I met when we hosted Bruna.  I asked if they’d be willing to share their views on being a host mom, and they quickly agreed.  Below are their thoughts (and mine) about what this host mom thing is all about…

On Being a Host Mom:  Three Different Perspectives…

*Possible Trigger:  One of the host moms has grown children, though the focus of our conversation is her hosting experience.

*All personal information about host moms shared with permission.  Bruna’s name shared with permission.  Other student names have been changed to protect privacy.

Introducing the Host Moms . . .

As previously stated, I met Lisa and Stephanie when we hosted Bruna back in 2015.  Lisa has two biological sons, who are now grown.  Stephanie and her husband do not have any children.  And as for me…  Well, I consider myself childless, but not childfree.  And Bruna is a BIG reason why I don’t embrace the term “childfree” to describe myself.

How many times have you hosted?


I have hosted for about 20 years.  Some were for two weeks in the summer, others were 10 months in the school year, and some were for one semester.  I feel like I have children all over the world now!


We have hosted two times.  The first time for 5 months, and the second time for 10 months.


We have hosted once—from the end of December 2014 through mid-June 2015.

Why did you decide to become a host mom?

Lisa’s Perspective…

I was an exchange student myself and my family took them in growing up, so I wanted my sons to have the same cultural experiences that I did.

Stephanie’s Perspective…

We wanted to share our home and extra time with a high school student who was interested in studying and living in the US.  We felt like we had a lot to share and this was a way to embrace a more formal mentorship.  After the first student we hosted, I was immediately ready to host again, but my husband took a little convincing to host a second time.

Brandi’s Perspective…

My husband and I attended a cooking class where we met a foreign exchange student and her host mom.  After talking with them about their experience, we looked at each other and just knew that we had finally figured out how we were meant to have a two-legged kid.  We completed the application at the end of October 2014, and Bruna arrived at the end of December 2014.

Hosting Bruna was one of the most spur-of-the-moment decisions that we have ever made.  It is also one of the BEST decisions we ever made!

Tell us a little about your host mom experience(s).

Lisa’s Perspective…

My hosting experiences have all been positive – and it’s improved my cultural competency and global understanding.

Three of them became like children to me, and I continue to have ongoing relationships with them and travel to see them all over the world.

Stephanie’s Perspective…

With our first student, *Colin, we had a great experience.  Colin was very open to all the experiences that we offered him, and he embraced living like an American.  Colin also got involved with extracurricular activities at school and was a member of the tennis team, so he really immersed himself in the experience.  At home, Colin was very helpful around the house, considerate of our feelings, open to help in any way that we asked him to, and overall was very low maintenance.  Colin would spend time with us in the evening and weekends watching movies and TV shows together.

With our second student, *Patrick, we didn’t have the same positive experience.  First of all, Patrick was more than a year younger than Colin.  (Actually, he had just had a birthday a couple weeks before coming to us.)  So, Patrick was not as mature as Colin was overall.  Patrick wasn’t interested in getting involved in school activities and had a hard time making friends.  He was also resistant to participating in new experiences with us or at school and always compared everything through the lens of life in his home country.  Patrick was not at all helpful around the house and spent a lot of time by himself, not interested in spending his free time with us.

Comparing both experiences was like night and day.  I truly believe that not every child is made for this type of program.

Brandi’s Perspective…

Our hosting experience was phenomenal!  Bruna was (as is) the sweetest kid!  She was curious, polite, and respectful.  She was willing to try anything and everything, loved spending time with us (including Maddie), and fully embraced living within the American culture.

We traveled A LOT when Bruna was here, going to North Carolina, Georgia, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Disney World, and Oklahoma.  She joined a group which met once a week to learn more about nature and even traveled to California with them.  In fact, Bruna has seen parts of the United States than not even Dane or I have visited!

All our adventures weren’t grand, however.  We did things like go to a baseball game (where Bruna caught a foul ball), watched movies, and cooked together.  She learned to play the guitar at school, a photograph she took was displayed at Artisphere, and she went to Prom.

Though I say our time together was perfect, it was also real.  We did have to discipline her a couple of times, having tough conversations.  I joke that I felt like I had become a true parent when I heard myself say, “Don’t roll your eyes at me!”

In all seriousness, Bruna healed my heart in ways I never thought possible.  She became a part of our family, and we will forever consider her our daughter.

Have you stayed in contact with your exchange kids?


As I said before, three of my foreign exchange students became like children to me, and I continue to have ongoing relationships with them.


Colin, yes.  Patrick, no.


Yes!  Bruna has come back to visit us three times (once over Christmas!)  For my 40th birthday, we visited Brasil to meet her family.  And this December, she and her immediate family are coming to see us!  Also, we plan to visit Brasil again when she graduates from college.

Would you recommend hosting a foreign exchange student?

Lisa’s Perspective…

I would highly recommend hosting an exchange student!  You make a friend for life, and you enrich your family’s life beyond measure.

Stephanie’s Perspective…

Yes, I would.  For households without children, hosting is a great way to share your life, your culture, and your family traditions with a student who is interested in learning more about what life in America is like.  I believe that hosting is a great way to make a connection with other human beings, and hopefully that connection is a lifetime one.

Brandi’s Perspective…

Absolutely!  As I’ve said, hosting Bruna is one of the BEST decisions that my hubby and I ever made.  Being her host parents allowed us to experience things we never thought possible, such as enrolling in school, waiting in the car line for drop-off and pick-up, attending our kid’s performance, shopping for a Prom dress…  We fully committed to the hosting experience, accepting Bruna as our daughter from day one.  We loved her when we were only strangers.  This love helped us form a close connection that allowed us to evolve from strangers into family.  Personally, I think everyone should host a foreign exchange student at least once.

Any advice for those considering being a host mom?

Lisa’s Perspective…

People should host whether they have young kids, teenage kids, are empty nesters, or no kids.  You can even start as a welcome family for 8 weeks to just try it and see!

Stephanie’s Perspective…

I recommend that potential families be realistic about what the experience is going to be like for both the student and the family.

Take into consideration the amount of time that you have to dedicate to spending time/experiences with your student.  Students are dependent on their host families for a lot, and families should take that into consideration.

Also, not all students adjust well, and the host families have to feel comfortable with the skills needed to support their student.  I would also recommend that anyone interested in hosting talk to the hosting organization and get an understanding of how they handle conflict resolutions between students and host families.  When you are in the middle of a struggle is not the time to understand what options are available to you.

Also, selecting the right student for the family is so important for a positive experience for both the student and the family.

Brandi’s Perspective…

I believe that finding the right hosting organization is imperative.

The organization we used never made Dane and I feel less than because we didn’t have children of our own.  In fact, our local coordinator made us feel like being childless was a benefit because we would have more time to dedicate to our foreign exchange student.  They allowed us to look through several applications until we found the student that we felt would be a good fit within our family (which meant she had to love dogs).  Other host families we met included people who had younger children, those with teen-agers, empty nesters, some without kids like Dane and me, plus an older lady who had lost her husband.  The variety of family types helped us feel comfortable and included.

If you meet with an organization that acts as if being childless is an issue or makes you feel less than in any way, you don’t have the right exchange agency.  Talk to a different one.  There are numerous organizations which connect foreign exchange students with host families.  From experience, I know there are agencies that welcome all–single or married, with kids or without kids–to be loving host families!

For more information…

  • Want to read even more about our hosting experience?  Check out all my Host Mom blog posts here
  • Watch my 46-minute webinar about our hosting experience here
  • For links to websites with more information about hosting, click here
  • If you have any questions about hosting a student, please feel free to contact me.

*Not So Mommy…™ does not endorse any particular exchange/host programs nor have I been paid to link them on my site. Please, do your own research, ask questions, check references, etc. in order to choose the program that will best fit your needs. 

Next Monday, two former exchange students will share their perspectives about the hosting experience…

As always, if anything I wrote resonated with you, please tell us about it in the comments!

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Featured Photo:  StockSnap.io

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Christina July 23, 2019 - 4:26 pm

Do you think you will host again? I loved this post! My husband and I are still defining our plan B and hosting has recently been a topic of discussion for us! This was great perspective!

Brandi Lytle July 24, 2019 - 9:03 am

Great question, Christina!

My husband and I have talked about hosting again. We even looked at a few applications soon after Bruna went back to Brasil. I was ready to jump in, but none of the kiddos felt quite like a fit to my hubby. Since then, we’ve enjoyed furthering our relationship with Bruna. At this point, I feel like our family is complete–me, Dane, Maddie, & Bruna. Perhaps in a few years, we’ll host another kiddo… Right now, we are building our businesses and focused on our current, little family. 🙂

“Defining” a Plan B is definitely a process… If you have any other questions about hosting, please reach out. It’s a topic I’m passionate about and would love to answer any questions!



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