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A Salute to All First Generation Immigrant Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day today and I want to start by wishing all mothers and mother like figures a very Happy Mother’s Day! We often hear, “Every day is Mother’s Day” but do we really look at it this way every day? Do we really treat our mothers like every day is Mother’s Day? Of course, we cherish them and respect them. However, I don’t think we think too much into what exactly our mothers have done or continue to do for us on a daily basis. Today is a great day to reflect and celebrate what our mother’s went through to raise us and the things they continue to do for us every single day. In particular, I want to talk further about the struggles of first generation immigrant mothers.

Today is a great day to reflect and celebrate what our mother’s went through to raise us and the things they continue to do for us every single day.

It wasn’t until I became a mom myself that I realized what it takes to be a mother. It’s no easy job but it always makes me think of what my own mother went through to raise my brother and I. My dad migrated here when he was only 22 years old. He came to the states in hopes to build a brighter future for us and his future generations to come. He moved to New York first and worked there a few years before coming back to his home country – India – and marrying my mother. Soon after marriage, my father returned to America to resume work and my mom was granted a visa to follow him. They were first generation immigrants in a country they knew nothing about, not the language or the culture – and had very few friends and family here. It was a huge change in their lifestyle. I can only imagine how scared I would have felt at that time if I were in their place. This was in the 1980’s – technology was not as advanced as it is today. Being away from family and friends and not having a proper means to communicate with family back home – is something that I cannot even imagine going through.

After having me, my mom had her hands full. My parents own a fast food restaurant and it is hard work that requires being on your feet all day. Luckily, my parents lived with other family members, together (and own the business together). One of the most beautiful things I can remember while growing up, was basically having two sets of parents. One day my aunt would care for me and my brother and her two children and vice versa on the days my mom was off. We have great memories of our childhood and I have my two cousins who see as my own siblings. My aunt and mom worked very hard to maintain the household and support their husbands in their work – and they did it so gracefully! We, of course, were extremely mischievous kids and frequently got into so much trouble – I can’t imagine we were easy to deal with.

I remember as we were growing older – there would be more and more social activities after school that would require parent attendance. My mom barely ever made it to any of these events – a lot of times because of work and often times because she felt out of place there. As I sit back and think of how she must have felt at that time – I went to a school where I was the only representation of diversity – I can only imagine the intimidation she felt. I always understood her, though – there has always been that mother-daughter connection – I always understood her at the end of the day.

Fast forward 33 years after my mom first arrived in the states – I can proudly say that my mom has given me culture, taught me a second language, and has taught me religion so well – all alongside the regular things children learn as they grow up. These things seem easy – until you have a child of your own.

My mom worked roughly 50 hours a week on her feet in addition to her responsibilities in the house to cook, clean, tend to me and my brother, etc. Of course, my dad helped but she always carried more responsibility – this was the way of Indian culture at that time (and still is in many households). A common struggle of first generation immigrant parents is having to raise children in a completely new environment from what they are used to. Not only do they have to raise children in this new environment, but they also have to get acquainted as well themselves to this new life style and environment.

Religion was another thing that my parents were (and still are) very passionate about and they had to make it a priority to teach my brother and I the values of Islam. I remember we used to huff and puff when we were forced to sit down and recite Quran or when we were given incentives to finish all 30 days of fasting in Ramadan – but they did it and I am so thankful that they gave me these things. If I were not pushed to learn these things – I probably would have never done it on my own. I also remember how impressed many people were when they heard that we could speak fluent Gujurati and also knew religion so well when we were young – keeping in mind that we were ABCD’s (American Born Confused Desis). I salute my mom and my aunt for doing such an amazing job with us – even though these things seem so easy – I now realize that they are not. I see how much effort I have to put in every day to discipline my son, to teach him new things, to keep him happy, etc.

Honestly, I never gave much thought to how MUCH my mother did until I became a mother myself. Of course, the struggles are different today than what they were when my mom first arrived in America but I do think that she had much more on her plate than what I juggle with daily as a mom. She came here with nothing, only to make something of her life for us. My mom always made it look easy. Isn’t it amazing how mothers can do that? Of course, she had her days where she complained – she is only human, but from what I remember – I can hardly recall those instances. She tired herself out every single day and was ALWAYS so selfless – and still is. She still continues to work the same shift she worked 33 years ago and even though her body physically is very tired – she continues to work with my dad with the thought that they want to make sure my brother and I are always O.K. when their time is “up”. She has severe arthritis in her knees yet when I need help with Mikayil (my almost 2 year old son) – she is ready to help with a huge smile on her face.

My mom always made it look easy.

Every mother has her own story, with a sacrifice that is great, in order to raise her children to the best of her ability. Those sacrifices often go unnoticed by many of us. I have seen children embarrassed of their parents who come from different parts of the world because their parents have an accent or they dress differently than the parents of their friends. For those of you who feel that way, try to remember what your parents – particularly your mother – has sacrificed to give you the life you have. Instead of shying away from the parts of your culture that she is trying to preserve – stand so proudly next to her, cherish her, and hug her tightly.

I pray that I can be as amazing as my own mom to my son. She is my queen, and I pray that I am always the best daughter to her that I can be, as she has been the best mother to me. Happy Mother’s Day again, you powerful ladies – enjoy it with your lovely mamas and babies!

Every mother has her own story, with a sacrifice that is great, in order to raise her children to the best of her ability.

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