Mamá Crush Wednesday: Angel Meraz
Hi everyone! For my third Mamá Crush Miercoles installment, I had the honor of interviewing the incredible, Angel Meraz. I met Angel through mutual friends a while ago, but she is so warm and kind - if you meet her, it's like you've known her your whole life.
Through this series, it is my hope to change the way we talk about motherhood. I have heard people tsk-tsk at working mothers, claiming that their time would be better spent with their babies. Similarly, I’ve heard critics of stay-at-home mamas tout claims of a lack of independence, of a loss of talent. The reality is that all mothers should be supported and appreciated! Sadly, it is usually mothers who are the most critical of one another.
On Angel: I have been married to my husband for 8 years this October, but we have known each other since we were 14. We met in our high school biology class. We dated all throughout high school and college. We took a tiny break, just to make sure it was what we both wanted. It definitely was - after a year apart, we got back together, then another year later we were married. He’s really awesome, he’s a great dad. We have two babies, Luke, who is 4, and Lacey 2 and ½. (Update: since this interview, Angel has announced that she has a third on the way!) I work for College of the Desert, and am the Director of the Upward Bound Program. I am really passionate about helping students get to college. I was the first in my family ever to go. Education has really given me so much freedom: from where I’m going to live, to where my kids are going to go to school, to what kinds of jobs I want to take for myself and my career. My husband is an engineer, but he is about to go into real estate full time.
On a Day in the Life: In an ideal world, I would wake up at 5:00AM and go to the gym. I was going to crossfit, then I started a new job, and things got crazy. I felt great when I was going - because I would get my “me” time, and I wouldn’t feel guilty because the kids would still be asleep. In real life, we wake up at 6:00AM. I usually wake up first to get ready, then I will wake up the kids. Though it also just depends on the day. Sometimes they will sleep in and I have to wake them up, sometimes they wake up while I’m getting ready. If they wake up before I wake up, sometimes they’ll come cuddle in bed with me - then it’s REALLY hard to get out of bed. Other days they’ll just come into my bed while I’m getting ready and watch some cartoons. I’ll make them a quick breakfast: toast, oatmeal. Their pre-school gives them a morning snack so sometimes I don’t make them breakfast. I make myself a shake, then get out the door.
First we take Luke to school. The hardest part of having two kids is you can’t leave one in the car while you’re walking the other one in. So we have to get off with Luke, then I have to put Lacey back in her carseat, then I have to take her to her babysitter. And then I head to work. I’m at work until 5:00PM. My husband does pick up for both kids. Some days we will meet at the gym - leave the kids at the daycare - stay there until around 6:30PM. Then come home and cook dinner. It’s hard because they’re at the babysitter all day. But I also gained 20lbs this year, and I don’t feel healthy. I need to find balance. We usually go to the gym 3 days a week, sometimes 4. When we don’t go to the gym, we usually go straight home and have dinner together. We try to fit it all in.
On Childcare: Everybody who has ever watched our kids are people we’ve known. Luke currently goes to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH). They require that all students be potty trained; we had some issues with potty training, it took a really long time. So finally when he was ready and potty trained we sent him there. It’s a great school, with a great reputation, and my grandma lives across the street so if there’s ever an emergency, or if I’m stuck in a meeting, she’s able to pick up Luke for me. It might not be the best neighborhood - you know the neighboring park is kinda shady - but I grew up in that neighborhood so it doesn’t scare me. When I tell other parents where he goes they get freaked out, but I remind them that that is my home.
On Being a Working Mom: There are times where working feels like the right choice, and then there are times when I really struggle with being a working mom. But at the end of the day, I know that for me personally - I wouldn’t be good to anyone in my family because I wouldn’t be happy. I am an extrovert, I need to see people every day. If I don’t, I’m either of two extremes: I will either be in my pajamas moping around all day long, or I will spend too much money because I’ll invite my friends out to lunch or dinner just to get out of the house. I have to go out somewhere, I have to find someone to go with. At the end of the day, I know that me working is better for my family financially, emotionally, and ultimately for my own personal development.
On Mom Guilt: My son is so emotional; he cries for me every day as I’m leaving him, ever since he was six months old, and every day I feel so much guilt for leaving him. My daughter is the exact opposite, she always waves “Bye Mommy! See you later!” But every day Luke says to me “I want you to stay with me, I want you to be with me.” I leave thinking am I doing the right thing, am I making the right decision? Is it ok that I’m working? Does he really need me? Do I need to shift my priorities and stay home with him right now? Plus you always have the internal conflict: am I not giving my job 100%? Am I not giving my kids 100%? But then over Christmas break, he had a little revelation. He was getting in trouble a lot over Christmas break so he turned to me and said “Mommy, it’s better when I go to school.” I asked him why, and he said “Because I don’t get in trouble at school.” He’s very emotional and very needy - he needs your attention all the time. When you don’t give him your attention, he can be very destructive.
On Squeezing Every Minute Out of the Day: Sometimes I keep them up later at night because I don’t see them all day. They usually go to bed at 8:30PM, but the other day I think I kept them up until 10:00PM. Unfortunately, then it affects our mornings. The next morning, Luke was just in a mood. He was really whiny, he didn’t want to get dressed. And then when he finally did get dressed, he didn’t want the breakfast I made for him. I had made him some toast, but that wasn’t enough, he wanted eggs. So I felt guilty, like, I should make my kid real breakfast. So I made him the eggs, and by this time I am already 15 minutes late for work. Then when we get in the car, he flips out because he wanted to eat the eggs at the table, not in the car. Finally, I get him in the car, and get him to school, and he flips out again because he wanted to take a toy in with him, but they aren’t allowed to take toys in. So he’s crying, but I hug him for a little bit. His teacher takes him from me and is like “It’s going to be ok…” Thankfully I am in a pretty flexible job, to where if I have to make up those times, I can. But then I’m feeling guilty about being late to work. It’s HARD. It’s really hard. It’s so hard.
On Language and Patience: I was a psychology major, and I have training as a counselor. I think a lot of that knowledge comes into play in my daily interactions with my kids, but I also try not to take it too seriously. If I just had Luke, I would feel a lot more judged, and really question my parenting because he really challenges me. I ask him to do something and he will almost always say no. His favorite word right now is “Never!” When I try to tell him that’s a bad word, he’s like “No mom. Never, never, Neverland and the Neverland Pirates!” He’s too smart. He’s not a bad kid - he’s just challenging My daughter Lacey, on the other hand, is so compliant. If you tell her “Don’t do that, you’re being a bad girl.” She’ll respond, “I want to be a good girl mommy!” She makes me super conscious of my language. I don’t want her to think she’s a bad girl.
On Motherhood Mantras: I think my mantra is that kids just need to be loved.
On Daily Rituals: I usually put the kids to bed. My daughter makes me sing her a song when I put her to bed. She tells me exactly what song, and in what order. And if I mess up the order, she gets upset. She makes me sing “On Eagle’s Wings,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” then the ABC’s, then “Rock a Bye Baby,” then “Say Say Oh Playmate,” and then “I Love You.” Sometimes I feel bad because I rush through them. We put her in bed, say our prayers, and sing those songs. Luke is so easy, we just say our prayers, and he goes right to sleep. Sometimes we will read books. Lately he cries for me to lay with him, so sometimes I’ll do that until he goes to sleep.
On Favorite Motherhood Moments: For me, it would have to be that I breastfed both of my kids for over a year. Luke’s birth was pretty traumatic: I fell on my stomach, and my placenta detached from my uterus - we both almost died. I didn’t get to see him for 24 hours because I had had an emergency cesarean and I couldn’t get out of bed. Most moms have the opportunity to have skin-to-skin contact immediately after they give birth. It causes a wave of hormones to help release their milk, and they get to have their babies latch and practice breastfeeding for the first time. I didn’t get that, though, because I had lost so much blood, and he went straight to the NICU because he had swallowed so much of it. The hospital brought me a pump, so I started to pump immediately. When you have a C-Section, they have you stay in the hospital for 5 days. He was in the hospital for 8 days. They released me, and had me stay at the neighboring Hanson House. The Hanson House is amazing, but it’s uphill. So every 3 hours, I walked down and back up again to get to him. Most of the time premies have trouble latching, but I think God just knew that I needed a victory - I thought I had killed my kid!
I was obviously still healing and in pain from my own surgery. I had to wash and scrub my hands so frequently that they started peeling. I had to put on the gear. I would go in and see all these sick babies. None of us had privacy. They bring out these screens to offer a bit of privacy, but after day 2 I was like “Forget the screen! I just want to be with my baby.” So I would just feed him. It would make some people uncomfortable. I’m a modest person, but at that point I didn’t care - my baby just needed to eat.
It’s amazing what you can do when it’s not about you.
On Pumping: When I was still breastfeeding Lacey, I had to go on a couple of trips for work. I remember one time I went on a college tour for a week. I pumped every single day, carrying the milk with me on those college tours. Putting it in the hotel’s deep freezer when I got back at night. Then halfway through the trip I UPSed the milk home overnight, just so Lacey wouldn’t run out at home, and so I could keep my milk supply up. Years before, when I was breastfeeding Luke, I had actually just started a new job. Because I was breastfeeding and pumping every chance I got - I would run out to pump during my lunch hours and my breaks - I had a really hard time meeting coworkers and making friends. That part was really hard, too, because you feel really isolated.
On Unconventional Date Nights: One of the things I love about my husband is that he is such an incredibly hard worker, and he is always looking for ways to benefit our family. So on top of our full-time jobs, we also have a side vending machine business. We also have 3 rental properties that we own, and 3 more that we manage. Our lives are really insane. Even though sometimes I complain about it (and my husband will be the first to tell you this) - sometimes it’s doing things together. Like, we go fill the vending machines together. It’s a common project. I do complain about it because sometimes I get overwhelmed, but sometimes it’s just about doing those things together. Even though actual date nights are rare, we are trying to be more conscious about making time for each other. We have to schedule it. One of the hardest things, too, is that by the time I put the kids to bed, I am beat. I want to go to bed, too. So I am trying to be more conscious: of going to the gym so that I can have more energy, of not just going to bed, but sitting on the couch with your husband and watching a movie with him.
On the Best Parenting Advice: Don’t listen to anybody else. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Even with my own two kids: what works for one doesn’t always work for the other.
On Hopes & Dreams for Her Babies: I hope they live long lives. I have this irrational fear of my kids dying: that they will get sick, or a dresser will fall on top of them. You see it on Facebook feeds, in mommy forums…. I just want my kids to live long, happy, healthy lives. Also, I want them to live without fear. Before I was a mom, I wasn’t very fearful: I went skydiving, I drove across the country by myself, I drove an ATV. I think that living without fear is a good thing. Now that I’m a mom, I am a lot more cautious. I just hope they don’t have fear, that they do the things that make them happy, that they aren’t afraid to live life on their terms.
Thank you so much, Angel!