I´d like to talk about this topic from the perspective of a male Immigrant, a husband and father.
I think that female Immigrants live the immigration process a little differently than men do.
Before I begin, I want to clarify that the following thoughts come from a simple family guy with a high school education, obsessed with observing human behavior and fascinated by every aspect of the Act of Immigrating. What I say isn’t based on any formal education; it is just what I perceive when I observe myself and other Immigrants, through my direct interactions, messages and reading.
Recognizing that my observations are very generic and that every case is different, I would like to say that nothing compares to the Act of Immigrating for proving how much stronger, more tolerant, adaptable, persistent, proud, intuitive, independent, resourceful and resilient women are than men.
I have noticed that when they immigrate with a spouse, independently of whether they are the inspired immigrants or the compliant follower within the couple (please see the article entitled “The Immigrant´s Spouse” for more details), in many cases women have no problem staying in the shadows, taking no credit for anything. They are the foundation, the rock of the family; they´re ego, not as needy and insecure as that of the men, allows them to make sure that their man takes most of the credit, because that is just the way they are, that maternal instinct to support and boost self-esteem in loved-ones always kicks in when needed.
Women instinctively understand that even the biggest achievers, the confident game-changers and dreamers need their support as much as the simple, ordinary, insecure man.
As I´ve mentioned many times before, immigrating, no matter how much you want to do it, is an extremely traumatic experience for everyone! The impact of the cultural shock is the reason why many immigrants are defeated and either go “back home” or stay in the new country but suffer from continuous feelings of regret.
I have seen wives and moms start the Immigration Experience with the worst attitude ever, psychologically forced to make a step like this by their husband or another family member, and they still go on to become the natural logistical and emotional pillar of support for everyone!
In stressful situations, women are the ones that stay quietly in the background, finding the strength and even the creativity to make sure that every loved one is in the best position to win their daily battles, and then they go on to tackle their own challenges.
In many Immigration success stories, when referring to couples, it is almost always the man who appears to be the “achiever”, the one that made it happen!
But behind that apparent truth, the reality is different!
Take Daniela and I, for example.
When talking with friends, family members and even in random conversations with strangers, I often get complimented on the degree of success I have achieved in a relatively short time as a newcomer. Daniela? She usually receives little or no recognition.
The assumption that I am the one who is strong minded, talented, creative, etc., is so strong in everyone that they think Daniela is just a pretty face!
It is very intriguing to notice how most people judge things using very superficial and subjective measuring systems, and that the part of the “success” that they perceive is only the tip of the iceberg, the most obvious and shallow aspect. Most don’t pay attention to the transformation that happened to the human being, the internal changes – not even family members that held you as a baby and changed your diapers perceive this part most of the time. I have never heard anyone who knew me before I arrived in Canada say something like: “You seem so happy now, so at peace…” or “You seem so confident, you have changed so much since…” Everyone seems to be impressed with how big the business has become, how often we change cars, how often we go on vacation, etc.
Well, that same degree of superficiality is the reason why so many people don’t see what women do and mainly what women ARE in the “act of immigrating”.
I have no doubt in my mind that without a woman like Daniela, I would have gone back to Italy within the first year, or I would have become a victim of the Immigration Experience and lived for the rest of my life in a “foreign country”, never calling it my own, working as a woodworker for a window company, stuck with a life full of regrets.
Besides working full time, raising three boys, taking care of the house, cooking healthy meals for the family every day, her real “thing” is her rooted will power and innate ability to make me feel invincible, even in moments when the only thing I wanted to do was to quit!
One of those moments that I will never forget was right after I quit my full-time job and decided to go all in with the business to hopefully make it profitable, when suddenly we experienced a drastic slowdown of incoming phone calls from new customers. It seemed almost like a joke: I was running out of jobs and accumulating debts because I had bought a cargo van, more tools and a big ad in the Yellow Pages. I started to panic, and the more I panicked, the harder it was for me to sell my services when meeting with the few people who were interested. Every night I would go home, tired after a day of working at the job site and an evening spent trying to convince homeowners to buy my service. Every night I felt more defeated… This routine went on for several weeks. Our first son Luca was just born, Daniela was on maternity leave and money was really scarce.
What finally caught my attention after spending weeks chained to negative and fearful thoughts was her way of dealing with me and the situation… until one day I confronted her…
I asked her why she was not worried about anything, using an “offended” kind of tone. In my head, I was the only one that felt the responsibility and she was just coming along for the ride… She didn’t answer; I continued listing all the things that were not working, whining and blaming everything on the fact that I was an Immigrant, not able to communicate properly, and that I was failing to sell effectively because I couldn’t understand the customers with all their different cultures.
I concluded that monologue the same way I had concluded similar monologues in the past: “What’s the point of leaving your country if you have to keep struggling…”
I was secretly looking for pity, but after a moment of silence she said something that literally changed everything for me, and that beautifully caught me off guard: “Keep going, don’t worry!” she said. She waited a few seconds and then went on: “We came here with nothing, and we have bought a house and made a lot of progress after only 4 years. Even if we have to sell the house to support the business, who cares? We have got nothing to lose, we will start all over again. We know how to do it!”
If you knew my wife Daniela, you would have been as shocked as I was… she is not the “motivational speaker” kind. She didn’t say those words just to cheer me up: she wasn’t excited, nor did she seem particularly inspired. What was profoundly empowering for me after those few words of hers was the simplicity of her statement and the calm that she used in making it. She made it sound the way a teacher would talk while explaining how to add 3+3 to a six year-old!
Much later on, we talked about those moments and she said to me that she believed everything she said because she saw what immigrating had done to us already, and those struggles and downsides were just part of the game: we had changed already and so success was just a formality around the corner.
She is the silent winner in our ongoing, exciting adventure as Immigrants! Even now, when I have my rare down times, I can hear her voice in my head and I quickly snap out of it.
Certainly, things change from culture to culture, but the Woman Immigrant is the real winner in this game, and not only for her “doing”, but mainly for her “being”.
The list of things that women “do” as a logistical support for the team (the family) is just infinite!
Their extraordinary ability to multitask makes everything possible.
To all my male Immigrant friends – recognize the women in your lives with whom you are sharing the Immigration Experience; wives, girlfriends, mothers or even sisters!
Tell them how important they are to your growth as newcomers, let them know that even if, I repeat… even if… you are this amazing invincible machine ready to conquer your new country, they are your ignition key, your fuel, and they own the instruction manual!
On the other hand, do Immigrant Women need a man to succeed, to adapt to a new country and become a successful Immigrant, creating a happy life for themselves and for others? I think that it will help them, but we men are not truly indispensable for women.
There are many women that, through the act of immigrating without a male companion, have rewritten the book of their life, and I have a feeling that for them that solitary Immigration was probably a real blessing. Maybe we will go deeper into this topic in a future article. 😉