The XX Factor

A Mother’s Work is Never Done

I agree with Dahlia that humility is rare in Sonia Sotomayor’s professional circle , but I do hope this self-effacing quality helps her in the very humbling confirmation hearings coming up. In the context of introducing herself to the American public , however, I doubt, as Samantha wonders, that the judge was downplaying her achievements to counter critics who consider powerful women “bitchy.” (But as an aside, I’d add a little self-deprecation in the face of such dazzling glory is certainly not “harmful to the rest.”) Although modesty is encouraged in immigrant families, in fact, in the nominee’s biographical statement, “ordinary” was an apt comparison to the odds-overcoming determination of her extraordinary mother. Celina Sotomayor, a foreign-born widow with two small children, one with diabetes, worked as a nurse distributing methadone in a drug clinic six days a week to afford rent in a Bronx housing project and her kids’ parochial school tuition.

Even a mother who just does the regular impossible decades-long job of educating, nurturing, and economically supporting her children, busts her buttons when they succeed. Imagine the head-exploding pride for Mrs. Sotomayor yesterday, sitting in the White House while the President, her child at his side, praises both her accomplishments and the texture of her life . You can see how well her daughter Sonia was raised, though. In all the excitement, she still understood the importance of thanking her mother.