KASAMA Vol. 25 No. 2 / April-May-June 2011 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

On Mothering Sunday: A Migrant Mother’s Story

By Percy Pamo Lawrence

Percy Pamo Lawrence Imagine the pain of a mother denying that she has children, when in fact she has two little ones and missing them terribly … and they, her. Imagine the joy in a mother’s heart upon seeing her children slowly grow up into young adults, and the agony of acceptance knowing that she only has four weeks of every four years to bond with them. Imagine a mother’s humble pride seeing her children mature into responsible adults knowing she did all she could for them to reach such a gifted stage, and yet, the nagging guilt that all this transformation occurred in her absence. Imagine the slight when her child releases the careless words “You just don’t understand!” The transformation seems to have gone in reverse. She did not want to claim power and control but it looks like these are all she could hang on to, for now… Was all that she did for her children in vain? Was her decision to leave the biggest mistake she ever made?

Life was unexplainably hard where Rosa comes from. The rich seem to be getting richer and the poor seem to be getting poorer. And she thought, if she did not do something drastic soon, she and her family might end up begging in the streets.

In 1977, 45 year old Rosa left her two daughters in the care of her husband to work as a domestic helper in the United Kingdom. Her youngest was just eleven. After a year, Rosa’s house was one of those that was burnt in a huge fire that swept through an area in her home town. She could not possibly return home when her contract finishes. When her visa expired she went into hiding. She had no choice. She made fewer and fewer friends because any one of those people could report her to immigration. If caught, she would be deported and forced to pay for her return fare. Most of her money had gone towards her children’s education. She did not have enough savings to survive her country’s harsh economic conditions. She would get into deeper and deeper debt. With the help of trusted friends and faith in God, Rosa kept on working and continued sending money home.

After a few years of hiding and denying, Rosa summoned all her trust in humanity and finally applied for and received amnesty. She was finally allowed to legally work and reside permanently in the UK. By that time she was sure that returning to her beloved country was no longer an option.

Many continue to leave, taking the same risk that she had taken many years ago.

Rosa is now 79. Eventually, some of her family members have joined her in the UK. She is now retired but has not yet decided to go home. For she sees the world exactly as it was 34 years ago.

Rosa is not alone in her bittersweet journey. And sadly, this exodus of her people that began in the 70’s continues to this very day, and the “migrant worker label” dutifully passed on from one generation to the next. This “catch–22 stuck and sticky” situation is the same for struggling families in many third world countries. The upheaval that one migration casts on one human family, multiplied into millions and extended into generations, is unfathomable. One heartbeat of one forlorn mother multiplied into millions is one powerful pulse of mixed emotions seen in the eyes of a restless child who was left behind. All the progress in the world cannot compensate for the major disruption that occurs in a child’s life in the absence of a mother. Eventually, the child of the migrant also becomes a migrant, and the story goes on… But families do cope, societies sustain and life goes on. Meanwhile, the migrant mother keeps working…

Happy Mother’s Day to all the heroic migrant working mothers of the world. Happy Mother’s Day to Rosa — my mother. Thank you, and God bless you!

Reprinted from “What’s Up” the newsletter of the Centre for Multicultural Pastoral Care, Brisbane, Qld., Vol. 14 Issue 2, June–August 2011 with the kind permission of the author.
Percy Pamo Lawrence is herself now a mother to a lovely teenage daughter. Her background is journalism and she worked in the publishing/printing industry in the Philippines for six years before migrating to Australia in 1993. Since 1995 she has provided administrative support for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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