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Keeping Up

Keeping Up

Hi everyone! Happy Hump Day!

For today’s post, I wanted to take a second to dive into something that I hear All. The. Time. as a new mom, and as a Latina. It is something that I struggle with, and find to be super unhelpful.

New moms have the tough job of finding their parenting sea legs on completely uncharted territory. What’s more, some days the waters are turbulent, while others they are serene, lapping the hull of the ship playfully. When I was pregnant, I tried to read every book on parenting I could get my hands on. True to form, I studied and tried to prepare myself as best I could.

If you are pregnant, and reading this, I’ll tell you one thing: nothing - no book, no blog, no words - can really, truly prepare you for motherhood. It’s one thing to read about sleep training; it is another thing entirely to try to ignore the bloodcurdling screams of your tiny human in the middle of the night when you leave alone her in her crib. It’s one thing to read about how you will discover a whole new level of love; it’s another thing entirely to feel the weight of your baby on your chest for the first time.

So what is the problematic “advise” that I hear all too frequently? It is a narrative that our abuelas, moms, and theirs before them carry and unforgivingly share all too often…

Picture this: New mom enters, bags under her eyes, hair unkempt and unwashed. Her very essence is a cry for help.

New mom: I am so tired.

Older more “experienced” Latina mom: When I was your age, I had EIGHT children with another on the way, my house was spotless, there were fresh-made tortillas on the comal, AND I taught Sunday school…

New mom: 

I obviously cannot speak to the challenges of having multiple children. I’ve heard that it does get easier as they get older, seeing as they can entertain themselves and each other. I also understand that these comments are meant to be well-intentioned, and are supposed to give new moms the strength to keep going. The knowledge that if it has been done before you, it can be done again and again. 

But think about what those words really do to a new mom, or even a mom who is transitioning from one babe to two. I heard these words for the first time before I had any babies. Someone’s mom was exasperatedly talking about her daughter, who had two young children. The daughter was having a hard time. 

No se por qué batalla tanto. Yo tenía mucha más responsabilidad a su edad. ¡Yo lo podía todo! I don’t know why she struggles so much. I had so much more responsibility at her age. I did it all!

Now a days, if I show signs that I am struggling, or that I am tired, or that some days are just plain harder than others, my mom helpfully chimes in:

¡Ja! ¡Y yo con cuatro! Como es que los llevaba a todos a la tienda, siempre bien cambiaditos y peinaditos. Siempre les hacia sus calditos. Casi nunca lloraban. Se dormían solitos… Ha! And I had had FOUR! How is it that I managed to take you guys to the stores with me, impeccably dressed. I always made sure I had stew made at home. You guys rarely cried. You slept on your own…

I do not find strength OR fortitude in these words. All I hear is how much I am lacking as a mom. Obviously, I am not doing enough, nor am I doing a well enough job because if I was, I wouldn't be so tired.

I think it is FANTASTIC that my nana (my dad’s mom) had ten children. I think it is INCREDIBLE that my mom’s mom had two children in the SAME YEAR (one at the beginning of the year, one at the end). I think it is PHENOMENAL that my mom had three kids back-to-back.

All of these things have actually enhanced my life: I have a shit ton of cousins whom I love, I have three really cool little siblings who I get to watch grow up… I also have learned SO MUCH from these amazing women.

When Ximena would not stop crying one night because she was having tummy troubles, my mom immediately scooped her up, warmed up a little towel and wrapped her belly with it. Ximena immediately stopped crying.

You can almost feel the ancient wisdom pulsing through their veins, you can feel it pouring out of my mom’s hands as she tightly coils my hair into braids, in the remedios caseros you would never find in a search engine.

But it is problematic, and frankly antiquated, to think that their way is the only way. That we, as women and mothers, should continue taking on more than we can or feel ready for. That we should not ask for help.

These notions perpetuate patriarchal standards of parenting in that they do not take the father or partner parent’s actions into account. It is NOT the sole responsibility of the mother to take on all the work. These notions do not take a mother’s ambition into consideration, either.

Sometimes, I let the kitchen stay dirty a few hours longer because I am hustlin’: I have a deadline to meet, a story idea I NEED to get down on paper before I forget about it, a photoshoot to edit… Other times still, I just need a break. I need space, because prior to giving birth to Ximena, I was a pretty independent person. 

It’s a precarious dance. A dance with my ancestors, with my mother, with my grandmother. Traditions are like beautiful resplendent mountains defying time and the elements. Change, though, is that delicious sea breeze that playfully sprays your legs. Change is the sun.

And thankfully, change is inevitable. 

I commend all the mamas out there - whether you are thriving or just plain surviving. Do what you need to do to stay on course, and know that some days will be harder than others. But don't ever feel like you need to sprint to keep up because you are doing just fine. 

Art // Diego Rivera

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