Growing up, I remember always looking up to my mom. She was smart, outspoken, and was one very involved parent. She was a stay-at-home mom for 12 years and was literally there for me and my siblings through it all. Every violin practice, ballet class, school play, jazz band concert, bake sale — you name it — she was there! My mom was even part of my elementary school's PTA committee and at one point even volunteered at my school’s library. As a result, I not only breezed through school with incredible grades, a well rounded background, and healthy self-esteem, but I developed tremendous respect and admiration for my mom. Did I mention she was also the handy person at home? Mami literally did it all!The problem is, she didn't always see it that way. My mom graduated with a bachelor's in chemistry and worked as a medical technologist at a hospital for years. But when my dad started practicing dentistry, things got hard. Both my parents were working incredibly long hours and after coming home to find scars on my sister's face (from the babysitter’s kid) and me behind in homework, my mom realized she no longer wanted to leave her two little kids in the hands of strangers.
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My abuela was in the Dominican Republic and her sisters all worked, so there were no relatives that could watch over us. My mom made the decision to put her career on pause to be home to raise us. What started off as something temporary became something that elongated to 12 years. My baby brother was struggling in school and mom wanted to be around to give him the extra support he needed.
Though my mother never regretted her decision to become a stay-at-home mom, she was very hard on herself. It wasn't easy for a science nerd and career-driven woman like herself to have to deal with the comments that came with being a stay-at-home mom. She was strong, independent in many ways, and yet so much of that was overlooked because she didn't have a job that came with a salary.
While I think it's awesome that we live in a society that supports feminism and equal opportunity, I think it's sad that we've also become a society that looks down on women who make that choice to stay at home. I understand that there was a time when women weren't given the opportunity to focus on their careers or even to juggle both being a mom and a working woman. But who says stay-at-home moms can't be feminists too? In fact, I credit my mom for being the feminist I am today.
There's this misconception that if you aren't slaying it in your career and breaking serious barriers, you're not a feminist.
Women who choose to take a more domestic role are perceived as "anti-feminist," weaker, or less than. But what folks don't realize is that this kind of thinking isn’t just condescending — it's also false.
If I were to break down to you all the things my mother is and all the things she's taught me through the years, there would be no other word to describe it other than "feminist." Don't believe me? Here are a few ways my Dominican stay-at-home mom was the first feminist role model in my life.
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She's always been outspoken: You know that saying, "She got it from her mama?" Well, never being afraid to speak my mind is definitely something I picked up from mine. As kind and patient as she may be, my mom has always been vocal about who she is, what she wants, and her stance on issues. She's never been intimidated by anyone and can debate with the best of them on anything from science to social issues and politics.
She doesn't take crap from anyone: Not from my dad or friends — nobody! This woman knows how to stand her ground and will fight back (in the most articulate way of course) when necessary. Don't let her kindness or sweet demeanor fool you.
She has her own life: My mom went back to work years ago in medical administration. But even when she was at home with us, my mom has always managed to have a life outside of her family. Sure, she dedicated time to us and to my dad, but she's always made time to hang out with her girlfriends too. Until this day my mom has a bunch of girlfriends she makes room to see and is all about women supporting women. It's no wonder I have so many amazing and powerful women in my life.
She's always supported my dreams: Since I was little my mother always told me I could literally be anyone I wanted when I grew up. When I told her I was switching majors in college to pursue a career in journalism instead of advertising, she supported me 100 percent. She even supported me when I did unpaid magazine internships post-graduation. I don't think there's a single article of mine she hasn't read and shared with all her friends.
She's never pressured me about marriage: Even when I was engaged to my ex-boyfriend, my mom has never put any kind of pressure on me or any of my siblings to get married. In fact, she's told me quite a few times that if I chose to not marry and not have kids, she'd be totally fine with it. The most important thing for her is to see her children successful and happy.
She has encouraged me to be single: My mom has never been the kind of mom to throw men my way, quite the opposite actually. Because she married so young, she's always encouraged me to enjoy being alone. When I broke up with my ex after eight years, she told me to date but not jump into a commitment. "They'll always be time for men and boyfriends. Put all your energy on your career, dreams, and traveling," she's told me.
She's taught me not to settle: I guess you could say my mom got lucky in the love department. She's been with my dad since their teens and he has loved her and treated her like a queen ever since. But I'm pretty positive if that hadn't been the case, mami would have left him in a hot second. If there's one thing my mom has taught me, it is to not settle, not to put up with machismo, and not to get involved with a man who doesn't appreciate and recognize my worth.
She does it all: Not only does this woman keep herself up-to-date with the news, politics, and everything happening around the world, but she's constantly teaching herself new things. She's the handyman at my parent's house for crying out loud. Her mentality has always been that you can't rely on men to figure things out for you. "There's a freedom in being able to do things on your own without the help of a man," she constantly tells me.
She's practices self-love: I remember seeing my mom practicing self-love, before that even became a thing. She's taken courses, seminars, read books, and dedicated most of her adult life on being an emotionally, mentally, and spiritually healthy individual. That's a huge deal for a Latina of her generation, especially one who grew up in a highly toxic household. But my mom knows to be kind and loving to herself and knows better than to engage in unhealthy relationships.
She's progressed: How many young Latinas can sit with their mom and talk about sex and vibrators? Um, I totally can! While she hasn't always been this open when it comes to this, my mom has a progressive and liberal attitude when it comes to the whole “waiting until marriage” mentality. She recognizes what I do with my body is my decision alone.