A Letter to My Immigrant Mother

All mothers sacrifice for their children, however, an immigrant mother’s one is a particularly unique one. They have literally crossed the seas to provide a better life for their children. This letter is to my mother, who fled war-torn Sri Lanka almost 20 years ago.

Dear Amma,

You made a sacrifice for me almost 20 years ago and I can never repay you for it. You gave up everything;

Your family

Your language

Your career

Your culture

Your comfort

This list goes on…

You did all this so your three daughters could have all the opportunities the world had to offer. I cannot even imagine how hard your life was but I can say that I’ve watched you overcome all the obstacles that are faced by immigrant mothers everywhere. To me, you are unbreakable.

I never fully appreciated what you did for us. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have realised that success in my life was possible because of your relentless pursuit to open us up the opportunities you never had.

Even when you, a university educated woman who has more qualifications than I have fingers constantly got rejected from jobs, you still did not give up. Even when people told you that you had dirty skin or you that spoke funny, you still persevered. I would hear you wake up at 3am to walk to work so you could pay for our school fees. I watched you walk to the grocery store in the pouring rain with a toddler in the stroller and a child by your side so you could buy ingredients for a birthday cake. You hid the sheer physical exhaustion that came from these immigrant struggles and I never noticed. Amma, now I realise how much you did for me, and how little recognition myself and others afforded you.

I never fully appreciated what you did for us. If I knew then what I knew now, I would have realised that success in my life was possible because of your relentless pursuit to open us up the opportunities you never had. Amongst all that you have provided me – a university education, a loving home and a roof over my head – the most important thing you have given me was a sense of self.

I am confident, I am resilient and I am strong because of you.

I’ve watched you move mountains for your children and overcome immense hardship to build a life from nothing. Even when the emotional pain was overwhelming, when you were left socially isolated and when life was unbearable, you were never discouraged from your mission to raise three independent and powerful women.

From day one you’ve told me that I must not be like you, that I must be powerful and indestructible. But Amma, you have just described yourself.

Love from Neerja