Like every year, when Mother’s Day turns up, your social media channels get flooded with pictures of your friends with their mothers, Facebook statuses to announce unending love and gratitude (before they go piss off their mother the following day), and endless messaging among siblings to find that perfect gift.
I’ve written many of those posts on this blog before. You can check those here and here in case you feel like it. This year around, however, I figured the best way to increase the relevance of Mother’s Day is to highlight Lebanese mothers who have shaped the country as we know it today.
The list is not extensive nor is it exhaustive. The following women are from different domains and are on this list for different reasons, but they all share something in common: they’ve proven that motherhood serves to add, not define who women are, especially in a region that tells them the former is all they’ll amount to be.
Around these parts of the world, it is usually believed that a woman getting married and having children signals the beginning of the end of her productivity as a person. That’s what social norms say, but not if you follow the Gospel according to Joumana Haddad. One of Lebanon’s leading women when it comes to public opinion, she never shied away from controversy. She defends the sexual liberation of women, their right to do whatever they want, sleep with whoever they want whenever they want. She defends the role of women in societies. She abhors the effect that religious establishments have on women rights in our societies. She was very recently considered by Bahrain to be worse than terrorists as they banned her entry for being an atheist. And for that, she can’t not be on the list.
She may not be a household name, but the NGO that she founded certainly is. Following the death of her son Hady in 2006 at the tender age of 18, Lena Gebrane turned her grief into action and pioneered the way to create one of Lebanon’s most prominent NGOs “Kunhadi,” which has worked tirelessly since its creation to create awareness over road safety in Lebanon, especially among its youth. Her goal is to not let any Lebanese mother feel what she has felt. Sadly enough, many still do. But how many mothers today owe their family’s wholeness to Lena Gebrane’s sleepless nights? She has shown that being a mother extends beyond just having a child.
Dima Sadek is the kind of women who make it look all too easy. She manages to host LBC’s news, arguably the country’s most watched. She also has her own daytime political talk show where she has never shied away from talking tough stances and getting her guests to listen to a healthy dose of truth, even if it means them storming out. Good riddance. She has also managed to become a fashion role model for many women across the country in the very brief time since she became a household name, all while being a great role model to the young girl she’s raising.
Mona Abou Hamzeh
She hosts one of Lebanon’s most watched primetime shows. It is as such not because of its “light” nature, but because of her. She made “Talk of the Town” into what it is today, a viable competitor to the veteran show “Kalam Ennas” at the same time-slot on a different TV station. A woman running a TV show solely on primetime is not a rare thing in these parts of the world, but to have a show as successful as Abou Hamzeh’s is. Her demeanor, charm and presentation skills aren’t the only reasons she’s great. The bravery with which she handled her husband’s falling from grace over the past year as well as the support she provided her family while their entire status changed showed how strong Mona Abou Hamzeh is as a woman and as a mother. She didn’t succumb to the scandal that caught her off guard, like society usually asks of women here, but braced through it and emerged victorious.
She sells out arenas, conjures one chart-topping hit after the next, produces one music video after the next, churns out super-selling albums every other year, and still finds time to support the Lebanese army, women and children across the region through various charities, be the regional ambassador for several brands, judge on Arab Idol and be the Arab artist with the most video views on YouTube, ever. Long gone are the days of Nancy Ajram being synonymous with sultry. Many wondered if Ajram’s motherhood would stop her upward trajectory of fame. She proved them wrong by continuing to be one of the region’s most influential and well-known singers, as well as a full time mom to two gorgeous young girls.
The Mothers of Lebanon’s Kidnapped Soldiers
I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for a mother to lose a son, but to have her son’s life be stuck in the balance of a political game for months now and still manage to get up in the morning to tend to the rest of her family must be a whole other level of achievement. They’re not famous. I don’t even know their names. But I know they’ve been working tirelessly to try and get their children to safety, to get our government to do something, anything, even as news kept becoming more and more dismal. And for that, Mother’s Day cannot pass without saluting those mothers too.
Your Mother, Too
This can’t end without a section about your mother as well. Once a year, the country stands to salute our mothers, which is something it should do every day. By being proud of us in spite of our faults, they push us to be better and strive for better. By raising us the best way they can, they are the catalyst towards a, hopefully, better future for the country and for ourselves. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough food at the table, would rather you eat while she goes to bed hungry. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough money, would rather you get new clothes than replace her worn out shoes. She’s the one who, despite being incapacitated beyond belief through one illness or the next, would still get out of bed to prepare you lunch. She’s the one you call “weinik/ak” on your phone, the one who’s always first to comment on your picture with “to2borne/to2brine nchallah,” who gushes with joy whenever she thinks about you and whom you won’t be able to repay.
Yes, this is to your mother, too.