ARZU KAYA URANLI

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ARZU KAYA URANLI
May 13, 2012, Sunday

American mothers

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” said the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.

There are a lot of similar quotes to assure us how important a mother’s role is in her child’s life as the first educator who loves her child unconditionally more than anything else.

Being a mother is a life-long commitment in which the mother has to sacrifice her personhood but is enriched spiritually at the same time. As a mother you have a challenging full-time job with no vacation or retirement. Even the idea of having a child changes the potential mother’s life. When you decide to be a mother you always have to think twice, once for yourself and once for your child. Actually, it wasn’t hard for me to understand the meaning of the hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that says, “Paradise lies under the feet of your mother,” from the very first days of my first pregnancy when I started thinking of my baby.

Two months ago, I went to a fundraising event in New York with the first lady Michelle Obama. When it was time for her to give her speech, she started by describing herself first and foremost as a mother of two, even though she is a president’s wife and a very successful lawyer. Her strong speech was mostly about the importance of the family and the role of the woman in it. Basically, she was claiming that a mother’s role is crucial in a family. In order to have a strong society, we should have a strong family structure, and to maintain that, the government should support women in every aspect of life.

Then a month ago, when Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen mocked Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presumptive presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has raised five sons, on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 for having “never worked a day in her life,” a bipartisan firestorm broke out in the US.

Even though some feminists supported Rosen’s idea, her comments were mainly criticized. Even President Barack Obama became involved in the argument, saying there was “no tougher job than being a mom.” Michelle Obama tweeted, “Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected.” Eventually, Rosen ended up issuing an apology.

Because I became a mother in the US and had the aim of helping my children not feel like immigrants in the US and tourists in Turkey, I find myself alternating between the values of both cultures when raising my children. Sometimes my Turkish friends label me as “an Americanized mother” and sometimes my American friends say I am so Turkish! I don’t mind those jokes as long as I can keep my children peaceful, happy and healthy. I believe both sides have pros and cons, and why shouldn’t I take advantage of both sets of values for the sake of my children?

Yes, being a working mother is exhausting. You have to juggle everything to keep your career and your happy family life in balance. There is always guilt inside you, either while you are at work thinking of your children or when you are with your children worrying about many uncompleted work tasks. Thus, some women give up on their career like Mrs. Romney. However, I love American mothers because many of them fight religiously to earn their right not to give up the joy of motherhood and their career at the same time. There are plenty of active nonprofit women’s organizations for individuals who recognize the significant role of motherhood in the US.

I should also say that I love some of the mothering skills of some American mothers, too. I hope Turkish mothers won’t be mad at me but we Turkish mothers smother our children when we try to mother them. If you go to any kid’s party, you can easily spot the Turkish mothers who are chasing their children, trying to feed them with a spoon or give them a piece of food! Yet American mothers don’t treat their children as princes and princesses. They treat them as individuals. They don’t baby their children but start talking to them as if they are grown up even in the very first days of their lives.

Children take on responsibilities much earlier. They learn to say four magical words -- “thank you,” “please” and “sorry” -- and they are able to use those words naturally from a very early age. In pre-k, a regular American kid would know that carrying their own backpack is their responsibility, not their mother’s. Children start to make their beds, they learn to pick up and clean their plates after meals and they help their parents with the house chores. Basically, they learn to take care of themselves and to become self-sufficient and independent while they are very young. Thus, they start their adulthood more prepared and better equipped.

Some of you might think it’s annoying to classify mothers as Turkish and American. We can also describe them as Eastern and Western mothers and yes, I am talking about stereotypes and there are always some exceptions on both sides.

I wish you all a happy Mother’s Day!

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