While quarantining with my lovely, immigrant mother for the past couple of months, I realized there wasn’t much I knew about the struggles of moms that immigrate to this country. It was a thought that I never had, and I never had even asked her about it. Perhaps, that’s the saddest part.
The women that are raising America’s future have often veiled their struggles in order to push the ones they loved ahead.
No one has it easy when they first immigrate to a new country, but the mothers specifically are constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. In between struggling to adjust to a new environment, raising their children in an unknown land, and finding the means to sustain themselves in America, their mental health is constantly overlooked.
America is fondly known as the “melting pot,” with an amalgamation of various nationalities in almost every corner of our country. One in seven U.S. residents is an immigrant. Immigrants will be our nation’s majority soon, and our majority deserves attention to their mental health.
According to a research report from Urban University titled “Raising the Future,” mom’s mental health may be affected due to financial reasons such as socioeconomic status, financial strain, and/or neighborhood conditions. This makes sense, as nearly 8.5 million immigrant children live in low-income households.
“Raising the Future” found that foreign-born mothers have harsher disciplinary actions and have a higher level of parental control, which may be sparked from the fear of their children participating in harmful activities that her family from home warned her about.
Something else I noticed that comes into play is vulnerability. The American Journal of Maternal Nursing explains that for immigrant women, there are many ways their confidence stumbles. Gender role dynamics play a huge role. Mexico, China, and India are amongst the topmost countries where immigrants come from, each with a very rigid sense of gender.
My mom comes from India, where the patriarchal society expects women to take care of the house and men to take care of finances. However, when she first moved to the States, she had to forego what she had been taught her whole life to try to find work and pay the bills. It’s not easy, especially when you were never trained to navigate the professional world. Your culture not compromising the quality of your parenting in addition to working full-time adds incredible pressure.
Speaking of cultural backgrounds, there is also the added pressure of making sure the child is American enough that they fit in, but don’t forget their roots. Growing up, I was constantly reminded to not become “white-washed” and lose touch with my culture. Luckily, with the way I was brought up, I was able to find pride in both of my cultures. However, I know that didn’t come with its own hurdles.
The fear of the unknown is notorious for being the greatest fear of all, but raising a child in that unknown is even more frightening. More often than not, mothers that have immigrated here have had to make extraordinary sacrifices to build a future for themselves and their family.
It’s time their struggles are acknowledged and accepted, and their needs are accommodated. They’ve gone far too long without recognition!