Feliz Día de las Madres. I hope everyone can enjoy spending time with their loved ones!
This blog is for all resilient mothers that shoulder many responsibilities. I admire the challenging work every mother puts toward making a better life for their children. Para mi Mami: I appreciate everything you do for me and our family. You deal with demanding situations without complaining and set the example for whom I aspire to be. Happy Mother’s Day to one of the strongest women I know.
Immigrant women throughout vulnerable communities, such as South Central, internalize gender roles. This means society imposes unrealistic expectations on women to cook, clean, work, and take care of their children. My mom has struggled with these roles throughout her life. Still, she maintains many responsibilities and continues to defy expectations.
My mom was born to Mexican immigrant parents in Southeast Los Angeles. Subsequently, as the oldest daughter in a Latino household, she managed finances, appointments, cooking, and cleaning. Still, she lacked autonomy in making decisions. My grandma and grandpa immigrated to the United States 63 years ago from Zacatecas, Mexico. My grandpa’s background as a pastor and my grandma’s upbringing in el rancho resulted in the conservative upbringing my mother experienced. My grandparents had complete control over my mom’s life. She was not allowed to hang out with her friends or leave the house because her place was at home. Additionally, throughout high school, she wore long skirts to school because wearing pants was for men. At an early age, my grandparents taught her women could only wear dresses and skirts. Furthermore, my mom was not allowed to have platonic male friends. The options came down to female friends or a husband. In my grandparents’ eyes, women were born to become wives and care for their husband, children, and home. As a result, my mom internalized the gender role that women are required to be nurturing and accommodating—qualities of a good wife. My mom lacked independence while living with my grandparents. Thus, she moved out after graduating from high school at 17. Living alone, she changed her style and continued her education at a local community college.
Reflecting on my mother’s upbringing, I now understand my grandparents’ perspective. In Mexico, everything was traditional. However, in the US, ideals are progressive, which was a drastic change for both of my grandparents. They had difficulty assimilating to the new culture where women and men could make decisions. As a result, telling my mom how to dress and who to talk to was a defense mechanism to protect her. Immigrating to a new country was stressful. Still, changing the values you grew up with, I can imagine, added more stress. My mom forgave her parents for how strict they were. She understands they had her best interest at heart, and although it did not come across as such, they never meant harm.
My mom continues to defy the gender roles she internalized growing up. I watch my mom run back and forth between taking care of my grandparents, coming home to cook then rushing out of the house to pick up my sister from work. Seeing her balance her responsibilities as a wife, mother, and daughter, I witness the extreme levels of stress she experiences. Yet, she never lets it affect how my sister and I are treated. My mother is an amazing woman that goes beyond the gender roles my grandparents confined her in. Although challenging, my mom broke the chain of passing these gender roles down to my sister and me. My mom is strong and can handle many things, but this does not mean she should. I continue to support my mom with things around the house to demonstrate my appreciation for her. I take as much as I can off her shoulders by going to my grandparents’ house to help or picking up my sister from school. Together we support and understand one another as the eldest daughters in the family. We rely on each other. My mom deserves the world; although I cannot give it to her, I will always support her.
To the moms reading this, learning how to best manage your stress will allow you to take care of yourself without being overwhelmed. I am rooting for you!