Raising Canadian kids as an Immigrant mom in Science
Adriana Verduzco, Andrea Cortez, Clotilde Lafrance, Emily Ayoub, Shanda Polonio, Olga Peña & Edna Matta-Camacho
Immigrant & International Women in Science (IWS-Network)
In the 1970, under the direction of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Canada officially implemented a policy to promote multiculturalism, and ever since then it has been a key part of the Canadian identity. Canada is a progressive country with several policies in favor of diversity & inclusion. Importantly Canada’s maternity and parental leave policies are also progressive.
Canadian workers are permitted to take up to 18 months of parental leave, with the mother and father able to share the leave however they choose. While there is still room for improvement regarding support for mothers, especially working mothers, parental leave policies and celebration of multiculturalism are some of the many things that make Canada a great place for immigrants to settle in and build a life.
As an immigrant in Canada I live my cultural heritage in harmony while also learning and embracing Canadian traditions to form part of my growing family. My name is Edna Matta, I am from Colombia 🇨🇴! I have lived in Canada for thirteen years. I learnt English and French here, I became a mother here and Canada is our home. I want my kids to know everything about their parental roots, Colombian & Mexican, to interact as much as possible with their extended family back in our countries of birth and to keep the value of our family and traditions as they grow. With my trilingual (English, French & Spanish) Canadian children, I have enjoyed all our adventures while embracing Canadian culture, to seed in them the sense of belonging. Thus, they will feel and grow up as Canadian and understand their peers in class and life. We enjoy the beautiful fall colors; we go skiing, ice skating, to the Winter festivals, sugar shack, Saint Patrick’ day celebrations and more every winter. We go together to the stadium and support our local Hockey team…Go Sens Go!!!
Spring and Summer are a dream every year, gardening, cannoning, biking, camping, Jazz fest, summer camps!! We love summer camps making new friends, extraordinary learning and fun. More importantly we live and are immersed in a very multicultural community where we value leadership, inclusion and of course as a Woman in Science, I impart in them the values and importance of science curiosity and gender equity in their lives.
Today to celebrate Mother’s Day, we, Immigrant Women in Science and mothers, want share our great experiences and believes on what raising Canadian kids as immigrant means to us.
– Adriana from Mexico 🇲🇽 to Mississauga:
“It is very important for me that my daughter learn my native language to communicate to my family, back in my home country. It is important for us to keep some Mexican traditions while merging them with the Canadian traditions. For instance, Halloween in Canada and Día de Muertos in Mexico. This topic is very important for me due to the definition of death for us Mexicans. In Mexico death is a path to transcend beyond life in a good way and not a bad thing to happen”.
– Andrea from Colombia 🇨🇴 to Montreal:
“For me, it is very important that my son keeps the Colombian spirit. I want him to love our folkloric music, our roots but at the same time to embrace the beauty, harmony and diversity of the Jazz festival in Montreal, the live and soul of the African music that we find in Canada. I want my son to learn the value of the fine-arts. That it is a profession of dedication, passion and fun as we observed every day in Canada”.
– Clotilde from France 🇫🇷 to Ottawa:
“I am trying to raise my kids following my most precious values including culture and ethnic diversity, respect and tolerance. In that regards, Canada appears to me as a great place to live. So here I am rearing 3 boys away from their native land, La France. As a parent my work is to support my children and to contribute to their successful adaptation. I choose to raise my kids balancing between their cultural legacy and the culture of their new country. Consequently, my kids feel both French and Canadian. Their roots still remain in France, but I know that I am raising third culture kids who maybe one day will anchor someplace else”.
– Emily from Lebanon 🇱🇧 to Montreal:
“Having grown up in a large family, the special lifelong bonds I had built with my siblings and cousins are something I wish my son would have. Writing my Ph.D. thesis has been the most challenging part for me as a mother of a two-year-old (at the time), an immigrant whose parents lived on the other side of the globe, and an ambitious scientist. My mother had to stay with us for three months so that my husband (who was also writing his thesis) and I would have the much-needed support.”
– Olga from Colombia 🇨🇴 to Ottawa:
“I became a mom while I was doing my PhD. I was terrified at first but when I saw my son on our first ultrasound appointment, I had no doubts he was now my inspiration and motivation to move forward in my career. However, when you and your partner are immigrants, with no family close by, not in the same city nor the same country, it becomes a REAL challenge. Not only you lack the physical support you need in moments of sickness or days with heavy loads of work, but you also miss really especial moments you would like to cherish with your family like birthdays, soccer matches or school plays. Thankfully, we are in a technological era that allows us to stay virtually close to our big families despite the circumstances. Having said that, being an immigrant mom and a scientist is just wonderful. I have had the most precious moments raising my child as a Canadian with Colombian and Palestinian roots and learning with him the real meaning of multicultural understanding. I also enjoy living through my son’s curious mind and since early years our bond has been science. He is now 7 and we like catching death bugs to analyze them in the microscope, we often do home chemistry experiments or learn how to code, or we simply watch together science documentaries. It is our connection; it is in our genes and we love it!”.
– Shanda from Nicaragua 🇳🇮 to Charlottetown:
“It is very difficult trying to be a scientist and a mother especially being an immigrant. The most challenging part is not having family support. From the very beginning, my son was 9 weeks early and only 3 lbs 12 oz in weight. It was and has always been me and my husband. It is challenging knowing you don’t have a backup in case your child gets sick. And it gets to you… Trying to be a professional and a mother, you feel torn. Should I stay home and watch my kid or should I continue my professional development?…knowing he can get sick at any moment, taking time off from work and taking turns with my husband to take care of him is also very stressful. Another major setback in Canada, not only on PEI is the uncertainty of having a daycare or afterschool care as the demand for such places is not met. It took me 4 years on a waiting list to get into the college’s daycare, where I work, after having awful experiences at daycare that forced me to take my child out of the centers. Knowing your child is Canadian but trying really hard to ensure he learns our language, get a glimpse of our culture or even a bit of our religion or beliefs is not easy. It is challenging and stressful, but it also makes us stronger, closer to each other. We want the best for our children, and we can only achieve this by growing professionally and giving everything for us and for them”.
Merging our native countries’ roots with Canadian culture keeps the Canadian authenticity and unique culture that embraces equity, diversity and inclusion from the heart and with a sense of belonging.
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Happy Mother’s Day to all moms in the world!