Dear Mom…

This Mother’s Day, we are honoring our immigrant moms with our favorite memories and stories, and why we should all #ValueOurMoms.

By Advancing Justice | AAJC Staff

Andrea Lau poses with her parents on graduation day.

Dear Mom,

Like many immigrant mothers, you give endlessly without ever asking for very much in return. Being a mom is an extremely thankless job. It is only now, having just graduated and living independently and supporting myself for the first time, that I have truly come to realize how much you have invested in me over the years. I don’t think I can ever repay you for how much you’ve given me as you raised me, but I hope this letter is a start.

You express your love for me not with words, but actions. And like many children of immigrants, I was never really showered with compliments — good behavior was more so expected than rewarded. But when you congratulated or praised me, it was because I truly deserved it and I had made you proud.

What you did not express in words, however, was more than apparent through your actions. I never got an “allowance” in childhood like my Caucasian peers, but if I did ask, you were always happy to give me a little extra cash to get Starbucks with my friends after jazz band practice, buy a new sweater because my old one wasn’t warm enough, or to fill my car with gas . Every time I talk to you on the phone, one of the first questions you ask me is “Are you eating enough? Do you need money for food? Do I need to send you anything?” You often told me that the reason you worked so hard was primarily to be able to provide for my sister and me, so you wanted to support us in any way possible, because to you, that is the highest form of love.

Putting a healthy and tasty homecooked dinner on the table every single day for the past 23 years after working a full day and then commuting from New York City back to New Jersey, driving a grumpy me to years of piano lessons, dropping everything to help me with any problem I might have…all without ever expecting so much as a “thank you” in return. To you, it would be enough gratification to see me accept a piano trophy for high accomplishment; walk across the stage to receive my college diploma; see me grow into a smart, caring, kind young woman.

Every single one of these qualities may not in and of themselves be exclusively inherent to immigrant mothers so much as they are the qualities of mothers in general. But the experiences you have gone through, difficult decisions you have had to make, the multiple languages you maneuver, only go to show how remarkable it is that against all odds, you can still pour your life into ensuring your daughter leads a better and easier life than yours, free to pursue higher ambitions and hopefully one day become a mother half as good as you have been for me.

I love you, Mom. Thank you.



Then & now: Mary with her mother in Canada and today enjoying halo halo.

Every immigrant mother’s story is one of courage, patience, and resilience. When my parents left the Philippines to pursue new opportunities and a new life, they were taking a huge leap of faith. My mom arrived in Canada without a thick winter coat and not knowing what the future held. She gave up her job and left the rest of her family to make it through the cold Canadian winters, another big move to the U.S., and 12 more years of staying at home to raise me.

As a child, she chaperoned my school field trips, made grilled cheese and lumpia when my friends came over, and supported my dad while he moved up in his career. As an adult, she continues to support us as the backbone to our family.

My mom unknowingly gave me the knowledge of Taglish (Tagalog and English), empathy, and an understanding of what “home” truly means. But most of all, I am grateful for my mom because she has always encouraged me to be myself. Thank you, mom, for all you’ve done and continue to do.

-Mary Tablante

Bessie pictured with her mother and grandmother.

My mother is a proud mother of five. When my twin and I were born, she had my nine year old, seven year old, and six year old sisters and brother running around. Growing up, my mother was in charge of managing the household — she cooked for a family of seven; cleaned up after five messy kids; shuttled us to orchestra practice, soccer games, and dance rehearsals; and helped us with our homework every day. My mother continued to wear all these hats after she started working outside of the household again, and my aunts, cousins, and extended family provided my parents with an expanded support network for us growing up.

I’m grateful for all the things my mother has taught me — from how to do math and study for school to how to make my favorite hot and sour soup to how to deal with grief. My mom taught me how to cook my first dish: a very simple stir-fried bokchoy. My mother would let me help with preparing dinner, and this would be my contribution. As an adult, I now consider cooking my “love language.”

My Mother’s Day message to my mother, for all the mothers, aunts, and grandmothers out there, and for everyone who has served in the role of a mother and parental figure is thank you for everything you do!

-Bessie Chan-Smitham

Megan Essaheb’s mother-in-law has been indispensable in caring for their child during hectic times at work.

My husband and I both work in immigration policy, which means that our jobs tend to get busy at the same time. I don’t know what we would do without the support that my mother-in-law provides to our family. In a pinch she and my father-in-law will drop everything and drive down from New York City to care for our son when he is sick or daycare is closed or we need to work late. My son asks to go to Mwi’s (that’s what he calls her) house almost daily.

My mother-in-law received her green card through her adult son (my brother-in-law) who received his green card through the diversity visa program. Both of these pathways to lawful permanence residency are under attack by the Trump administration.

Debates over immigration often exclude the vital needs of love, care and support that our families provide. The kind of support that Mwi provides to our family couldn’t be quantified in a points-based merit system. Without her, I certainly couldn’t do my job.

This mother’s day, I’m honoring my immigrant mother-in-law who proudly became a citizen last year. Let’s honor all immigrant mothers, grandmothers, and aunties who offer care for our families.

-Megan Essaheb

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. How has your mother or a mother figure supported you over the years? We’d love to hear about it! Share your own stories on social media using #ValueOurMoms and #HonorImmigrantMoms.