Latina Moms: The Struggle of Thriving and Surviving

Here are some things that could help as you begin navigating the new territory of motherhood, all while breaking cycles along the way

Latina moms thriving surviving

Credit: Patricia Alvarado | Courtesy

Being a first generation Latina comes with so many responsibilities – from being a cycle breaker within the work environment to challenging uncomfortable conversations with family or friends. We are being vulnerable and checking in with ourselves to ensure that what we are doing feels right and what we are doing makes sense. We are consistently pushing the needle and creating a stance on how we want our lives to be. We are taking ownership of our lives and while it comes with so much responsibility, it is also so rewarding. Yet there is one area where I wonder if we are still trying to find ways to make it right, finding ways to break the cycle, and finding ways to heal.  Being a mother comes with so many expectations on its own but adding the cultural expectations of being a Latina mother brings its own set of expectations.

Latina mothers are expected to do caretaking, cook on a daily basis and have a spotless home while making sure her partner’s needs and her children’s needs are met.  There is an emphasis on respect, discipline, and upholding cultural traditions that have been passed down through generations. Family is at the center and Latina mothers do whatever it takes to keep the family together, even if it’s paired with violence, fear, or sadness.  Being a first gen mother myself and growing up with an immigrant Latina mother, I have had the cultural expectations very present. I have had to make a decision on the kind of mother I want to be and what kind of cultural expectations I will uphold. I have leaned into asking for help and setting a boundary when it is necessary. I have come to terms with the fact that I won’t do laundry daily or have a spotless floor but I will make sure that my son knows how loved he is on a daily basis. 

When I first found out that I was pregnant, I was thrilled. I began thinking about what life would be like now that I would be a mother and what kind of mother I would want to be. The thing about the thought surrounding what I don’t want to be like is that immediately I began reflecting on my own childhood experiences. As my belly grew, I made a commitment to myself and my son about how involved I would be in his life and how I would ensure that I raised a “trauma free baby.” As I was planning my maternity leave, I remember sharing with clients that I would probably be out a month or so and then we would get right back to work. Funny, I know. 

Now, I have a two-year-old toddler who runs my world and is my very own boss baby. My perspective has quickly changed throughout these past two years because I realized that I needed to ask for help (uncomfortable), I needed to set boundaries (even more uncomfortable), I needed to set a good example for my son (but how?) I needed to remember that I couldn’t do it all (this is foreign). Before becoming a mother I thrived on the idea of doing it all. No challenge was too big because as a first gen, I didn’t have the luxury of having a choice. I just had to do it. 

As I continue reflecting on the challenges of being a mother while also breaking cycles I see how rewarding it is, but also how isolating it can be.  As first gen mothers, we are navigating the difficult waters of being a new mom while also being emotionally present for our children. We are seeking mental health services to take care of our emotional wellbeing so that in turn, we can take care of our little ones. As first gen cycle breakers we are having difficult conversations even when the discomfort is present. We do all of these things because we want things to be different. We want a different kind of future for our children and we want to create a meaningful impact where we are raising children that do not fear their voice but instead embrace it.   

As a first gen mother I have noticed that many people tend to have opinions on your life, especially when you are a new mother without realizing that each experience is unique. Now, as a mother myself I reflect on the experiences of my own mother when it comes to my decision making. I remember moments of confusion in my own childhood when I was told “no” but didn’t know why. Now that I am a mother, I make sure that I explain why I set certain rules or why I say “no” to certain situations. I have noticed the increase in stress and frustration and wonder how my mother managed her own self-care in similar situations.

Today she will say that it was “no big deal” when I know that it was a very big deal. Noticing these little things now helps me see that motherhood is not easy. The books available do not really prepare you for the huge undertaking that motherhood entails. Now, I have been able to grow compassion for my mothers choices as I reflect on how difficult it must have been to be an undocumented immigrant in this country raising children. This just reminds me how incredible we are as women, how resilient we are as first gen Latinas, and the true power that we hold. 

For those new moms, moms that have been moms for some time, expecting moms, or those contemplating motherhood, here are some things that could help as you begin navigating the new territory of motherhood, all while breaking cycles along the way. 

  1. Boundaries: I cannot stress this enough. I know it’s been said but they are so so so important. Boundaries are for YOU, so that you share what is acceptable and not acceptable for you. With motherhood and work, it is so important to share your boundaries. I’ve set boundaries with clients, my team, and family. I’ve shared that I cannot work past a certain time and that family cannot visit unexpectedly. It’s been uncomfortable but with time, I’ve felt so much better about that decision. 
  2. Self-care: Not just any self-care like a manicure, but real quality self-care. This looks different depending on who you ask. Prioritizing moments for yourself will help you be more present in the various spaces you navigate. For me, self-care includes sitting in silence and just resting my brain. This helps me feel present and centered with myself. 
  3. Constant Reflection: This has been something that I began implementing when my son became mobile, mainly because the stress levels increased DRASTICALLY.  I began reflecting on what I needed to do to be the type of mother I envisioned for myself. I began to wonder why I felt so triggered by small actions. Most importantly, I began looking at his tiny hands to remember that he was so little. 
  4. Seek Mental Health Support: I read somewhere that the postpartum period lasts seven years and I believe it. So much comes up for us first gen Latinas who are also navigating motherhood.  Having a support system that includes a mental health therapist can be so helpful as you step into this new role. It might be beneficial to seek someone who has experience working with postpartum mental health. They are referred to as perinatal mental health therapists who have experience in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, as an example. 
  5. Identify your Tribe: We all need someone and with that, remember that you have a voice. You can ask for the kind of support you need in the way that it makes sense for you. Our chosen family can really be a support system when we need it the most. Mommy and me classes help you identify with other mothers that might be feeling the same kind of struggles you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask for support, we all need it. 

First gen mothers are finding themselves in new and different spaces where there is opportunity and above all, choice. While our immigrant mothers might have not had the same experiences as we do, this is showing another layer to our first gen identity. However, by incorporating self-care, boundaries, seeking support through your tribe and mental health services, while consistently creating insight through reflection, we can show that we can continue breaking cycles while modeling a new way of being for generations to come.    

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