Q&A: Motherhood Across the World


In honor of Mother’s Day, I interviewed my two mom’s on their perspectives of motherhood.

Melissa, who is 52 years old, raised her children in the metropolitan city of Las Vegas in Nevada. She has two children, a boy and a girl, aged 25 and 27 respectively. She also helped raise four stepchildren for some time, one of whom died 2 years ago when he was 22 years old. Melissa has a Master’s Degree in Special Education and worked full time as an elementary school teacher while caring for her family (most years as a single parent).

Sarjo, who is in her early 50s, raised her children in the rural village of Sibanor in The Gambia. She has six living children of her own between the ages of 14 and 33. The youngest are twins. One of her sons died from complications of Sickle Cell about 12 years ago when he was 9 years old. Sarjo also cares for two orphaned girls, aged 6 and 15, and her 3-year-old-grandson. Sarjo never attended school. She helped lead a committee at Child Fund for some years, but otherwise has been a stay-at-home mom.



What qualities make a good mother?

Melissa: I am sure this question could be debated, especially between the stay-at-home mom and the working mom. I think a good mom should show love and affection, be patient, be a good listener, be understanding and accepting of her children’s choices even when the choices may differ from what she would want (I think this is the most difficult), be consistent with expectations and consequences, be encouraging and open minded so they know they can do anything they want to do, and be available to spend quality time with them.


Sarjo: A good mother takes care of the children and shares love with the family. If your children do wrong, you will teach them a lesson so that tomorrow they will not do the same thing. If your children are sick, you take them to the hospital. If you have money, your children will not be hungry. You should educate your child. You should also advise them.


What is the best part of being a mom?

Melissa: The best part of being a mom has been watching my children grow; developing their individual personalities and characteristics that make them each unique. It’s been the everyday stuff from the babies I used to cradle in my arms and rock to sleep, laughing at the funny things they’d say and do, watching them develop friendships with other people, the success of their hard work in school, dance, piano, sports or whatever they chose to pursue. It’s being their biggest cheerleader and smiling from ear to ear because I’m just so dang proud of them! It’s knowing I must have done an okay job because they’ve grown up to be independent adults making wise choices for themselves and are experiencing more than I did!

Sarjo: The best part is that if you educate your children and take care of them, then they will take care of you when you are old.


What is the most challenging part of motherhood?

Melissa: The most challenging part of motherhood has been letting go; letting them make mistakes so they can learn from them just as I did, letting them have their own opinions about life even when they may not be the same as mine and being accepting of them without judgement. Just plain letting them go to live their own lives independent of me, even when I just want them back in my arms like when I held them when they were babies.

Sarjo: It is difficult to care for your children when they are sick. Still now, I care for my oldest daughter because she is sick with Sickle Cell. Sometimes making sure there is enough food and giving them good shelter is difficult. Giving school fees, too, can be challenging. I go to the bush and fetch firewood to sell so I can pay school fees.

Sarjo cooking lunch for her children.

Sarjo cooking lunch over the fire.


Can you remember your first thoughts and reactions when you delivered your firstborn?

Melissa: My first thoughts of when I delivered both my children were just ones of pure joy that cannot be explained! Oh my, look what grew inside me!

My mom Melissa and her firstborn (me!) when she was pregnant with her second.

My mom Melissa and her firstborn (me!) when she was pregnant with her second.

Sarjo: I was so happy. All the babies I have, I was only happy. Even when I received Auntie and Jainaba (the orphaned girls) and you my Peace Corps daughter to take care of, I was very happy.  

My host mom Sarjo (left) and her oldest child, Iso.

My host mom Sarjo (left) and her oldest child, Iso.


What is your biggest worry for your children?

Melissa: I really don’t worry too much about my children now that they are adults, living their own lives, and making great decisions on their own. If I had to choose a worry it would be that they would not be able to accomplish the next question. I had a stepson who died, and also recently, a former student of mine passed away after a three-year battle with leukemia and it made me realize how blessed I have been to have two healthy children. I don’t worry about their health, but just pray they will always be healthy and live a long life for many years after I am gone.

Sarjo: Nothing is certain for tomorrow. I worry whether they will find a place to work or not, whether they will find a husband or wife, whether they will have good health.


What is your greatest hope for your children’s futures?

Melissa: My greatest hope would be that my children will be continue to be law abiding, productive citizens who are always happy, healthy, safe, successful and enjoying life with someone special. I also hope that they are able to overcome any obstacles they may face on their journey through this life.

Sarjo: I hope they will have a good job after finishing school. I wish only good things for my children. I want them to be like me: to grow up, marry and have their own kids.