The second Sunday of May marks Mother’s Day in the U.S. This Mother’s Day, I am dedicating this sentimental celebration to myself and every eldest immigrant daughter worldwide. Being the eldest immigrant daughter is an experience unlike any other. It is a thankless job mired with guilt, sacrifice, and martyrdom. Our labor is unappreciated and expected without reciprocity or acknowledgment. We are breadwinners, caregivers, and even surrogate parents. The eldest immigrant daughter exists at the intersection of patriarchal expectations, racist immigration laws, and economic exploitation. Eldest immigrant daughters are the invisible bonds that keep families together.
I’ve written extensively about my experience as the eldest immigrant daughter because this is a part of my identity that is rarely explored. We are an oppressed class that is often ignored in broader feminist discourse. We raise ourselves in spite of needing mothering. We turn down jobs, postpone our dreams and fulfill roles no one prepared us. We become martyrs. We ensure that our lives are undisruptive, quiet and secure. We experience the inner turmoil of navigating self-doubt, anxiety, guilt, and self-sacrifice. We grow up to become the maternal figures we’ve always craved.
Happy Mother’s Day to the eldest immigrant daughters who spend their lives rectifying mistakes they didn’t create. Happy Mother’s Day to the daughters whose lives are treated as an endless reservoir. Happy Mother’s Day to the eldest immigrant daughters whose lives feel like damage control. No one says ‘thank you,’ but I am in solidarity with you. As the eldest immigrant daughter, I’ve had to navigate martyrdom. I even believed I would be rewarded for my efforts. Patriarchy enforces the belief that we have to earn our keep through sacrifice, unpaid labor and a willingness to endure.
When I launched GabarIskuFilan, these conversations exuded shame, fear, and honor. Breaking my silence catalyzed necessary discussions that were not happening prior. I was able to reach audiences beyond my own community. Women across the African diaspora hailing from St. Lucia to Nigeria have sent me direct messages thanking me for assigning a language to a feeling they couldn’t name. I knew I had to keep writing.
I write for the eldest immigrant daughters who challenge the misogynist traditions that enable our subjugation. I am here to dismantle the martyrdom complex that puts so many of us in a double-bind. I am here to encourage the eldest immigrant daughters to answer their calling, pursue their talents, and emerge into their own identity. One that does not seep with oppressive guilt or undue burden. I am here to create a network for eldest immigrant daughters to convene and fellowship with one another. I believe sisterhood and radical love is necessary for change.
Happy Mother’s Day, beloved. Our worlds could not turn without you.
Your Fellow Eldest Immigrant Daughter