Don’t Worry Mom, You Did Your Best

Don’t Worry Mom, You Did You’re Best

By: Khadija Sharifi

The thankless job of motherhood comes with countless fears and doubts. I had an open dialogue discussing the trials and tribulations my mother was faced with, especially as an immigrant raising children in an unfamiliar country and culture.

Fear of Losing the Culture

Any first-generation American can tell you that it feels like you’re split between two cultures. It feels like you have two identities that you are continually trying to balance. When we were babies, my mom didn’t have worries because we were speaking Farsi in the house, listening to their music, and wearing whatever they dressed us in, but that all changed when me and my brother started going to school. The first step to her feeling like we were losing a big part of our culture was when my brother and I had to go to special English classes because we kept speaking Farsi in preschool. My mom was a little sad because she saw it as a start to us losing the language she grew up in. In her defense, our Farsi is not the strongest because of our English immersion. Going back and watching our videos of when we were babies, I see that we were speaking the language perfectly. The loss of culture only progressed from there. We no longer wanted to bring traditional food to lunch. Instead, we wanted “normal meals” like sandwiches and apple juice, not her kabob and rice. We even wanted a Christmas tree, even though we are Muslims, so we could say we celebrated Christmas like all the other kids in school. My mother would leave gum as a gift under the tree, accompanied by misspelled letters from “Santa” asking me to be nicer to my brother.

Fear of the Unknown

Naturally, as children grow older, they want to hang out with their friends from school, and me and my brother were no different. Our mom’s problem was that these were non-Afghan friends, nor were they family or people that my mom knew. It was scary to her; the fear of what their parents might allow and how it would be different from their own set of rules frustrated her. Then there was the fear of the American dating culture, boyfriends and girlfriends, a lifestyle she did not grow up in. Her anxiety worsened the older we got because she felt as though the risks were also growing. She feared us going to parties because she was haunted by the televised image of a typical “American school” party. She wanted to protect us from drugs and sex. In her mind, if we’d gone to a party, then that would have been it. Our lives would be over. She did not want us to make any mistakes, so we were sheltered—no sleepovers or parties for us.

Fear of Judgement From the “Community”

All these fears might seem like typical “mom things” to be concerned about, and, quite frankly, they are, but there’s another layer to it, which is the judgment from my mother’s peers. She’s part of a community of Afghan immigrants, which includes family, friends, and cousins. If they found out my parents were letting their kids run around and be “wild,” they would have judged her. My mom did not want us to have a “bad reputation” in the community’s eyes and have her peers make condescending comments to them about their parenting at the next function. This added a thick layer of pressure to her as a mother. You’d probably be surprised to know that it was a big deal when my mother allowed me to go to college in a different state and live in a dorm there. I was the first girl in my family to do that, and my mother got a lot of crap for it, which made her doubt her decision to let me go.

Fear of Not Doing or Being Enough

The hardest fear for my mom is the fear of not doing enough. She feared that she didn’t “fertilize” our talents as much as she should have. Both of my parents were always working, so there wasn’t much time for them to spend with my brother and me and focus on our interests or build close relationships with us. Immigrant or not, being a mother is hard. It’s a constant struggle between fearing you’re giving too much or not giving enough. No mother is perfect, and all mothers make mistakes and feel like they could have done more or could have done better. Now that I’m older, I understand why she was so strict with us and what she was so afraid of out there in the “big bad world.” I’m so blessed and happy to have these open and honest conversations with her now that I’m older. 

No mother is perfect, and immigrant parents from war-torn countries, especially, carry trauma we don’t understand due to everything they’ve gone through. I’m proud and appreciative of my mom because she did the best that she could. I may not have understood her growing up, but I am starting to now, and my love for her continues to grow with this understanding! Shout out to my Superwoman.

Click button to listen to Khadija’s open and honest conversation with her mother.