At Hope Place, we recognize how important relationships are, for connection, growth, and overcoming traumatic experiences. For this piece, in honor of Mother’s Day, I interviewed six moms and their daughters who are part of the Hope Place community and are from a variety of cultural backgrounds.
Amy, is American-born and mom to Hannah, 24, and Maggie, 11. Iman, from Iraq, is a single mom to Mariam, 10. American mom Beth adopted her twin daughters, Ella and Elline, 11, from Haiti. Arwe, who immigrated from Yemen, is the mother of Asmaa, 19. Somali refugee Habiba, gave birth to triplets just after arriving in Chicago and her daughters are Najma and Nasteho, 13. Farida, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, gave birth to her daughter Beatrice, 11, while living as a refugee in Tanzania.
After the first couple of interviews, I found myself questioning the mothers and daughters at the same time, mostly because the daughters were translating for their moms. It was fun to see them react to one another’s answers and hear the side conversations that were spawned, particularly when the daughters sat, mouths agape at a story they’d never heard. “You never told me about that!” they would exclaim. The mother would nod knowingly, as if to say, “There are many things you don’t know about me yet.”
As one would expect, each of the moms expressed joy when they first met their daughters. Both Amy and Iman experienced difficult labors. “I was very sick and had a fever when she was first born so the doctors were worried about her, too. I had to have surgery. I was so worried about Mariam. I just needed the doctor to say that she was ok. I forgot about everything else. To say I was happy is so not enough. Mariam is my life,” explains Iman. Mariam smiles at this and snuggles into Iman’s shoulder.
Says Amy, “I was grateful to God that Maggie was alive because she almost died when she was born. I realized God’s authority over life and death and saw him breathe the breath of life into her.”
Habiba tells of her surprise when she learned she was carrying triplets. “I was pregnant when I came to Chicago in 2005. When I went to the doctor he said, ‘Habiba! You have three babies!’ I was so very happy.” She gives orders for her daughters to bring out a photo album filled with images of newborns in a hospital. She shares them proudly.
The ladies praise their own mothers for setting their example. Says Habiba, “My mom was always right, never wrong.”
Beth adds, “My mom taught me to not make a big deal out of the small stuff and that relationships are more important than anything else. You can never say that you love your daughters enough.”
“My mom just had a sense of peace about her and a lot of wisdom. I think I can be so anxious and always striving. I have to be always doing something. She used to say to me, ‘you can’t burn the candle at both ends,’” says Amy. “She’s right.”
While the mothers were conscientious about their own weaknesses, their daughters praised them highly, as well. They specifically note their moms’ wisdom and willingness to listen, their service of others, their domestic and professional work, and their endurance through difficulties.
“My mom is brave because she went through cancer,” says Elline. Adds sister Ella, “She’s really kind. She’s gone through a lot of things in life and she’s lived in two different countries.”
Najma, at her mother’s command, pours me a glass of juice, “My mom is brave because she stands up for what’s right. I just found out right now–right this minute–that she went to Kenya because there was a war going on in Somalia!”
“My mom is very supportive because when I make wrong decisions she gives me advice to make it right. She is very wise through stuff.” (Nasteho)
“I admire really just how selfless my mom is. She is always there to care for people, to listen, to serve people, first and foremost for our family, but for other people, too. She’s always there to listen no matter what time morning or night and even just to be with me and say nothing.” (Hannah)
“I want to be like my mom by loving and taking care of my future kids and being smart in school. I want to be a teacher when I grow up like my mom was before,” says Mariam. Ella and Elline both want to be teachers like their mom, and Maggie expresses a desire to follow her mom into cross-cultural work.
“I want to help people like she does. When my uncle came here from Africa, my mom got ready for everything that we needed to do to prepare. She did all the cooking and cleaning to welcome him.” (Beatrice)
“When we were in Yemen she couldn’t work, but when we came here she made her own house. She works hard for us. I want to have a big heart like hers and be a good mother for my kids.” (Asmaa)
All the moms wish only the best for their daughters’ lives. “I want Beatrice to be a lawyer or a doctor,” says Farida. (The look on Beatrice’s face doesn’t seem so sure about this.)
“I hope for her to follow Jesus,” explains Iman. “I also hope she’ll become a doctor and have a happy life.” (Mariam interrupts, “But I actually want to be a teacher like you.”)
Beth hopes, “that they serve the Lord in whatever way he asks of them and that we always remain connected and close.”
The takeaways from the interviews with these women and girls from around the world are several. First, the feelings experienced by moms when they first met their babies is universal. Whether the child’s addition occurred through an uneventful pregnancy, a long labor, or was facilitated by an adoption agency, everyone interviewed experienced the same joy. Second, while all of the moms seem to doubt their abilities in one way or another, every one of their children highly praises their work for the family. Third, all moms have a secret life story that their children may never fully know or appreciate. But it’s those stories that have contributed to the brave, wise, women their daughters adore.
Finally, all of these moms have high hopes for their kids’ success in life, however that may translate culturally.
“My number one hope would be that my daughter finds her identity in Christ and does not fall into the trap of comparing herself with others,” summarizes Amy, “I hope that she would see her unique gifts and personality as something that can be used for him.”