Mamá Crush: Margarita Luna
Hello friends! I am so excited to introduce you to my next Mamá Crush! I had the honor of interviewing #MomBoss, Margarita Luna. She was actually my own boss a couple of years back, and remains an unwavering force in the Eastern Coachella Valley as Program Manager for the Building Healthy Communities initiative.
I want to continue challenging what "motherhood" looks + feels like. Whether you are a stay-at-home mom, or kicking butt in your profession, or none of the above. I am always curious to see how other mom's are balancing it all. So without further ado...
On Margarita: I am a wife, mom, and a boss. I grew up in a poor community with a single mom, who had five kids. I had an amazing example of what love, sacrifice and what a mom can truly be. I feel really grateful for that; she is such a badass. Growing up, she would constantly remind me to get an education and that I did not need a man.
I have been with my husband, Orlando, for 17 years. We have been married for 11 of those years. We have two boys together, Emilio who is 7, and Elias who is 4. I love the family we have created together, I love being a mom, I love being a social justice warrior. I love me and time for me. As I get older, I’ve realized how important time for me really is. The more that I invest in myself, the more present I can be for my family: I can give more, if I give more to myself.
On Self-Care: Oh, girl. Self-care is my world now. One of the things that I learned after I had my kids is that nobody is going to give me what I need: not my partner, not my kids… Nobody knows what I need except for me. And if I don’t give it to myself, I am going to end up resenting those around me. So, every month, I either get a massage or facial. That’s relatively new. I decided on my birthday that I needed to make a financial investment in my own self-care.
I meditate every day twice a day for 20 minutes. I am also unapologetic about seeing those I love: my family and friends. I came to the realization that I shouldn’t need an excuse or an invitation if I just want to be with them from time to time.
Then as Building Healthy Communities became more mature, I committed to not working on the weekends unless absolutely necessary so that I can dedicate that time to my family. I also committed to only travel once a week for work. Travel puts stress on my whole family, plus I get home and I still have to work to make up for travel time. I am very grateful that I do have a lot of flexibility that I’ve earned through my commitment and work ethic.
On What is Next: I am happy where I am, and feel very privileged to work in a social justice-oriented foundation. My work is also very demanding and while my boys are very understanding, I want to be there for them in ways my own mom wasn’t able to be there for me. A few years ago, I told my husband that I wanted a job where I was able to support people, but where I didn’t have to do any of the homework. My husband thought, doesn’t everyone?! But then a few months later, I went to a half-day Introductory Coach workshop. It sparked something in me. After that I signed up for a two-day training, which then turned into a nine-month course. With support from my employer, in May I became a Certified Professional Coach through a program at Leadership That Works.
I now have my own business called Art of Being. It’s really about supporting people in their lives. So many people don’t have anyone to really talk to about the doubt/anger/fear in their lives. For many of us, our partners, friends and family will listen, but will eventually want to move on. People can be like Oak trees; they look so effortless standing there, but underneath the surface there is a complexity of roots working hard to keep it upright. I am here to help unpack that complexity and ask those hard questions about what is really holding them back from becoming who they really want to be, and then support their transformation as they become more of themselves. I help people see how awesome they really are and can be. I serve as a mirror; a reflection of what I see in them and what they see in themselves by listening intently and reflecting back.
Coaching has completely transformed me and the way I see people, parenting and life. I think I am much happier because of it, it gives me a lot of perspective to know what is in my control and what is not.
On Child Care: When my oldest was younger, he was with my mom full-time. Then she started getting some health issues, and we had to transition him into a full-time center, which was hard for me because I always wanted my kids to be raised by family. I found a center that I really liked. They are really responsive and transparent, with cameras everywhere. They helped to prepare my 7yo for school and basically helped raise my boys.
On a Day in the Life: I usually wake up at 5:30AM, and meditate in my bed before I do anything else. Some days, my kids will join me in bed or stir me out of my meditation somehow by around 6:00AM. Their dad leaves before 5AM, so he’s not around for the morning hustle and bustle. The boys already know what they’re supposed to do. They get themselves ready. They eat breakfast while I get dressed. Usually, we are out the door by 7:30AM. I drop the oldest one off at school, then I take the little one to his preschool.
The day looks different every day. There are days where I work from home, which I love. I love having no distractions and the flexibility to do what I have to do, both for work and personally. Some days I have to go to either of my offices - one is in LA, the other in Coachella. If I am going into LA, I take the train. I get in by 10:00AM, and leave by 4:00PM so I can pick up the boys by 5:00PM.
On days when I have to drop off and pick up - which is most days - I wait for Orlando to get home, then I pass the baton. Once he is with the boys, I go to the grocery store or take care of whatever I need to for our home. Sometimes, I have to go to Starbucks to keep working, and finish things that I didn’t finish. Doing drop-off and pick-up shortens my work day that much more, so sometimes I just need that extra hour or two.
I usually come home by 9:00PM. Orlando and I always spend half an hour together, whether it’s watching a show, or cuddling on the couch, or just catching up. Then at 9:30PM, we each have our self-care time.
The hour that follows is mine. Whether I sit there and journal, or watch Jane the Virgin, or whatever - that time is all for me. I am trying to run and incorporate more activity in the mornings. Sometimes it gets to be late, and I am in my workout clothes and I never make it out the door. Which I give myself permission to do that: exercise for me is all about feeling good. When I need to feel good in my skin, or strong and sexy - I go for a run. But sometimes I have to take a minute and ask myself what I need at that moment - some days it is going for a run, some days it’s eating a dessert at 10:00PM.
On Motherhood Mantras and Marinating Kids in Love: My parenting philosophy is two things: First of all, I marinate my kids in love. My sister, Mari, taught me that mantra. One of the things I love about that mantra, is that the world is HARD. It can be cruel and mean. It can be really wonderful too, yes. But I want the boys to see home as a safe haven. On the mornings where the boys start getting into each other, I stop them and remind them that that is probably not the way they want to start their days. I don’t like conflict. I am all about love. I pick my battles. I am so pliable and flexible, I don’t have many rules.
My second mantra is that kids are resilient. I am not a helicopter mom - my kids will be climbing up on those tall structures at the playground. I think “Oh no.” But I don’t stop them, within reason. They need to learn. If they fall down and break their arm, it’s not the end of the world. I have two young kids, and they’re going to do what they need to do to satisfy their curiosity.
I definitely grew into this philosophy - with my first I was so by the book, but after my second I was like “He’s ok.” We need to remind ourselves that this too shall pass, and they are not going to be little forever. My youngest one still wants to be climbing all over me, and sometimes it’s too much, but some days I step back and remind myself to enjoy it because one of these days I’m going to be lame and not a mama jungle gym.
On Traditions and Ranchera Sundays: We always spend our birthdays together. That’s really important to us.
When you form a family, though, you have to think about the traditions you had, and the traditions your partner had, and the traditions you want to create and develop for this new family that you are forming. One of those traditions for us is every Christmas Eve we do Candy Cane Lane. We are usually the only ones out there, but we really just let the boys run around, and get all of that energy out. By the time we get home, they are tired and ready for bed, and mama and papa can properly support Santa.
We also have a lot of traditions around music. Every Sunday is Ranchera Day. We don’t necessarily do anything with explicit lyrics, but we listen to reggae, rock... We want to expose them to the music and culture that Orlando and I grew up with. It’s important to us to share those things. They are starting to have their own interests and tastes of their own music, which is really cool to see.
On Favorite Motherhood Moments: Seeing my children for the first time will always be one of my favorite moments. Now I really love to witness the bond that they have. When I see the younger one hug the older one, or when the younger one falls, and the older one comes up to make sure he is ok... All of my teachings about compassion are reflected in those tiny moments, and they always feel like such great Mom Wins.
I also love seeing my husband express love to the boys. They’re usually always rough-housing, so it’s nice when they express love to one another, and are tender in ways that boys are usually not. I am working hard to raise mini-feminists and it starts by helping to redefine masculinity and gender norms.
I am also constantly redirecting them about girls and what girls can and can’t do. The other day my older son said to me “I love women. Women are so important because they make all of us.” I thought to myself “Damn right, mijo!” Though I was sure to tell him that men play an important role in all of this, too. And that he could be a good father when he grows up. Raising conscious kids takes daily work, though. Everything is a learning opportunity and a teachable moment, but I know it will pay off.
On Shitty Mom Moments and Turning Them Around: There have been countless times where they are not buckled into their carseats. I’m literally driving on the freeway and the little one is like “Mami!” I am like “OH GOD”! But these moments pale in comparison to those defining moments that leave us questioning our parenting values.
There’s one shitty moment that was really defining for me. I just had Emilio, and he woke up with a fever. I also had a really important meeting that day, and I knew I couldn’t call it in. I had to be at the office. So I took him to my mom’s when my mom was still taking care of him. I dropped him off, I gave my mom some medicine, and asked her to keep him comfortable. I told her that as soon as I got home, I would take him to the doctor.
So I left, I got on the train. I sat there as the train pulled away, and I was thinking of him, and I was thinking about my mom, and about him, and how he was crying and not happy and not feeling well.. And I asked myself “What am I doing?” And I immediately got off at the next stop. I had to wait for the train to come back in the other direction, but I really had to stop and think about what mattered more. In those ten minutes, I really had to stop myself and think. All these things flashed through my head: This is not the kind of mom I wanted to be, this is not why I went off and got an education, and made all of those sacrifices to have a good job. This is not why I had this child…
I got off the train, I called my boss. Told her my son was sick, and that I couldn’t make it, and that I was sorry. It was handled. The world didn’t end, I didn’t get in trouble, and everything was fine. I took my son to the doctor right away. It was a reminder of what kind of mom I wanted to be, and what my limits are. It truly was a shitty moment that turned into a defining moment for me.
On Making Space: Orlando and I have been together for 17 years, married for 11. We have grown up together.
In the 17 years we have been together, we have figured out what works for us, and what we need as a couple. But at every stage, we have had a different version of ourselves. When they were babies, we each had a baby on top of us, and we would crash out next to each other, and that was enough.
Now the kids are old enough to spend time with Tita. Every Friday they spend the night at their abuelita’s, so those are our date nights. Those nights are really flexible. Some nights we go out to a bar, other nights we do stuff that we just need to do at home. It’s all about spending time together.
We are trying to do new things together. Every time we do something new together, we learn something new about each other, and that reignites our relationship. After you’ve been with someone for so long, it’s important to keep growing together – and trying new things together is one way to do that.
The daily connection is what’s most important, though because we don’t have a connection like that with anyone else. There is no one else who we can talk to and just kind of let it all hang out with. We both need that at the end of the day.
On the Best Parenting Advice: Treat your children the way you want to be treated. Sometimes we treat kids like they are not as worthy, or their feelings are not as valid, but they are little humans and their feelings are just as big as ours.
Also, do what is going to make you sane. There are so many sancti-mommies out there, but really no one knows what you need and what is going to make things work for you. If that means that the kids are going to eat a slice of cake for lunch instead of a real lunch because they don’t like what is being served at the birthday party, that’s ok. They are going to survive. If you can’t get around to brushing their teeth at the end of a long day full of back-to-school nite activities and soccer practice, it’s going to be ok. Do whatever is going to make you the best mom you can be to your kids.
On Raising Young Men of Color Today: For me, and because they are still young (7 and 4), we haven’t really talked about what’s happening in the world. They should be children. When violent or messy things come up on NPR, I turn it down. They shouldn’t have to worry about police, about the color of their skin, about violence. I want to keep them kids for as long as possible.
I will continue to marinate them in love, and give them dose after dose of self-confidence. My little one loves that his skin is brown, he loves everything that is brown: brown characters, animals, everything! I love that. It kills me to think that that love may go away some day. I am trying to support them to really be themselves. That is hard work because there is so much messaging out there that tells them otherwise.
I want my boys to be able to take the world by storm. So right now I am incubating them with a lot of love so that they can really have a healthy sense of self.
Now, I don’t want them to have a skewed sense of self, like Donald Trump, where everything starts and ends with him, but a healthy sense of self where they don’t have to tear down other people to be themselves. We are going to have “the talk” with them eventually, but right now we are just reinforcing all of these messages so that when they go out in the world, they are ready to take on the world with love for themselves and others.
On Interrogating the Way She Thinks Every Day: I constantly have to interrogate the way I think as a parent. I interrogate what I think, why I think it, and how I think its important - all of that is so necessary. Because what I think, my ideas are ultimately shaping my kids. They are going to absorb my teachings (those intentional and unintentional), and all of that is going to shape them into the adults they will become.
Right now, I am teaching them about how they take up space, because men really do take up more space than women. I am teaching them empathy, to try to walk in other people’s shoes and treat others the way they want to be treated. When it comes to discipline, I ask for each of their sides of the story. Then I ask “How do you think he felt when you did that? What would you do differently?” So I am constantly helping them question how they show up, too.
On Hopes & Dreams for Her Boys: I want them to be happy. I want them to be themselves. I don’t want to place any limitations on who they are or need to be. I am constantly listening and encouraging the things they like. I think my job is to help them find what they are passionate about, and nurture that.
On Bright Lines: When you are a parent, you are not going to see things the same as your partner or co-parent. People are always telling you that you need to be on the same page with your partner. And yet, the way Orlando and I grew up and the way we see the world is so different. While we both identify as Chican@, he grew up in rural Central Valley, I grew up in a San Gabriel Valley barrio. He is a man, I am a woman… There are so many ways we see things differently. People need to figure out what their bright lines are, what their non-negotiables are. There are ways that Orlando parents that I don’t necessarily agree with, but I give him space to play his role. As a result, I trust that he let me parent the way I see as necessary. There are days where I am running on limited resources: time, patience, energy, and I yell at my boys; I expect him to check me, and vise-versa. There are times where you have to be the protector of your children, even when it comes to your spouse. At the end of the day, your children are going to have a different relationship with you than they have with your partner.
For me, the bright line is when I notice Orlando is running on limited resources, I’ll intervene. There are moments that I may handle differently than my partner, but I’ll support him if that’s how he wants to parent.
Those are conversations that people are not really willing to have, and I think it’s important. It’s important for my kids to know that I’ve got their back, and that dad has their back, too. This is a partnership, and we are not always going to be our best selves. We need to own that, and be ready for that.
Thank you so much, Margarita!