We all look to our moms with gratitude for everything they do at this time of year. But it's more than that—we quite literally wouldn't be here without them. This Mother's Day, in partnership with our friends at 23andMe, four of our Motherly team members—daughters, moms and mamas-to-be—explored their backgrounds as a way to pay homage to all the moms who came before them, to show how deeply we are connected as women, and to tell a part of their story.
Whether you're seeking answers about your genes, researching your heritage or tracing your matrilineal line back through human history, we promise that you will see your mom, yourself and motherhood in a whole new light. There's never been a cooler time to be a mama and a link in this ongoing story.
Here's what we found out:
I unlocked my family's past—and it was such an emotional experience
Liz Tenety, Co-Founder
Liz Tenety and her mother and father, October 2008
I always felt connected to my recent ancestors, especially my two strong, working mother grandmothers who supported their families. But like many other Americans, my knowledge of our family history really ended at our family's migration to the United States.
My DNA report gave me a view into our family's past that was lost to history. I felt a swell of pride and emotion reading about where my people came from (mostly Ireland and Great Britain), and including some surprises (I'm 1% Italian!—never knew that!). I was also thrilled to find connections with 1000+ DNA relatives who have also taken the 23andMe test. It humbled me and made me realize the degree to which I am a part of a much larger story that traces back across continents and generations.
There were also some hilarious surprises. For example, I have more Neanderthal variants than most 23andMe customers (which has already led to great family fodder for teasing). And I discovered that my coffee obsession isn't just a personal preference— and based on my genetics I'm likely to drink more than average.
It was absolutely fascinating to see so many parts of myself that I thought were just personal preferences or quirks are actually influenced by my genetics. It's just who I am! Having access to this level of data about my body, health and ancestry has been profoundly meaningful and empowering.
Finding out my family's history was so empowering—and surprising
Rachel Gorton, Business Development Director
Rachel Gorton with her two sisters
When I was younger I loved hearing the stories my mom and grandmother had to tell about our ancestry and our family traits. I always learned something new from each story, and I remember always feeling excited to hear about our history and background.
I still ask my grandma to this day about our family history, but I always knew there were pieces that were missing (she is 94 after all!). When I had the opportunity to take the 23andMe test, I couldn't wait to participate and receive the results.
I read through the reports instantly and felt inspired and empowered by what I read. There were so many surprises! There is something really special about realizing you have so much more to learn about yourself through your DNA. Details that can influence who we are, why we are the way we are, and traits we will pass on to our children.
My Ancestry Composition Report confirmed who I've been all along
Karell Roxas, Editorial Director
Karell Roxas, with her mother Amor Roxas and sister Zyril Roxas Green
I've always wanted to know more about myself. What I'm made of. Not in an egotistical way, but in an exploratory way. Like astronauts exploring a moon they've seen everyday of their lives. I know who I am but don't know the full extent of what that means, what my genes have to do with it, and whether or not I will look as good as my mother does when I'm her age. (Let's say I'm hoping that one is a big yes.)
I was eager to see what 23andMe would reveal to me. What secrets I might unlock, and what ah-ha's might happen as I sift through the data revealed through a vial of my spit (science!). One stat stood out in how it made me feel—I am 99.4% East Asian and Native American with 98.6% of that being Southeast Asian. Not surprising since both my mother and father were born in the Philippines, as was I. But validating all the same.
The cultural heritage I identify with is right there in black and white. This may not sound like much, but growing up as an immigrant in Southern California where I wasn't quite American enough to be "American" (I ate "weird" food for lunch, I didn't pronounce words right sometimes, I didn't understand some old pop culture references) and not quite Filipino enough to be considered a "real" Filipino (I can understand but don't speak our language, I don't have an accent like my parents, I love hamburgers as much as I love rice), I felt a little in between all the time. Straddling two worlds and not fully belonging to either. My mother would always reassure me: You are both. "You are Filipino-American" she would say, "the best of both worlds." And she was right.
It's empowering to think that my genes don't lie. I am Filipino, and I come from a long line of Filipino women. While Filipino culture can be "machismo" at times, it's also largely matriarchal, with mothers and grandmothers being the family leaders, rule makers and disciplinarians.
So I guess even when you go exploring for secrets, you find out things you've known all along. You realize that your story is already told right there in what you see in your family. In your mom's laugh and your grandmother's hug. I share my mother's dark eyes and brown skin, as my mother shared with her mother, and her mother shared with hers. We'll be forever connected through our DNA and our culture.
I discovered more insights into my own traits and now have an idea about what I may pass on to my baby
Stefania Sainato, Audience Development Manager
Stefania Sainato with her family in Europe
After my husband and I received the joyous news that we were finally going to become parents, we couldn't stop wondering what our baby would be like—specifically, which traits we would pass down to him or her from our relatives.
Our 23andMe reports confirmed that our genetic makeup was mostly Italian (our percentages were 76% and 40%, respectively) but only dating back to the early 1900s. However, there were some fascinating findings. I determined that I am 5.6% Western Asian (which is made up of Arabic countries like Armenia, Lebanon, and Iran). No wonder I had inherited my mom's thick, jet-black hair and almond-shaped eyes. A few months before conceiving, we traveled to Spain and became enamored with the culture. In a twist of fate, our reports showed Iberian ancestry and now we know that our little one will likely be part Iberian too!
Piecing together my child's ancestral background was an empowering experience. My ultimate goal as a mama is to help my son or daughter flourish and thrive, developing their own unique identity. The first step to that is teaching them about their family roots, which are laid in a solid foundation of love and support.