But not just any immigrant mother.
There are some immigrant mothers who are ambassadors, or the wives of ambassadors, or other kinds of diplomats. And they just show up in some new country and everything is organised for them. They have a status pending, ready for them to fill it up, give the status a face. They don’t have to fight, pretend or apologise and explain. All kinds of schools and activities for their children have already been chosen, booked, paid in advance; same with the places to live, freshly painted and all. There’s a village, however small, awaiting the new arrivals; and there’s help.
So these immigrant mothers, who were sent to another country by an influential and paying institution, are not the real immy-mummies.
The real immy-mummies have to go through a period of crippling loneliness and insecurity, where they must pretend in front of their children that, yes, this totally new and vast place is where they all could belong, one day, ‘Soon, hey, presto!’, the immy-mummy says, and tries to laugh, but her dry lips remain glued to her teeth. She has to persuade her children that the making of a new life is a beautiful adventure.
Maybe I can believe that now, but while I, as an immy-mummy, was going through the phase of building everything from the bloody beginning, if not scratch – and only with an equally (secretly) terrified husband, pretending to be a powerful man’s man – I hated it. And, gradually, true, I was cured by solitude (thank you, Marianne Moore), but the process blurs at least two years of an immy-mummy’s life into the mist of existence, at the same time adding yeeerrs and yeeers to an immy-mummy’s face.
For me it took three years, before the solitude taught me I needed the company of some open-minded people, and I reached out to find them. (I personally found them at Birkbeck’s MA for Creative Writing, only after I’d found out things about myself.)
Being this kind of an immigrant is like being a multiple-but-mostly-nice personality. You regress into being a child, because everything is new; yet, you grow much older overnight because you have little people that depend on you and you’re scared and paranoid because everything is still foreign and unclear; you lose yourself, but you can’t show it; in the long run – you believe you will gain something, because you feel there must be a gain; you’re like a child in that hope for a gain, yet you can show no pain… It is dizzying.
But, you become a super-decent person. You know you must never F-up, because if you F-up, it’s such a shame: of course you F-ed-up, they knew you would, so the containment strategy is activated.
And from a laid-back village-supported parent, you become a self-reliant, rather ambitious one. You do find true friends again. You read, you stop to listen and see; you learn.
It has just struck me: really, who *am* I to say who can and who can not be an immy-mummy?
This is exactly what women do to each other, which makes me sad. We don’t just accept; tests must be passed, boxes ticked.
‘You don’t belong here.’ Or: ‘I’m too tough for you, you had it so easy.’ We don’t say these things, but we show them.
So, even if you’re a native Londoner, or an eccentric island personality; a Turner-Hamilton-Palmer-Tomkinson-Goldmith, or a US Ambassador – actually, you don’t even have to have children, but you’re having an immy-mummy moment: this is the club that will always have you, baby!
‘Coz, you, know, we’re so tough now. So ready.