A Mother By Any Other Name, But Just As Loved

Published by: Sinéad Mangan-Mc Hale

Published on: 1 Apr, 2022

Celebrating Mother’s Day is more than celebrating biological mothers, it is the recognition of that one special person who guides and loves us through our childhood and stands beside us, quietly counselling throughout our adulthood.

While Sunday the 27th was the official date in the UK to celebrate our mothers, in reality, we should celebrate our mothers or any generous and loving person who steps into that role every day. As Oprah Winfrey quite rightly said, “Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother”. If we are lucky, we have that one special person who guides and loves us through our childhood and stands beside us, quietly counselling through our adulthood. That person can be our biological mother, stepmother, sister, aunt, father, friend; whatever their relationship, there is an unbreakable bond, even after death.

There are many challenges facing migrants and refugees as they make a new life, and one of them is often the separation from their family, particularly parents. As migrants, we often seek out ‘mother figures’ in our new country to become our family and to share the role of our biological mother. And even if celebrating Mother’s Day is not part of our culture, the narrative around this day for the last few weeks brings a deep sense of longing to be with our mothers one more time. The truth is whatever our culture, religious beliefs or status, and whatever day is designated as Mother’s Day in our country of origin, the role of the mother as the heart of the family is indisputable.

TGIUK spoke to some people who have made the UK their new home but who remain deeply connected with their mothers or hold special memories of their mother while she was alive. They also shared some traditional ways to celebrate that special person in their lives.

In Trinidad, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May. Our family would give our mother gifts of flowers and a cake and, more importantly, spend the day with her enjoying a family meal and family time. One of my most poignant memories is when I told her I was coming to the UK to start a new life. She held onto me tight and cried as I had never seen her cry before. I suddenly understood how hard it was for her as she too migrated from her home in Guyana to make a new life, and now she had to watch her daughter do the same. Over the last few weeks, watching all the adverts about Mother’s Day, I have wished to be in her arms and to hear her tell me that I am full of strength and that I will be okay. I miss her dreadfully, but I have resilience and strength because she gave me those gifts. Sherry

In Greece, we celebrate Mother’s Day on May 8th, and while there are no specific traditions, we make sure we treat our mothers extra special on that day. Ancient Greeks honoured mothers as the life-giver, centuries before Mother’s Day was celebrated in the West. Mother Earth (Gaia), the wife of Uranus, was the personification of nature that gives birth to everything, and she was worshipped as the ultimate deity. Kosta

In Italy, we celebrate our mothers on the second Sunday of May. There is so much I could say about my mother, but the main thing is to tell you that she is my family’s rock. Even though her life took a lot from her, she always stood up, teaching us never to give up. She is truly a great mom. She always put us before herself. And even though we are not together at the moment, I wish that she would put herself first as she truly deserves it. Marzia.

We did not commercialise Mother’s Day in our family, and while we spoke to her regularly, we always made sure to make that extra call on the day. I am glad that I thanked my mum when she was alive for being a great mum. However, I wish I had thanked her for bringing me up in the Church of England because I believe that understanding my tradition enables me to understand and connect with people from other faiths, which enriches my life. And while I am not a mother myself, I am very close to a migrant family, particularly their children, and am delighted and touched when I always receive a Mother’s Day message. Teresa

In Colombia, we celebrate Mother’s day in May, as do most South American countries. For us, it is on the second Sunday of the month that we gather together and celebrate. In my region, Mother’s Day celebrations are organised by our fathers (Dads, Granddads, uncles, etc.), where they cook and arrange a serenata (serenade), with the most popular being Mariachis (traditional Mexican band), and lots of presents. And we never make any of those presents household appliances, they have to be something, no matter how small, that is special and personal to our mothers. It is a full day of food, presents, music, laughter and family. Fatkma 

I don’t remember much about my mother, sadly. She died when I was just 14½, which was a very traumatic time for me. I remember her making sure that we were always clean even though we were poor – so, starched collars and neatly ironed clothes. I have carried that with me all my life. If I could, I would like to thank her, thank her for all that she taught me despite the odds being stacked against her, and tell her that I still live by her standards and morals. And, even though I did not have my mum around for long, she was so important to me that I make sure that I celebrate the women in my life; Janet, my wife and my son’s partners; Laura and Tassja. I also make sure that my boys understand the importance of women, especially mothers, and that nothing should ever be taken for granted. Johann

Our mother was the most amazing; she filled our home with love and laughter and taught us always to treat people as we would like to be treated. Everyone who met her fell in love with her and her great sense of humour. Her motto was that everything passes and no matter how bad something might be at the time that we will get through it. Every day she told us that we were loved. She taught me how to be a mother, and I miss her every day, with a touch of sadness but more with love, smiles, and great memories. She is always on my shoulder. SRG

What comes across from everyone we spoke to is that we do not need one day to recognise our mothers or whoever is that special person in our lives. Many people and cultures condemn the commercialisation of the event, and it can also be a time of great sadness for those who have lost their mother, their children or who are unable to have children. But whatever our beliefs, we recognise the unparallel importance our mothers have been in our lives, and it is right to seize any opportunity to express our gratitude for those who deserve it most.

In a time when too many families are being destroyed in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries, it is perhaps fitting to remember the words of the author E.M. Forster,

“ I am sure that if the mothers of various nations could meet, there would be no more wars”.

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