Towers of Strength
American immigrant mothers are the towers of strength for their families, research shows. It’s them who inspire and enable cultural integration and success of their children under American not-always-friendly skies.
It is not easy to be an immigrant, anywhere. It is not easy to be a mother, anywhere. With about 20 percent of all international migrants residing in the US, its immigrant population of 43.3 million is the largest in the world, and 51.4 percent of these immigrants are women.
I made it my business to tell about how they made it in America, succeeding against all odds. But first, let’s take a closer look at their environment.
Some conservatives argue that immigration leads to disintegration of American family values. Contrary to that, my interviews with over a hundred of diverse immigrant women speak loud and clear: their major common denominator is strong family values and devoted mothers’ frame of mind! It’s in sync with solid research by Francis Fukuyama of Stanford University who exposed confusion of the conservatives on the family-values issue, including narrow-minded hostility to single mothers, gay-bashing, and fears of a Latino cultural invasion.
Can we simply disregard the conservative talk, poisoning the young or inexperienced minds? No. Talking about mothers and family values brings up something powerfully personal in us—and conservative media always peppers it with anti-immigrant accents. The very word “immigrant” is never neutral in conservative discourse where immigrant mothers are “guilty” of birthing little immigrants and using kids for anchoring them in the US. The whole thing gets blown out of proportion by those making their careers as “nativists.”
Ironically, many of the same politicians who have jumped on the citizenship denial bandwagon also claim to be “pro-life” and “pro-family.” Yet they have no hesitation about splitting up families through harsh deportation or dehumanizing immigrant mothers with hateful rhetoric.
How Immigrant Mothering Works under American Skies
Immigrant mothering is basically no different from all-American one, the only distinctive feature is pushing their children to “do more” to succeed in America.
It largely depends on personalities though.
Isabel Allende, from Chile
A Chilean-American writer whose books sold over 56 million copies in 35 languages, Isabel is a passionate mother. Although immigration presented “obstacles that could have paralyzed a samurai,” she kept mothering her children closely: “Latin Americans are very tribal, with extended families/clans: you are responsible for many. …This made me happy.” In “Paula,” Isabel described her deep desolation after her daughter’s death; the proceeds from this book go to the Isabel Allende Foundation helping women in poor countries. It is a learning experience to read Isabel’s self-deprecating accounts about trying to interfere into her son’s marriages, and about building relationships with step-children.
Here’s to Latina mothering!
Lidia Bastianich, from Italy
An Italian-American celebrity chef, Lidia has been a cooking star on PBS television since 1998. Today, her business includes several Italian restaurants, a winery, a travel company, a packaged food line, and a TV-production company—all run by Lidia AND her two children.
Amazed, I asked her how she made her adult children – a financier and a lawyer – come to work with her. It appears she knew enough to give them enough independence within her food empire. “It is the greatest reward of my entire life, my top achievement: to have my daughter and son choose to come and work with me, in my business,” said Lidia. Does that show immigrant mother’s wisdom, or what?
Nadia Comaneci, from Romania
One may think that two celebrated Olympian gymnasts, Nadia and her husband Bart Conner, both involved in the sports-related activities and philanthropy, would encourage their son to go in for sports. But no! Nadia shared with me she wants him to have full freedom of choice; to have such freedom, she once risked her life crossing the Romanian border at night and asking for a refugee status. She learned her lesson in freedom the hard way – and passes it to her son!
Ivana Trump, from Czech Republic
Ivana filed for divorce after learning about her husband’s love affair. She took care of three young children in a traditionally strict European style: for example, Eric had to earn his own money to get a fancy bicycle. In her book “Raising Trump” Ivana shares a piece of her mind: it’s not easy for a single mom to raise 3 kids, even when you have everything money can buy.
Raegan Moya-Jones, from Australia
Raegan built her business on baby-care: her muslin blankets, previously produced only in Australia, took the world by storm, and one of her prominent customers is Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. Raegan loves children to distraction: when her four daughters grew up, she wanted to adopt another child, from a disadvantaged environment—and despaired when they refused her because of her age! But Raegan’s philanthropy helps children anyway.
I’d like to stand up for the immigrant mothers who deserve better than conservatives’ abuse. Let’s celebrate the diverse women who became Americans by choice not only on Mother’s Day, which comes and goes, but with paying them daily respect—because they made it in America despite the extreme odds stacked against them. They are amazing Mothers.