5-7 Oct. Transnational Matters

Xavier Albarran, 9, and his mother, Erika Albarran, pray during the Litany of Saints at a Mass celebrated July 27 by Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville, Tenn, for the dedication of Sagrado Corazon Church at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville. The 3,300-seat worship space is part of the 220,000-square-foot facility that the Nashville Diocese purchased in 2014. (CNS photo/ Rick Musacchio, Tennessee Register)

This week we have discussed different aspects that matter to better understand the adjective ‘transnational.’ We focused on two readings regarding transnational motherhood, which related to previous discussions we held on fertility, devotion, abnegation, family, gender roles, and faith; faith in divine figures, in oneself, in the community around one, in the State, in the Nation, in the changing of a national setting.

Draft a comment on one of these questions: a) your understanding of transnational motherhood, and its correspondences with transnational daughterhood / sonhood; b) the importance of considering transnational fatherhood a significant element of immigration and international relations; c) the bearing of poverty, hope, and walking away from poverty in the matter of transnational parenting.

Try to post your comment / meditation by Saturday at 8PM.

15 replies on “5-7 Oct. Transnational Matters”

Upon reflection of the topics discussed last week, my understanding of transnational motherhood and its correspondence with transnational daughter and sonhood has grown from textual exploration. From the text, “The Meanings of Latina Transnational Motherhood”, I appreciated how the text looked at spatial and temporal separations as rearrangements to accommodate the vast meanings of motherhood. Additionally, I thought an interesting part of the the text was the examination of the meanings of motherhood and there shiftings in relation to the late 20th century global capitalism structures. Building on this recognition that transnational motherhood is dynamic, the second reading“The Plight of Transnational Latina Mothers: Mothering from a Distance”, the study included specifically eight experiences that drew on the dynamics of reliving social suffering from influences such as social, economic, political, among others. Indicatively, such societal influences and dynanics influence mothers considered transnational mothers as these overarching factors influence a mother to migrate. Not only “for them, migration is a survival strategy; as transnational mothers” (Hondagneu and Avila, 1), but the separation aspect of a transnational mother allows her children to obtain an idealized better support or escape as “Latinas often migrate to escape poverty, sociopolitical persecution, environmental degradation, and other difficult situations” (Sternberg). My understanding of the reasons for separation as listed were additionally emphasized by the found key themes that emerged from eight Latina transnational mothers. Not only do these eight themes of facing extreme poverty, having hope, walking away from extreme poverty, the trip to and across the border, mothering from afar. Valuing family, and changing personally communicate the magnitude of certain societal structures that cause a mother migrate and seek better opportunity, but the eight themes also suggest the interconnectivity of reasons for transnational mothers to migrate. These values additionally indicate the correspondence with transnational daughter/son hood suggest the impact on children for the mothers as having to be separated through the accounts of the mothers’ descriptions of the worries, longings to see and be with their children, and emotions such as Luptia’s as “experiencing feelings of guilt, loneliness, loss, and despair as a result of leaving their families and children behind” (Sternberg, 1).

The disproportionate access to economic opportunities in the Global South has caused many of its inhabitants to migrate into areas of the US and Europe in hopes of securing financial stability for their families. Prior to the close of the 20th century, men would often travel to the US as migrant farm workers for seasonal labor to earn enough income to support families back home. Losses in jobs within the agricultural and industrial sector has caused a decline in migrations of men laborers, but the rise in domestic labor has seen an influx of women and mother migrants into developed countries. Both readings for this week covered the viewpoints of migrant mothers who have redefined the definition for motherhood that incorporates their lived experiences as transnational mothers.

Transnational immigrants cross the borders to inhabit a new country for reasons such as economic or educational opportunities, but still hold ties to their mother countries by means of economic or social relations such as remittances. In the article “I’m Here, but I’m There: The Meaning of Transnational Motherhood”, brought to light the construction of motherhood based on spatial and temporal differences experienced by mothers from their children. One of the mothers interviewed described that good parenting should be measured not by the quantity of time spent with children, but rather the quality of time spent with them. Many transnational mothers utilized technology to maintain relationships with their children and deliver parenting skills from across the country. One mother interviewed had stated that she could tell when her child was feeling sad or emotionally different from the tone of his voice on the phone calls.

Many of the transnational mothers may have faced criticism for leaving their children behind as they came to the US for work, but the motivation for economic prosperity of their children inspired the mother’s perseverance. Transnational mothers sacrificed their low wage earnings to send back home so that their children may have better lives. I thought it was quite interesting that some of the mothers did not want their children to come to the US, because they worried about the social and economic inequalities they may face as an immigrant status. Transnational mothers wanted their children to be afforded opportunities for social mobility and monetary funds they earned from the US to send to their children abroad afforded that possibility.

During this week’s classes, we discussed the meaning of the word transnational in order to gain a better understanding of the term transnational motherhood. In short, we agreed that transnational meant withstanding boundaries. In this case, transnational motherhood is the position used to describe an immigrant Latina mother who works & lives in a foreign country while their children remain in the country of origin. Meanwhile, we also conversed about the reasons as to why mothers feel a need to leave their children with hopes of providing a better life. Some of these motives include financial security as well as escape from domestic violence.
This concept differs from transnational daughterhood/sonhood in the sense that roles are reversed. For transnational daughter/sonhood, the child becomes the primary caregiver of family back home in the country of origin. The idea of this is seen with young immigrant workers who often send money back home to relatives. All in all, this week’s discussion aided me in my appreciation of the efforts that my ancestors have made by crossing borders, whether it be from Mexico to the United States or within national boundaries. Often times, I feel as if abandonment of the native country is overlooked as a significant event in immigrants’ lives.

Reflecting on this past week, my understanding of a transnational motherhood has grown to encompass more than a physical separation of the mother and their child. Rather, it may also reflect a separation from traditional understandings of a mother. There is the sense that a mother’s physical presence defines her role in a child’s life.
However, what happens when the mother is no longer able to support her child—-when she feels that presence is not sufficient? Not sufficient to feed and sustain her child’s? Not sufficient to provide an adequate education or future? Being a transnational mother is the name to describe a mother who chooses to leave her traditional place in the home to provide for her children. Perhaps this is justified in that who else but a mother (or father perhaps) would make the sacrifices of often dangerously entering a foreign land to provide for those back home? Perhaps there is a sense that one’s presence is replaceable or compromisable—with close relatives or with phone calls. However, money and physical provision is something that it cannot be earned without sacrifice and one’s own hands.

I recognize also that with one woman’s action come unintended effects as well. Transnational daughterhood or sonhood can be interpreted as the children left behind; those who are also experiencing the temporal and spatial separation with their mothers. Although only the mother may have initiated the separation (even for the good of their children), this may also lead to unintended experiences of abandonment or estrangement. However, on the other hand, these transnational sons and daughters may also be the ones who respond to their transnational mothers by leaving their home like their mothers to reconcile the separation with their mothers through a reunion in the “other” country.

However, this also leads to the fact that the leaving of children is never easy. There is a desire for mothers to see their children have a hope for their child’s future, and being unable to provide for them in this way, they are compelled to leave. However, there is also the fear that as a mother cares for the future of their children by leaving, their children’s present is full of neglect or mistreatment in their mother’s absence. In this dilemma, there are also transnational mothers and fathers who bring their families with them on their journey. In this sense, a mother would not be considered transnational but perhaps uncompromising—-at the cost of whatever uncertainty may await them across or on the way to the border.

All in all, the meaning of mothers is one which transnational mothers themselves forge and expand through the various decisions they make according to their circumstances. However, as the meaning of mothers changes in what may feel like a stage of nepantla, being a mother is not in and of itself a “liminal stage” but one that is set beyond the borders of time or place.

During last week’s classes, we discussed transnational motherhood, its meaning, and the root of the issues that motivate these women to migrate from their home country to the US. In our class’ context, the term “transnational motherhood” is utilized to describe a Latina mother who immigrates to a foreign country with the objective of working to support their children back in their native countries. These women do this for many reasons, including escaping poverty, providing their family (especially their children) a better future, escaping domestic violence, etc.

Similarly, transnational daughterhood/sonhood refers to the child migrating to a foreign country to study and/or work and provide for their family by sending money to their home country, and overall, seeking better opportunities.

As discussed in class, both instances can be seen by the families as “betrayal” coming from the transnational mother or child, or on the other hand, they can also be seen as an opportunity to grow and develop, which would favor the family back home. All in all, thanks to this week’s discussions in class, I was able to understand the fundamental parts of what makes a transnational mother and how it links to transnational daughterhood/sonhood, and that in the end, these are individuals who are seeking financial stability and opportunities to support their families and grow in this capitalist society.

question A:

In my understandings transnational motherhood cannot exist without transnational childhood and the distinction between the two lies in the perspective being centered and the specific experiences each situation gives rise to. Transnational motherhood is a state of mothering that comes to exists usually due to either direct or indirect external conditions. Such conditions, as we’ve read this week, have been produced by the state, or rather have been produced by the negligence or conscious wrongdoing of the state, as violence in the form of poverty, gendered violence and xenophobic actions have been the main driving forces for Latina mothers to enter or be forced into the realm of transnational motherhood. The transnational childhood that arises from this departure can vary as why a mother has left her child and what conditions she has left them in—situations many times out of the hands of these mothers—can affect the viewpoints and the role that a child has/plays in these transnational relationships. For example if a mother left due to indirect violences such as poverty in her home country, the child, depending on their age, can either see their mother as someone who was willing to sacrifice everything for them or view them as someone who couldn’t be bothered to stay with them. Adding on, whether the mother was able to leave their child in the hands of someone close to them or someone equating to a stranger to the child further affects the child’s viewpoint on their mother leaving them as leaving a child with their close grandmother produces a different environment than leaving a child with a friend they (the child) don’t know well. In this situation, even though the mother was leaving semi-voluntarily for the good of her family, the child can respond in ways opposite of each other thus affecting the strength of the transnational relationship they just became a part of. On the other hand, if a mother had no say in her departure, e.g. when mothers residing in the United States are deported to their “home” countries by ICE, the child can become very critical of the country that allowed the deportation resulting in an increased awareness of their position within that society or they can become fearful if they or someone else in their family also do not possess citizenship. Depending on the age again, the child may even resent the mother as younger kids and babies aren’t able to understand or fully understand why their mother had left them or may grow up to be resentful as they question why their mothers were so careless knowing their situation. In all these scenarios, the mother involved in this transnational relationship is only wanting the best for her children and is going to great lengths to ensure they have better lives than before, even if their children don’t fully recognize that. This can also be applied to situations in which the mother stays and the child leaves, a situation my father found himself in as he came to the U.S. and his mother stayed behind. The guilt of a child having to leave their mother behind could be as consuming as the dread a mother feels regarding the uncertainty of not knowing what their child is going through in a foreign country.

Overall, this week’s discussion has just illuminated the fact that transnational motherhood and transnational childhood are situations complex in themselves and to each other. Everything I’ve elaborated on are just a few things I’ve contemplated regarding transnational motherhood and childhood as many other factors such as gender, race, ethnicity, and social affiliation can affect the quality of the mother’s or child’s life when choosing or being forced to relocate to another country, whether that country is their home or foreign to them.

Transnational motherhood is when mothers leave behind their children in search for better job opportunities to take care of their family back home. It means taking care of someone else’s kids instead of their own in order to better provide for their own kids at times. From our readings, I believe the physical absence in a child’s life is irrelevant as long as the mother is able to take care of the child financially in most cases. I find this interesting because in a way, mothers are able to stay connected to their children even if they can’t see them all the time. Transnational daughterhood/sonhood is when the child relocates to a wealthier country in search for better opportunities to provide back home to their parents and other family members. I argue that the difference between the two, motherhood and childhood, is that mothering is a much more nurturing job that mothers are unable to do while children do not need to nurture anyone so it is easier for them to work abroad.

I thoroughly enjoyed this past week’s discussion on transnational motherhood because it was a concept I was aware of but never really knew the name for it or the true meaning of it. The discussion really helped me understand the concept of transnational motherhood and even transnational daughterhood/sonhood. The definition for “transnational” included some type of temporal and spatial separation from their home country and some type of connection to their home country. For transnational motherhood, we talked about mother’s being separated from their children as they leave their home countries in search for jobs, yet still being connected to their home countries because of their children. It’s an emotional connection to their home countries but can also be an economic connection as they send money back home. In terms of transnational daughterhood, the children that are left behind must also experience separation and the connection to someone in another place.

In thinking about transnational daughterhood, I instantly thought about my mother. My grandparents and my mother’s siblings are all still in Mexico and even though my grandparents don’t necessarily need it, she send money to Mexico whenever she can. We’re very lucky because both of my grandparents have their visas, so they can come visit us every once in a while. However, my mother doesn’t get the opportunity to see my grandmother every day, she doesn’t get to hug her every day, or to eat with her every day. But, like a transnational mother, my mom tries to call every day to maintain the mother-daughter relationship, transnationally.

In the “I’m Here, but I’m there” reading, there was a statement that said that, “transnational mother hood contradicts current model of motherhood,” and I agree. Transnational mother’s must learn how to mother from a distance, and I think that their efforts to continue their mothering makes them great mothers. We mentioned for a brief moment, at the end of Monday’s class, good motherhood and bad motherhood. Leaving a child behind is not easy but these women leave hoping for a better life for their children while attempting to mother from a distance. The mother’s place themselves in situations where they might be physically and/or sexually abused for their children. And I think that, often times, children hold resentment towards their mothers for leaving them because they don’t know everything that their mothers endured. It’s a difficult situation to be in. Every mother is different, every child is different, and their relationships are all unique. I firmly believe that mothers mothering from a distance makes them great mothers, but I think some transnational daughters and sons might think otherwise.

Motherhood within Latinidad is an extremely contentious topic. The discussion for this week helped me complicate and already complicated subject, pushing my lived experience with transnationalism, motherhood and daughterhood to new spaces of understanding. I feel like motherhood for Latina’s is often scripted as a suffering or a struggle – throughout my life I have had to hear how my mother suffered to birth me, to care for me and to provide me with opportunities – and our discussion reiterated how suffering is somehow intrinsic to mothering in a Latin American context. It created a complicated construction of motherhood wherein pain is a necessary aspect of mothering, and that a lack of choices and opportunities at home force women to pick between struggles in order to provide for their own family. As a transnational daughter (I left my family in Brazil to attend college and have no close family in the US), I have experienced the many ways that families stay connected with so much distance between them. Technology has definitely aided my familial relationships in the same way articulated by the articles for the week. My love/hate relationship with WhatsApp, as an example, is a space where I am able to speak and participate in my family from abroad, as well as where my family can reiterate the importance of my role in the United States to help them and to provide my younger siblings with more access and options than I had as a child.

Moreover, it was interesting to see how transnationalism was articulated as a dual, liminal category. A theme that has come up almost every single week for this class, the liminal positionalities of Latina’s represents how Latinas are constructed in this in-between space, belonging to two spaces at once, and being influenced by existing within the margins. I know that I am informed by this same liminality, having to articulate myself whether at home or in the US as a person belonging to multiple different places. This liminality makes belonging so much harder to conceptualize. This week had a strong impact on me, as I deal with homesickness and the burden of responsibility daily. It was painful to read women’s accounts of leaving their children behind, and even more painful to consider how women make choices to leave some children behind, while bringing others with them.

Beyond this, I believe that transnational motherhood and daughterhood opens us up to new forms of care and kinship for Latinas. Women rely on their families, friends, on religious communities and (to a lesser extent) government agencies to construct a network of care for themselves and their families, a construction of family responsibility that is so different to the American family context that requires the mother to do most child nurturing and care.

The consept of transitional motherhood seems foriegn to me, however, as someone who has experience with the fatherhood side of the coin. from the time I was 5 till I was 17 my father would work outside of the state from Sunday night till Friday night. While not necessarily in a different country, the idea of a parent attempting to keep a bond with their child over thousands of miles is something I can relate to. I believe in the readings undertaking in the class, the concept of transitional motherhood highlights the unconditional love that mothers have towars their children, to sacrifice the joys of motherhood to provide a lifestyle for their children that is head and shoulders above what could be possible. I empathize with this plight, as watching the years of my father growing ever so tired from the constant travel and work, has given me a greater appretiation of how much he wanted to provide a lifestyle for me that he was not afforded.
The concept of transnationalism is interesting to me, to have a love and a hope to improve the conditions of ones family to the point of risking ones life and livilihod for the chance to provide these oppurtunities. This love is likely something that cannot be fully understood until one has children of their own, something I’m looking foward to, but am thrilled that I have none yet, (fingers crossed, knock-on-wood.).

This past week, we discussed transnational motherhood, what it encompasses, and how it impacts Latinas. Based on my understanding, the term transnational means to traverse national boundaries. It reminds me very much of the concept of borderlands and liminal space because it refers to something that happens in that “in-between” . In the case of transnational motherhood, parenting occurs, as best as it can, in the space between the mother’s current location and the location of the child(ren) she leaves behind.

Becoming and being a transnational mother is not an easy task for Latinas. For starters, these women mostly come from cultures that emphasize the importance of the immediate and extended family, so leaving a community can be very challenging in itself. Secondly, it is oftentimes something that comes out of necessity rather than choice. Many women who are transnational mothers left their home to escape extreme poverty and send money to the family they left back home. On top of this, there is this perception of the kind of mothering that comes from a Latina. Latinas are mothers who’s world revolve around their children. (Even in the United States, there is not a lot of Latina women who will hire nannies/babysitters unless they have no option because they are the ones who will be with their own children.)They stay home, or work at/from home, while raising their children. Being a transnational mother does not allow a Latina to be this invested physically with their child(ren); and given the difficulty faced to leave one’s home country and immigrate it can be years before they experience this again with their children.

This past week, we also watched a video of a toddler, Sofi, reuniting with her mother after seven weeks of being separated at the border. Immigration into the United States is something people struggle with regardless of where they are coming from. However, one of the most troubling part of being an immigrant is having to fear, for some every single day, deportation and separation once in the U.S. This can happen at the border, or at the airport, or even years after residing in the U.S. Although I do not know much of the context regarding the separation of Sofi and her mother, we know they were separated after trying to legally cross into the U.S. seeking asylum. I thought this week was a key week to begin discussing the topic of immigration and transnational motherhood because there has been so much discussion about they way immigrants are being treated and immigration reform given it is an election year but these issues are sometimes being discussed as inconsequential matters and political issues when in fact it is a matter of human rights. And while these problems may impact all immigrant communities, it is people from latinx countries and Carribean countries (specifically families from Haiti) who are most vulnerable to separation and detention during immigration.

The political and social conditions in many countries have caused economic development to vary wildly around the globe. For many people in impoverished countries, the US and Europe have become beacons of hope, an avenue to pull themselves out of poverty. While individuals may be willing to bear the weight of poverty, they are less willing to let their children share the same fate. This leads to the instances of transnational motherhood we’ve read last week: mothers migrate to other countries, often taking low wage jobs despite their skills or education attainment, to support their children abroad.

Being abroad challenges the traditional view of motherhood. A woman who is abroad cannot see her children everyday nor care for them as if they lived in the same household. In the readings, we read motherhood evolves to center around rare, intimate moments with the children and the process of sending remittances home. This manner of motherhood is not a “lesser” version of parenting. Rather, it is a direct effect of many factors outside a person’s control.

It is easy to look down on these women for “abandoning” their children, but in reality, this is not the case. These mothers leave their homelands, often at great personal sacrifice, because they believe they can give their children a better life by doing so. These mothers recognize the dire straights of their home countries and work to give their children more opportunities for social mobility by providing their families with more funds.

This week’s readings and discussion on transnational motherhood allowed me to reflect on the meanings of kinship, distance, loss, and love that emerge, specifically through the lens of Caribbean identity and geographies. I remember watching a documentary called “Nana” a few years ago that focuses on the narratives of Afro Dominicanas and their experiences with working as nannies, while also grapping with the reality of being transnational mothers and being away from their children. This documentary was so insightful because it allowed me to look at the complexities of race, geography, citizenship, and domestic labor and how it impacted the identity of being a transnational mother. What internal conflicts arise when your labor requires you to take up a maternal role, yet you are not able to provide that for your own children? What power dynamics and feelings arise in this realm/area of labor?

Our conversation also allowed me to think about how transnational motherhood/childhood can create generational trauma and silence. How is a child understanding this distance and loss of connection? What is left unsaid or lost in the separation?

These questions make me think how we approach healing this trauma, without taking away from the value/necessity of new kinship structures and meanings that have emerged from the experiences of transnational motherhood/childhood. Moving beyond just reuniting folks (if that is what they need), how do we help them heal in the aftermath and create a better quality of life where families don’t have to endure, sacrifice, or be resilient in order to survive?

Also adding a link to a clip of the documentary that I mentioned!:

This is one of my favorite topics covered in this class, it gave me a whole new perspective on something that I always knew but was never able to name. My mother is a transnational daughter; I grew up not knowing half of my family in person but only through screens. My mom didn’t get to hold her parents the way I was able to hold her for 22 years. But she came to America, not out of necessity, but simply because she was young and looking for an adventure (but of course the idea that she might be able to help her parents out with the money she makes here was an encouraging factor). This class introduced me to a flipped narrative, one where a mother leaves her daughter out of necessity. This of course does diminish the struggle of the daughters or sons that leave home, such as my mother, but instead adds to the interwoven story of mothers and daughters and sons and fathers all over the country that are separated from the people they love because of this country’s inadequate immigration system. Despite their similarities, transnational motherhood brings its own unique strain on these women’s mental health. They have the stress of having to keep up with their jobs and housing situations in the US (especially those mothers who aren’t lucky enough to have family here in the US to help them) as well as the stress of being a mother to a child thousands of miles away from them. From the discussion in the small groups about the article “The Plight of Transnational Latina Mothers: Mothering from a Distance” written by Rosa Maria Sternberg, we discussed why the author labeled the sections the way she did. She begins by labeling “extreme poverty” then two sections over was labeled “walking away from extreme poverty” and we talked about why the author would choose to label two different sections with such similar names and it ultimately came down to the emotional aspect tied to the walking away. These transnational mothers faced immense hardships in their home countries (whether it be poverty or violence). Now given the choice between a country with extreme poverty and a country advertised to be the land of the free and the wealthy, the choice seems simple, but these mothers faced more than a simple choice between money and none: they faced the choice of leaving their children or not. That is what separates the two sections, and that is what separates motherhood and daughterhood.

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