Things You'll Only Understand if You Grew Up With an Immigrant Mother

Born in Rosario, Argentina, my mother came to the United States in 1964 following her parent’s drastic decision to flee the country after Juan Peron rose to power. Throughout her life, she faced many hardships and had a lot of aspects of life to come to term within the United States. Growing up, my life has heavily been reflected off of her immigrant culture as well as culture in America. Both have shaped me into the person I am today, but many people wouldn't quite understand if they didn't also have an immigrant mother as well. These are the top life skills I've acquired thanks to my mother.

You have the astonishing ability to swear in two (or maybe more) languages

Growing up, my mother mistakenly thought that if she only swore in Spanish and Italian, that I wouldn’t pick up on it.  Being that I was a kid who soaked up information like a sponge (as children are known to do), I learned all of her foreign swears, and now my mother wonders why I curse like a sailor as an adult.  The fact that I know swears in three languages is one of those fun facts that I throw out at parties.

The concept of “Me Time” doesn’t exist

I’ve spoken to other people with immigrant parents and they concur, so I must pose the question: why can’t they seem to grasp the concept of “me time” or self-care?  Growing up, I was never allowed to take a “mental health day” from school or take an hour to decompress before starting my homework--in fact, if I ever stayed home from school, I had to clean my room (needless to say, this taught me at a very young age not to fake illness).  I also used to call weekends “work-ends” because my parents took advantage of my siblings and I being home from school to put us to work around the house (I work weekends still, but for pay now).

You felt personally attacked in the school cafeteria

Anyone who knows even the smallest amount of information about the Italian culture knows how much we value food.  Adults will easily pay a small fortune for Italian food, but my classmates never failed to look askance at the mortadella sandwiches and leftover sausage in my lunchbox.  A few even had the audacity to say “ewww” or “what’s that?”. My mom tried to play it off by claiming that they were just jealous that their parents weren’t willing to pay $7 a pound for Italian cold cuts. 

You’ve never been allowed to forget where you come from

Granted, with the rise of DNA tests people have become increasingly interested in finding out their ethnicity, but as a kid, I was routinely boggled by people who didn’t know what language their last name came from.  I was taught young that my last name was Italian and should anyone misspell or mispronounce it, I was to correct them. I could also recite, pretty much on cue, that my mother was born in Argentina and my father in Australia, both to Italian parents.  I was frequently told that I was “obsessed” with my ethnicity, but seriously, what’s wrong with being proud of where you came from?