We propose changes, transformations, evolutions and revolutions and yet neglect to realize our own mistakes, as of to where we should start changing and therefore find the proper ways to make these changes come true so a truly transformation can take place. My life has been a completely trial and error ever since I got out of high school in the sense that when I graduated I had not a single clue of what I wanted to do with my life. It was embarrassing because most of my friends had already applied to the local university and were set to start right away while I was still looking and reading to career booklets to see if any will ring a bell.
As my last resource, I decided to go to a private university where less paperwork was required and was able to sign up until the last minute. Now that I looked back at those days I can only imagine my parents and family reaction to my last minute and quick decision mainly because I was an excellent student through high school and perhaps everybody had high expectations of what I could become but I could not help it, my mind and desires at that point of my life were blank. I was only eighteen but I felt the pressure of the years ahead if I was to get myself into one of those complicated careers that everybody else would have love to see me pursue but yet nobody would have feel my failure when probably along the way I would have end up quitting it and my efforts to please others would have been in vain.
The next two years in college were a joke. I bounced between two careers because I was not feeling it. I spent most of these two years partying and having a good old time with friends and getting drunk every other night. I was working and going to school therefore my myth at that time was the one of a working student trying to make it through college but I did not feel pride of what I was doing. At the same time, my sister, Paulette, decided she will try luck in United States because our little country, Panama, was not good or big enough for her so next thing I know she gets a visa and left us, her family, behind. We were a family of five siblings with mom and dad at home all leaving under the same roof except for my oldest sister, Monica, who got married when she was eighteen. When Paulette left it was devastated for me because up until that time we were very close; we hang out all the time and shared the same friends. I remember just thinking about her, after she have left, will make me cry. I emailed her almost every day and she called every so often.
In addition, some other situations were happening at home. The most important one was the fact that my oldest sister who got married very young and had two kids was getting divorce and taking on single parenting. In today’s world there are a large number of women who have decided to take on motherhood without the support of their partner either because they have taken that decision for themselves or they had no other option like my sister because she was getting bit up by her husband every time he came home drunk even when she was pregnant. Whatever the case is, always when we see single mothers taking care of their children, we should see them as women worthy of admiration and not make them feel as they have failed or like they should feel ashamed of their situation. Furthermore, the journey of raising children alone is synonymous of courage, sacrifice, love, and lots of effort when there is not parental or child support from the father of the child. My sister was not ready to play this role in life because being a single mother is a myth and by that I mean the myth or those ideas that we do ourselves or society makes it soak into our minds in the form of mainly negative thoughts created by those who wrongly criticize women’s decision to accept the responsibility of bringing a child into this world and raise him/her without the support of a partner.
Although, this was not my sister decision to end the marriage instead she had to, in order to give her children a better life. Moreover, the basic problem here is how to induce a radical transformation or a change in the mentality of the members of our society and stop prejudices all together, how can one begin? We are told what to do since we were born by our parents, then our teachers in school took over and by the time we are adults we are already programmed to act and perform to certain standards dictated by society. Thus, the question that arises is: how can one encourage such change? And the truth is that social transformation can take place only after a significant number of individuals have experienced an inner reorientation and rebirth. In theory, this is certainly true; but individual persons are born in a society and culture whose images, traditional beliefs and examples mould their minds. In the words of analyst Marion Woodman, “When society deliberately programs itself to a set of norms that has very little to do with instinct, love or privacy, then people who set out to become individuals, trusting in the dignity of their own soul and the creativity of their own imagination, have good reason to be afraid” (15).
This quote makes me realize how there are lots of ideas and myths created by our society like the myth of the perfect marriage that stays together through hard times but does this mean to keep on getting bit up by your husband and pretend next day that it did not happen? This type of myth somehow prevents us from having the life we want for ourselves and in the case of single mothers also for their children. Again, we just need to keep in mind one thing, these ideas or myths that are so ingrained in our minds, and that we are ought to transform, will require a change in mentality, remember this phrase: “You are the result of your thoughts,” because if from the beginning you said to yourself that by raising a child on your own will ruin your life, your dreams, your projects, and therefore this will hinder you to have a happy family life and it will only bring frustration and misery to your life,Estas equivocada! you are wrong! y es un mito! This negative thinking is a myth created by others.
On the contrary, the reality is that porque como ya lo he dicho antes un hijo es la oportunidad de ver la vida con otros ojos!a child is the opportunity to see life through different eyes. However, it is important to emphasize that without actually replacing the father figure of the child, the family of the single woman is for her and her child a unique and fundamental support for both (mother / child) that will make them feel somehow protected and in turn help the child to feel that he or she belongs and is a member of a family unit. My own experience with my sister gives me some sort of background to this issue. I guess I can also say that it could be a biased perspective or point of view mainly because I witnessed what my oldest sister was going through when she became a single mother with two babies and I know how hard it was for her and her children to overcome what was happening to them. And the funny part is that all the critics that I can remember did not come from strangers. Instead, my sister was being criticized by her own family and by that I mean my uncles and aunts, grandma, cousins, etc. that probably thought that they could talk in front of me and I would not realize who they were talking about. In any case, now that I look back to those days it is easier for me to understand why society points fingers at you in such a deliberately way; perhaps, because is evident that this prejudice starts at home between our own family members, in our own backyard.
Likewise, later on in life, my sister Paulette faced the same situation where she also left her husband when her son was only two years old and although both of my sisters’ situations happened in totally different times and scenarios at the end the title that society gives them is usually the same: single mother. Lisa D. Chavez personal experience, as the daughter of a single mother, described in “Independence Day, Manley Hot Springs, Alaska” provides an insight of many of the fears and circumstances that a single mother has to confront in an everyday basis and that puts more pressure on the actions to take for her own good and for her children. In her essay, Chavez narrates, “What she was leaving behind were her everyday fears; her route to work through Watts, a place blighted and dangerous even then. The muggings in the company parking lot. The fear of being a young woman alone with her child in a decaying neighborhood, a derelict factory looming across the street” (49).
Without a doubt, Chavez’s experience when she was only twelve marked her life and as a perfect example, here, we can see how her mother was afraid not only of the daily concerns we all have to confront but, also, the fact that she was a young single mother scared her to the point that her best option was to move as far north as she could in her quest to find a “safe place” although little did she know what she was going to encounter would be just as dangerous and frightening as what you find in the metropolitan cities which shows us that danger is really everywhere and it is just disguised in different forms around the world. In my opinion, single mothers face great challenges like the simple fact that they will be the only one responsible for providing education, food, protection, and training a new human being and therefore there is no time to care about what the society think of you or your actions. El rostro de una madre sola, sin ayuda de la pareja y con un hijo, es un rostro de calidad porque antes que nada no ha optado por la puerta falsa del aborto o el abandono, sino que ha decidido ser una mujer que enfrentará la vida por dos, el niño que viene en su vientre le otorga las fuerzas y el coraje para salir adelante en medio de una sociedad que estigmatiza y estereotipa, que señala y que acusa fríamente.
Las madres solteras tienen que pagar un precio muy alto, no sólo a nivel económico, sino que también están expuestas a la discriminación, prejuicios y mitos en su vida cotidiana.Single mothers have to pay a high price not only financially, but also the continue exposure to discrimination, prejudices and myths in their daily lives. In the case of my sister Monica was even harder because she did not go to college and did not have a good pay job that will give her a strong financial support. Also, aEntre otros, persiste el mito de que los niños de madres solteras se convierten en chicos y chicas malas, de que las madres solteras no saben poner los límites, que las madres solteras asfixian a los niños con su amor.mong others, there is a myth that children of single mothers become bad boys and bad girls, supposedly because single mothers do not know how to set limits and that they smother their children with love. There is no ending to all the social prejudices and it is better not to live to such standards that want to categorize people regardless of each individual circumstances.
For example, there are several factors favoring the birth of babies of single mothers such as: lack of self-love by women, the need for companionship, debauchery of contemporary society, the excessive freedom that parents provide their children, a macho tradition in which the man takes no responsibility for their actions or the embarrassment of having committed them resulting in the abandonment of their women and children. Rudolfo Anaya describes the macho behavior from different perspective in his essay “I’m the King”: The Macho Image, where he tries to analyze what is involve in being a macho and how it changes from culture to culture. Anaya suggests, “Macho behavior, in large part, revolves around the acting out of sex roles. The games the macho plays maybe part of nature’s dance, with the goal of procreation imprinted on the cells long ago, but the power to subjugate is also inherent in our relationships” (60). Definitely, one can agree that machismo in some cultures can contribute to the course of action some men can take when a big responsibility such as raising a child arises and the way they choose to deal with it is greatly influenced by the way they were brought up and also let us not forget that women can also decide to leave her partner or husband because they no longer want to tolerate a sexist relationship and therefore they are the ones that abandon the home and take the journey of becoming single mothers by choice.
As I have said, when we talk about single mothers today, we must highlight all the efforts and challenges that this implies for the woman who has decided to be single mom, those that do not receive any emotional or economic support from the father of their children. Like both of my sisters and the other millions of women that decide to pursue a better life for themselves and their families. While most people agree that children are better off in families with two parents (including myself), this does not mean that the impact of single-parent families on children has to be a negative one for them or the society.
I was not raised by a single parent, and I have never been a single parent. And on nights when my husband is late getting home from work, I often wonder to myself, “How do single parents do it?” On the other hand, when a mother stays in an unhealthy or dangerous situation with the baby daddy, ‘for the sake of her kids’, how is that more respectable than one who does it on her own? I know this obviously cannot and does not ring true for all situations and families, but I have a lot more respect for the mother who tries to raise her child alone the best she can, as opposed to one who settles for what’s easier or more acceptable in the eyes of society and God bless my sisters and all women that stand up for themselves for a better and brighter future.
Definitely, my sisters’ lives have influenced my life in every single aspect. My oldest sister misfortune taught me that I did not want to be involve in a serious relationship that could lead to marriage and kids because I was afraid her case would be my case. On the other hand, my sister that moved away from home persuaded me to follow her steps and move up north with her. In less than 10 months I made all the arrangements and left my country as well. It was the winter of 2002 when I landed in Los Angeles, CA in a cold night of Christmas day. I started then my second transformation into adulthood in another country, different people, different system altogether. All I can say is that it was not easy. At first, I thought everything will be better now because I am starting from zero and this will be a new beginning but my first six months here were hell. I was crying every day because I missed my friends, my family and most of all my lifestyle that I was so used to and here was totally different because I only had my sister who got married a few months prior to my arrival but soon after I got here her marriage was falling apart. Again, even though they were no kids involved I witnessed how devastated was for her to go through the separation and start all over by herself.
Meanwhile, I started making new friends and the partying started again. I never stopped going to school and as a matter of fact this has always been my most important priority besides all my doubts regarding what career path to follow. Of course, I had to learn the language first which will help me in case I was going to go back to my country because at least I would have the advantage of knowing a second language. Again, I was a full time worker and part time student learning English which was easy, only one subject to focus on. After a few years I finished my ESL classes and again I faced the same issues about what career to pursue with the difference that I am much older now but still no clue, seriously? Something must be really wrong with me I thought.
At that time I was working for the Pasadena Unified School District as a teacher assistant for the pre-school class and everything was pointing me to pursue a teaching permit to become a teacher one day. So I did started taking child development classes and after two semesters I stopped because I did not see myself doing that for life. Once more, I was with no clue of what to do but a light at the end of the tunnel helped me see something that I over passed all these years. As I have noted before, I have always been very applied in school and for some reason subjects such as algebra, math or accounting were always my favorite and then I thought what about pursuing something related to these subjects that I would at least enjoy taking. Then, before I knew, my associate degree was completed and I decided to transfer to CSU L.A. to pursue a bachelor degree with the option in accounting.
Somewhere in between finishing my associate degree I got married and my third transformation began. Now, I was no longer a single leaving a crazy careless life so to speak. I started to realize how I have abandoned my family back in Panama. I rarely called my parents or siblings and stop communication with the dearest of my friends. All of the sudden I started regretting what I have done because I was starting a family myself and obviously my eyes were opening to a new perspective of life. I was 26 years old when I got married and was still very afraid to have the same luck that my sisters had. My first priority was still the same which was to finish school so even though the thought of having kids was always in my mind and will excite me every time I thought about it that did not rush me to start the journey of motherhood.
Soon after I got married I quit my part time job as a teacher assistant to look for something more related to my future career but then some problems at home aroused. Basically, because for centuries, many men have had a way of being macho and have in one way or the other discriminated against women by considering them inferior. En las parejas tradicionales el papá siempre era el proveedor económico y el que imponía las normas, mientras la madre se encargaba de la parte afectiva… In traditional couples, the husband was always the economic provider and imposed the rules, while the wife was responsible for the emotional well-being of everyone in the family. My husband vision was for us to start a family and for me to stay home to raise our children. But my vision was not the same as his because I had aspirations and expectations of my life and I was not about to give up on them. In addition, I had my mother example where she had to sacrifice her dreams because she had to raise us, five children, and it was not until my youngest brother turned eighteen when she finally started to do what she wanted to do with her life.
I know my mom would never referred to her life as a disappointed life but I know she held back a lot but in her case it was not because of my father holding her back but because of having so many children. In a different scenario, Virgil Suarez, narrates the story of his upbringings in the essay “Fathers in the Mirror” where he talks about his father’s way of dealing with a disappointing life in Cuba, that was full of frustrations and how his dad reflected it upon the family. The father became an unemotional person who said only a few words; maybe in a way he was trying to detach himself from the world and his family. In the words of writer Suarez, “He no longer talks to anybody, and less to us, his family. My mother and my grandmother; his mother. But they leave him alone, to his moods, for they know what he is being put through” (205). Perhaps, it was his only escape to reality. Also, Suarez’s dad story shows how a person’s social and economic misfortune combined with his cultural background could create a selfish parent, rigid and emotionless.
I did not want this to happen to me. Next, I found a job and did not tell my husband until the weekend before I was to start but we did not have any kids at that time and therefore no reason for me to stay home. In my opinion we are living in a changing world, where women are further along and the role reversal is not longer a myth but a reality, a different version of masculinity is imperative. In today’s world, there is an exchange of roles and the men are doing more tasks that were once considered only for women. But there is much more to do and change across the world in regards to this matter and it is also true that it will take time to accomplish. Indeed, in many modern families the new trend is moving forward a new masculinity.
For example, two years ago my husband and I were blessed with a beautiful healthy boy that we named Darren. I became a mother at 30 years old and my fourth transformation began. Indeed, my priorities have changed but the concept is still the same. What have changed is my husband mentality and nowadays I am happy to say that I am about to finish my bachelor, I have a part time job and I enjoyed being a mother and even though it has not been an easy ride, we have found ways to make it work because we have symmetry in our functions around the house and together we share the parenting of our little 2 year-old bundle of joy.
Anaya, Rudolfo. “I’m the King”: The Macho Image.” Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood. Ed. Ray Gonzalez. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. 57-73. Print.
Chavez, Lisa D. “Independence Day, Manley Hot Springs, Alaska.” The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction. 6th ed. Robert
L. Root, Jr., Michael Steinberg. Boston: Longman, 2011. 49-55. Print.
Suarez, Virgil. “Fathers ind the Mirror.” Muy Macho: Latino Men Confront Their Manhood. Ed. Ray Gonzalez. New York: Anchor Books, 1996. 203-220. Print.
Woodman, Marion. The Pregnant Virgin: A Process of Psychological Transformation. Toronto, Canada: Inner City, 1985. Print.