When you become a mother, you often have to look toward other mothers for advice. You think back to the things your own madrecita did, and your abuela, and your tias, and all your friends. Sometimes you reach out to them for help, while other times you might completely do the opposite of what they advice (because hey, it’s 2018 and gender norms are for suckers). Seriously, though, moms these days seem to be taking a much different approach than that of our own mothers before us. For some, it’s due to being the first generation to grow up in the U.S. For others, it’s a matter of doing more for our kids than our own mamis were able to. I spoke with a number of Latina moms to find out how they’re parenting differently than abuela and this is what they had to say:
Maritere: 60 – Los Angeles, California – Puerto Rican
”My mom is Puerto Rican. I raised my children differently than my mom in many ways. In her time, children were not given any explanations for a decision nor were we allowed to ask the ‘why’ of a decision or allowed to ask for an explanation. It was usually, ‘because I say so.’ My children grew up understanding that they could be listened to and they were allowed to ask why or why not, and also had the chance to argue a point of view and give their opinion. It was important to me that they use their voices and that they understood that even if we still said no to what they asked for, we valued their opinion.
My children also grew up understanding that parents weren’t perfect and that we could make mistakes. I said, ‘I am sorry,’ to my children when I knew I had made a mistake. I felt like I owed it to them to acknowledge that I wasn’t perfect and that I was doing the best I knew how. My mom would feel bad for acting a certain way (overreacting by yelling, as an example) but saying I am sorry was not something parents did in my time. All that said, I truly believe my mom did the best she knew how and I would never venture to judge her parenting skills. All moms do the best job we know how with the best of intentions.”
Elle: 36 – New Jersey – Dominican/Ecuadorian
“There are many ways that my parenting is different than my mother’s, and it’s one of the inspirations behind our podcast, Oye Mami Show. There are no gender restrictions in my home. My five-year-old son has to make his bed, pick up his toys, and wash dishes (to his best capabilities) just like my daughters have to help carry in groceries and take out the trash. My mom hates that I make my son do housework but this momma ain’t raising no fools or lazy people.”
Sylvia: 40 – Central California Coast – Mexican
“The differences between mi [sic] mom and I are simple. I think I stress less and let my kids explore more. My mom, for example would get concerned if I walk descalza…I would get a cold. So you can imagine her face when she discovered that my kids loved to be barefoot and I allowed it.”
Gladys: 37 – Whittier, CA – Mexican
“My mother was an undocumented monolingual teenager, miles away from her home and support system, working in a sweatshop two weeks after giving birth because she had no other choice. She was always tired and showed no affection or emotion. She missed parent conferences, award ceremonies, performances, and many other moments. I talked to her about how hard my adjustment has been to being a stay-at-home mom and she finally shared how she wished she could have been there for my childhood, but was afraid to ask for time off. She was afraid to lose her job on a daily basis. I didn’t know this growing up.
All I knew was that when I had children, I would be there for them. I would make sure they never questioned if I loved them, and that I would be a part of their childhood memories. My heart aches for my mom, and I feel so much guilt for the resentment I felt. There is nothing I can do to go back in time to help my mom, all I can do is try to be the mom I needed as a child.”
Nathalie: 33 – Miami, Florida – American/Dominican
“I would say that the main difference when my girls are older is sex-shaming. I’m not going to be encouraging them to be sexually active at a young age, but I want them to not be afraid to talk to me about things, or afraid that I will overreact when they seek advice or want to confess something to me. I did a lot of things behind my parents back. I don’t want that same relationship with my daughters. My parents were very loving, encouraging, supportive, etc. Great parents overall. But I was really scared of consequences. You might say that’s a good thing, but it just made me do things behind their back rather than avoid doing things period (e.g. trying alcohol, going out late, and sexually exploring).
Another main difference that I can already see happening is not being quite as religious as my mom. (My daughter) Allison has been to church only a handful of times, whereas my parents took us every Sunday, used to pray the rosary periodically, and took us to prayer groups. She is baptised, and will take her to get her other sacrament, but I’ve slacked off big time in the religion department.”
Jenny: 46 – Chicago, IL – Ecuadorian/American
“I find my mom and I bumping heads over topics such as breastfeeding, vaccines, foods, gender roles, and medicine. I breastfed my oldest until he was 20 months old and I am currently still breastfeeding my 1 1/2-year-old. My mom tells me that I should double check with the pediatrician to see if that’s ok, that it’s way too long and that he needs “real” food. I explain to her that breast milk provides some amazing nutrients and that I am fine breastfeeding for a bit longer.
We were once at McDonalds and she bought my oldest son a Happy Meal. The gift was a plastic pink house with a Hello Kitty doll. He opened it and was excited and she took it out of his hand and said “no papi, your [sic] a boy let’s go change this toy”. I stopped her in her tracks and told her that it is neither a girl or boy toy, it’s simply a toy and that we ask him if he wants to keep it or exchange it. I asked him and he said he wanted to keep it.
I am my child’s advocate in all things. I look for natural, holistic and/or homeopathic medicines to treat ailments. I have an open dialogue with my children. I don’t call their private parts nicknames. My son calls his penis a penis. He once told people that he came out of my belly and his brother out my vagina. That’s the truth and I told him the story. He was born c-section and his brother vaginally.”
Susana Marquez: 37 – Long Beach CA , El Salvadorian
“I parent differently than my mother because I do not believe in corporal punishment and I provide a lot of explanations to my son when setting limits. I choose to speak to him at eye level and place him in time out for him to calm down from a tantrum. My parenting uses more empathy and active listening. I talk a lot with my son, encourage verbalization and identifying his feelings. I allow him to feel and we then process his feelings in order for him to understand all feelings are normal to feel. I respect my son’s autonomy and his decisions about whether he wants to be physically touched by a family member or not.
I parent my son differently than my mom because I also encourage free, independent play to give me sometime to get work done. I also encourage my son to problem solve before stepping in and to make decisions that are fitting to his age about his play or toys. I also encourage my son to help me with chores around the house because even though he is a boy I want him to not fit into gender roles and stereotypes.”
Migdalia Rivera: 46 – New York City – Puerto Rican
“I hate when people use the chancleta as a joke! During my parents age it was believed that kids should be seen and not heard. To make sure this happened the chancleta was often used. Studies now show that spanking is super detrimental to children’s well-being. Talk, reasoning, works so much better and arms them with the skills to succeed in the future. As a mom of two feminist sons, I realized that this is especially important in combatting the macho stereotype (men don’t talk, don’t cry, don’t show any emotion) that so many of our parents believed in.”
Arlene: 23 – Denver CO – Dominican/Colombian
“My mom wasn’t traditional with us, but I see more traditional parenting from my grandparents (who I spent most of my childhood with). Being a millennial, crunchy, and first generation American from a Dominican (mom) and Colombian (dad) household means I do so much different than what I grew up with. I stick with old natural remedies for when my kids are sick, but I also use essential oils and homeopathic stuff. We do time out rather than spank for everything (but will still spank if called for, but it’s super rare). Food is still a very important role in our lives, but I let my kids snack all day if they want to and don’t stress dinner as hard as my grandparents did. It’s ok to not lick your plate clean. I literally don’t leave a grain of rice on my plate because of how I was raised. My children can be seen and heard if they are around adults, but always with respect. I couldn’t say anything if there were adults around, even if they were talking about me. We are also not religious at all which was one of the most prominent things in my childhood.”