Ten Characteristics of a Franco-American Mother

By Juliana L’Heureux

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Franco-American mothers have wonderful reputations because of a series of endearing characteristics. Surely, all mothers share many traditional maternal traits, but the accumulation of ten characteristics help to create a nostalgic picture of the typical Franco-American mother.

Absolutely, the first Franco-American motherly trait is her ability to keep the family faithful to religious traditions. Church on Sunday and strict obedience to religious traditions, especially Roman Catholic customs, are essential to the Franco-American mother.

Next to Godliness is cleanliness. Franco-American mothers find and destroy dirt wherever they find it, which is usually everywhere. This enviable trait leads to the third characteristic of being a strict disciplinarian with the children. Scrupulous cleanliness and discipline go hand in hand because children must learn to live up to the cleanliness standards defined by mother. Franco-American mothers pass their tradition for cleanliness from one generation to another through discipline. Fortunately, meticulous cleanliness continues in Franco families, even in our cluttered age. In fact, Franco-American mothers abhor clutter, or any stuff they cannot find an immediate use for. Consequently, the fourth motherly Franco-American characteristic is her organizational ability. Franco-American mothers really mean it when they line up kitchen spices in alphabetical order because the tiny cans will stay in place for years after being organized. One sister-in-law purchased a vertical screw box, the kind with dozens of tiny drawers, so her son would organize his various Lego building blocks by color and size. 

Fifth, is the Franco-American mothers’ love of handicrafts, especially knitting, needlepoint and embroidery. Busy Franco-American mothers today are loosing some of these talents as work and home become challenging to manage, but the custom of hand making special family Christmas gifts is still quite important. Hand made Christmas tree ornaments are meaningful family heirlooms to the  Franco-American mother.

Inheriting a remarkable green thumb is the sixth trait. Franco-American mothers can grow practically anything with green leaves on it. Whether the plants be indoor African violets or outdoor petunias, a Franco-American mother can create gardens and arboretums from all growing things. 

Number seven is quiet modesty. Despite all her remarkable talents, the Franco-American mother will not boast and she teaches her children to be modest as well.

Coming in at number eight is her uncanny ability to cook a feast on a shoestring budget. Some call this trait "frugality", but it is more than mere thriftiness because the end result is usually tantalizing. For example, my sister-in-law loved to serve simple green pea soup, made from leftover ham, in a silver chafing dish. Franco-American mothers can feed a family of 10 people for five days form one chicken.

Ninth on the list is the Franco-American woman's wit and unexpected sense of humor. Slightly risqué jokes are not off limits to Franco-American mothers.

Ten but certainly not last on the list is her ability to demand and receive the love and affection of her family. In fact, some sociologists refer to the matriarchal culture of Franco-Americans because women exert an important positive influence over the family’s traditions.

This sentimental composite sketch of the Franco-American mother is a loving collection of memories about our Memeres (grandmothers) and "ma tantes" (aunts) who proudly passed their culture and traditions to our generation. 

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Published on May 18, 2000
Copyright 1999-2000, Portland Press Herald, Portland, Maine and Juliana L'Heureux