Being Raised by an Immigrant Mother//Meine Kindheit als Tochter einer Immigrantin

It didn’t take me long to learn growing up that my mother saw the world differently. She didn’t like me calling her “mom” and preferred “mama,” she didn’t sound like other moms and she couldn’t help me with my English homework. She folded our sheets differently than other kid’s moms did, and we didn’t eat out a lot. I always came home for dinner and it was always homemade and delicious.

I helped her write emails in English when I was growing up, not the other way around, and we spend every Sunday afternoon together at the dining room table with coffee and a cake made entirely from scratch. School always, always, came first and she wanted to do anything in her power to help me get the best opportunities and succeed.

My mother is an immigrant from southern Germany. She spent her whole life there and moved to America only a few months before I was born. We learned together, grew together and continue to take on the world standing by each other’s side. There is no one like her, and I wouldn’t change a minute of my experience growing up with immigrant parents.

From the moment I began to think from myself, she taught me to be proud of who I am. There was never a moment when I was growing up where I would shy away from my culture. I would always introduce myself as German and tell everyone that it was my first language; even now, it’s always thrown into my fun-facts when I have to do an ice-breaker. I always made sure everyone growing up knew that I was German, my parents were German and I spoke German. Even today, it’s become such a big part of my culture that it became a solidified part of my personality, and she was the person that let me embrace that part of our lives.

My mother taught me love and an appreciation for life and the little things that I don’t think could compare to anything else. She taught me confidence unmatched and has always been on my side. I don’t know if that means she’s just the best mother I could ask for, but it’s definitely true – everyone loves their mom, but I’ve always been confident that she’s just different.

*Photo courtesy of the author

As an immigrant, she is the bridge that connects me to my culture. She has never once declined the opportunity to lead me across that bridge and learn more about who we are as a family and who I am. I know that I owe almost all of who I am today to her and that my life would not be the same if she was a “regular mom” – and I wouldn’t change it. I’m thankful for her perspective and I know that she affects every single person around her in the same way. I’ve never met someone who didn’t like her, and I know she touches the lives of everyone she meets.

It isn’t always the same. Sometimes even as a team, we feel like we’re on the outside of things. But because we have each other, there’s never a dull moment and I know that we can always count on each other.

My parents moved to a country of immigrants. My mother taught me how to work hard in the way stereotypical immigrants do, and she taught me to embrace both parts of my culture and hold onto my roots. She is different, her culture is different, she thinks differently than my friends and teachers and other adults I’ve met in my life. But this is exactly what makes her so amazing; this has allowed us to gain multiple perspectives and continue to grow from one another and those around us.

This Mother’s Day, remember what makes her special and recognize the dramatic impact this has had on your life. Differences are what make us stronger and what allow us to grow perspectives and be kind and empathetic to others. If I could someday be half the woman my mother is, I would be satisfied.