Lourdes Wu has worked at an electronics factory in Taoyuan County, Taiwan, since 2004. She and her son are active in CAIF, and her son volunteers at Mass as an altar server. Lourdes has written about her experience as a working immigrant mother in Taiwan as part of the documentary series, “The Migrant Worker’s Face.”
By Lourdes Wu
Edited by Hannes Zetzsche
“Being a mother is about strengths you did not know you had…and about fears you did not know existed,” according to Linda Wooten.
As an immigrant mother, I sometimes feel that I have even greater cause to experience these fears for my children than the others mothers who read Wooten’s quote. Does my life as an immigrant keep my child from a more perfect way, from being nurtured ideally? Not only am I raising my child as an immigrant mother, but I also work as an immigrant mother. My working schedule often prohibits me from doing what I feel are the mother’s family responsibilities—taking care of my husband and son—because I work during the evening and sleep during the day. The time I spend working to help support my family is time that I do not spend loving and caring for them as I would like.
The number-one challenge for me as an immigrant mother is in managing my time well, so that I can maximize the quality time I spend with my son. As a mother, I sometimes fear that my son doesn’t understand fully why I can’t spend all of my time with him. Does he think it means I don’t love him? I wish I could give him all of my quality time every day, but my work schedule makes that impossible. Instead, the best I can do is to dedicate my days off to him, so that we can have fun outside and do other things together that he values. Despite the way I prioritize him, my work schedule and my son’s school schedule sometimes still don’t match. I feel frustrated when his school activities take him from me on my days off from work.
My second greatest challenge as an immigrant mother is closely related to the first; I struggle to provide constant motherly care to my son but our busy schedules limit our time together. While I work, my son will spend his evenings in home care, supervised by another caretaker. It frustrates me because I want to be his caretaker, to love him as only a mother can, but we are forced to sacrifice quality time during many evenings for school and work. Given more time with my son, I think that I could better provide the guidance and teaching that would train him to be a good man because he recognizes and loves God.
A third significant challenge that I encounter as a working immigrant mother is in balancing the cultures of our family. My husband is Taiwanese, while I am Filipina, and there are inevitable conflicts between these different cultures. Navigating these differences has sometimes been a struggle for my husband and me, and now raising my son between these two cultures has become a negotiation as well. When we encounter cultural dimensions that seem different between how my husband and I were raised, I must always consider the needs of my son. What outcome in this conflict would best help him to develop and grow? Devotion to my son’s wellbeing sometimes means undermining what I was raised to believe. Adjusting to each other’s cultures as we raise our son has become an opportunity for my husband and me to grow in love.
Despite these challenges borne of time constraints, my husband and I have been able to guide our son and he is now active in church activities. God knows the heart of a mother, and I believe that I am raising my son as a working immigrant mother because of God’s plan for my family’s life. In the Gospel of St. John 6: 16-21, I find strength when I read about the fear faced by Jesus’s disciples on the boat to Capernaum. In high winds and a restless sea, they were encouraged by Jesus, who said, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” I compare the challenges I face as a mother in Taiwan to those faced by the disciples in the dangerous sea. We are fearful until we trust Jesus.
Being a working immigrant mother has been a challenging balancing act: between work, my family, my community, and my God. I fear sometimes that this balancing act will come crashing down and the consequences of my time restraints as a mother will unfairly affect my son. However, in those moments, when I could allow my fear to consume me, I remember that my balancing act is not mine at all, but God’s. It is by His will that I can raise my son as a working immigrant mother.
God wants to be our strength, to convert all of the challenges in our lives into opportunities for us to become closer to Him. Because of Him, I can embrace this opportunity.
This reflection by Lourdes Wu has been published by the Hope Workers’ Center as an entry to “The Migrant Worker’s Face” documenting project. The Hope Workers’ Center continues to seek stories like this so that we can add detail to migrants’ intricate face. There are two ways that you can help us. If you are a migrant worker and would be willing to share your story, we want to hear from you directly! You can read instructions about how to participate here. If you are not a migrant worker, then we ask you to continue supporting our project: read our stories weekly and invite others to do the same.
The Hope Workers’ Center is dedicated to supporting migrant workers in our community. Through this project, we hope to appreciate the beauty of each person’s life while fostering recognition among a wider audience of the struggles that migrants regularly encounter in their work. Thank you for your support!