All Mothers Are Not Created Equal

| by Aracely | 7 Comments » | Reflections

Indigenous families in Antigua Guatemala

Street Food Vendor And Child in Antigua Guatemala

This Mother’s Day is the first I’ve spent away from my mother during twenty-eight years my of life.  I miss her very much.  On a day like today, every mother should be praised for carrying a child in their womb, providing unrelenting nurturing and for the unconditional love most mothers provide.

During my travels I have seen many mothers struggling to feed and provide for their children.  However, one particular story, which I am about to share, reminded me that being a mother is so much more than giving birth to a life.

We were enjoying yet another delicious Argentinean steak and wine meal at an outside café in central Mendoza.  Suddenly, a young boy approached our table, whom I guessed to be 5 or 6 years old.  With a soft but confident voice he asked for some of my french fries.  I immediately handed him a handful of the fries from my plate.  He grabbed the fries, put them directly into his mouth and walked away.

Indigenous Family in Quito Ecuador

A Mother and Her Son Rushing Through Town Plaza in Quito Ecuador

A few moments later we spotted him dashing past our table with half a sandwich in his hand and a gleaming smile.  Jason exclaimed, “This kid is scoring big-time.”  Following the child with our curious eyes, he walked behind a bush that acted as a boundary for the cafe’s outdoor seating area.  Behind the bush was a crowded park bench which seemed to include his mother and other siblings based on their interactions.  I couldn’t see the mother’s face since she was facing the opposite direction and was being shadowed by the shrubbery.  However, the young boy was facing in my direction when he smiled happily and handed her the sandwich.  I wasn’t sure whether someone had given it to him or if he grabbed if from an empty table.  They exchanged some words and then the boy ran back towards the outdoor tables.

As we stared towards the park bench, we noticed 2 other children, younger than the first boy, also fetching food from other outdoor restaurant tables.  Sometimes they brought food from empty tables and other times they had food that was given to them.

Food Festival in Juayua El Salvador

A Mother and Child Watching Festival Parade in Juayua El Salvador

We watched the children continue their game for 20 minutes.  Every time the boy scored some food he became excited as though he was winning at a game very familiar to him and his brothers and sisters.  On a few occasions I noticed the boy also asked for money, which he then passed to his mother.

After traveling through Central and South America, I have seen a lot of begging from both children and adults.  But this felt different.  This was different.  In this situation in Mendoza, the mother hid behind a bush and sent her 3 children to beg for her.  I have only witnessed the opposite scenario, where mothers beg while holding their children, or beg to feed their children.   I have never experienced this type of exchange before in my life.  That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, I just haven’t seen it.  One might argue that there isn’t much difference between a child doing the begging for his parents versus the parent begging with their child, but I would have to disagree.  These children we watched learned that it’s a game, a fun game, one which pleases their mother.

How to cook empanadas

A Mother Cooking Empanadas For Her College Children

I began to feel ill and annoyed with the actions of the woman.  I felt sad for the children and what might become of their future.  I made futile attempts to ignore it and carry on with my meal.

More time had passed and I noticed the mother standing outside a tienda (store) window making a purchase.  My heart rate increased as I sensed the worst.  I whispered to Jason, “She better not be buying cigarettes.”  I couldn’t take my glaring eyes off her.  She slowly turned around and lit up a cigarette. “Oh my God,” escaped my lips.

Kuna Tribe

A Kuna Family in a Dugout Canoe in San Blas

It was one of those moments where everything around you is wrong and you can’t do anything about it.  I felt like I needed to do something, but what?  Yell at her?  Call her a bad mother?  I was a tourist trying to figure out how to advise a local mother.  I felt and was helpless.  How could a mother do this to her child?  This behavior is sure to negatively impact this child’s future.

I tell you this story today because we are celebrating Mother’s Day for all mothers.  However, let’s not just celebrate the fact they are our mothers but the fact that they are good mothers.

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Tags: children, people

Written by Aracely

Co-founder of Aracely has been traveling, writing and taking photos since 2024, when she departed on his first year long travel backpacking journey. When she isn't seeking new adventures, Aracely is usually building Excel models as a financial analyst professional. Visit my website

7 Responses to “All Mothers Are Not Created Equal”

  1. J. P. Cabit says:

    I have witnessed begging before—it is awkward. Have you come across a lot of beggars in your backpacking adventures?

    -J. P. Cabit
    Editor-In-Chief, Fedwick Agency

    • Aracely says:


      We have been to mostly ´poor´ countries and have experienced begging. It is a reality of the world that we don´t often see when living in countries like the US. Traveling in this way to these places truly opens up a new world is ways we can´t even imagine. I saw your comment on the other blog about considering a similar backpacking adventure once in a lifetime. I encourage you to do so but please do so in a respectful way to the places you are visiting. Best of luck and let me know if you do decide to go on such a journey.

  2. Leigh says:

    I hear what you’re saying, and I agree that Mom is supposed to have a level of self-sacrificing caring that this particular woman didn’t show.

    Yet as a mom, I still have this underlying (and probably irrational) urge to defend her, because I feel like too often moms are criticized no matter what they do.

    I know you to be a kind hearted, decent and really non-judgmental person, so I can only imagine what it would take to upset you to the point you express in this post.

    I also appreciate your presenting a view of motherhood that isn’t that perfect rosy and impossible standard that really no mother can live up to.

    Miss you guys. Still eating cake and hope you’re loving Bolivia.

    • Aracely says:

      Thanks for the comment Leigh,

      I understand and agree with the point that mother´s are criticized no matter what they do. I´ve seen such behavior even within my own family and towards my own mother.

      And yes, I would like to think of myself as a non-judgemental person….although I admit it does take a certain level of energy to truly fill those shoes. A level of energy that I don´t posses. That said, I´ve always had an uncontrollable weakness towards children. And although I don´t think any mother can be perfect, this woman is one of the worst examples I have seen.

      Bolivia is different. We are enjoying it. We miss you guys and the magic bars!

  3. Nikki says:

    I love the blog and I love photos! Keep in up!

  4. Amy says:

    The children begging are the hardest for me. How can you say no to a little kid, especially when you know an adult is behind it? Or worse, when the child himself or herself realizes that begging is required for survival? I have no answers for what to do when confronted by a child, and the situation you witnessed is heartbreaking.

  5. lsfein says:

    I am not sure why you eating a steak that is going to clog your arteries and give you heart disease and possibly colon cancer is behavior that is so much more righteous than that mother smoking a cigarette. From my perspective, begging is not heartbreaking–it is a job that some people have. It is a profession like any other. If it weren’t for beggars, the rest of us would not have the opportunity to practice the virtue of charity–and thus to grow spiritualy. Begging is, in this light, necessery for BOTH parties involved, but the givers rarely see things this way. Because of this spiritual blindness, begging can be a humiliating profession–the givers often think that they have the right to tell the receivers what to do with the money they give, as though the receivers are somehow less adult or less human than the givers. But this mother found a way to teach her children that begging does not have to be humiliating, that it could be a source of pride and joy. I say good for her. How else does a single mother with several children earn a living? Usually there is one other option open to her, and that is worse than begging.

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