Their names are perfectly ordinary: Ruth, Sandy, Eva. No pretentious British-sounding ones in the bunch.

They are delightful women with wonderful hearts. They aren't demanding. And our values mesh and match.

So why did I automatically feel panic each time I was about to meet our three daughters' "other mothers," the moms of the men they married?

Why did my worst self see them as - rivals?

Back in kindergarten, we were taught to share, a virtue that is hard to dispute. Sharing represented generosity of spirit, kindness, all the good stuff that smiling kindergarten teachers stress when one kid won't give up a few cookies or crayons.

Let me cut to the chase: I didn't love the idea of sharing my daughters with that legendary "other woman," the dangerous threat/rival/seductress of novels - in this case, Jill's, Amy's, and Nancy's mothers-in-law.

I was just not quite ready to surrender my daughters to these women - and naturally had consuming curiosity and high anxiety about who they were.

"So what is Michael's mother like?" I asked Nancy, our youngest bride. I suppose lurking in the background of that "innocent" question was my sense that Nancy, a graduate student in psychology, was ripe for the plucking. Surely in all her classes about the underpinnings of emotional life had come some - well, issues - about me.

Nancy had answered with utter nonchalance in telling me that Ruth was beautiful, accomplished, the high-powered founder of her own public relations company. She was a woman who wore classic suits - but always with some accessory that made them interesting.

I was - horrified!

Before I ever met her, I learned that Eva, daughter Amy's mother-in-law-to-be, was a Manhattan neurologist who also was an accomplished sculptor with studio space. She spoke fluent Italian and had wonderful blue eyes, Amy reported.

Oh, yes, Eva also had something I've always totally lacked: a quiet calm.

I didn't sleep for days.

Sandy, Jill's "other mother," had raised two sons with astounding science pedigrees. One is truly a rocket scientist, and the other, Jill's husband, is a university professor in a field that I, the English/humanities type, had never even heard of.

And Sandy herself was an angel, Jill explained: kind, devoted to her sons, a soft-spoken, dignified Midwesterner with gentility and perfect manners.

Oh, no!

So there we were, four totally different women. And in each instance, the notion that I would be sharing my daughters with them initially took my breath away.

Fast-forward years - decades.

Yes, it took some shifting of emotional gears to spend certain holidays - Thanksgiving, Passover, and even Mother's Day - with some of our daughters celebrating with their mothers-in-law and not with me.

It took an effort of will not to sound disappointed when that was happening.

But the best news also is the most surprising.

I love these women.

I love them for their endless kindnesses to our daughters, for rearing sons who have given us all so much joy, and for being so many things that I'm not.

From Ruth, Eva, and Sandy, our daughters get life lessons, models of accomplishment and grace, wisdom, recipes, and, yes, their husbands' histories.

As mothers in that greatest of all sororities, we've all known the pleasures of memorizing a baby's face, gulping in that first historic word, standing in the silent dark and watching a child you love beyond reason in sleep.

In that way, we are mother-sisters.

I feel blessed that, in this whole wide world, our daughters and their sons found each other.

And so did we mothers.

Sally Friedman is a freelance writer in Moorestown. Contact her at pinegander@aol.com.