Growing up Latinx in America can bring heavy expectations, whether from society or from within. Being proud of the path you walk comes from knowing who you are.
“Are you proud of me?” I asked my dad a few months ago. “I mean about having a college degree and choosing to stay home?”
“Of course, I am.”
“It’s just because you and mom gave us the chance to go to college.”
“Don’t even worry about that.”
My dad is the son of two migrant workers from Mexico and spent most of his childhood in the fields. When he had a family of his own, he was a bi-vocational minister who also worked in a manufacturing plant. He was in his late 30s before he finished his seminary Associates degree.
My mom grew up in a family that also saw the fields. She was a waitress before I was born and then found a job in an elementary school, and she’s done that ever since. She has a high school degree but always wanted more.
My brother, sister, and I are first-generation college graduates, and we are proud of our roots and what it means to obtain a college degree within four years of high school graduation.
Then it was time for my career. I was a young Mexican-American who fluently spoke two languages in a corporate environment. I was often the only person of color at the table, and I was proud. I came from a family who spent 12 hour days in the sun breaking their backs, and there I was requesting a stability ball for an office chair and enjoying food trucks for lunch. I had a great salary and bonuses that made me feel worthy of being in my position. I pushed myself to the front of the line when it came to finding a corporate job. I worked extra hours and volunteered for projects. I wanted it to be known that my work ethic was what my company needed. I wanted to prove that any Latinx deserved to be given a chance in the boardroom.
So, when it came time for me to decide between a career and full-time childcare or to be a stay-at-home mom, the decision I made came with guilt.
Did you know that less than 25% of Latinx Americans ages 25 to 64 held a two-year college degree or higher in 2016? That’s a 25 percentage point gap between my people and whites. Cue my guilt…
My parents gave everything for me to go to college. My grandparents had to drink out of “colored” fountains. Yet, here I was, giving up a seat at the table to start a family. Would they be disappointed? Would they tell me to hold off on being a mom? Would they be proud of the mom I have become and strive to be each day? What would they say?
I don’t regret giving up my career. I also don’t regret becoming a mother when I did. These two girls are part of the next Latinx generation who can shape the world with determination and brilliance, and they’re under my roof. I have a hand in raising the next possible Senator or astronaut or teacher. I have a hand in raising two individuals to be kind, accepting, and strong. I have a hand, and a responsibility, in teaching two young girls their history and what those before them have sacrificed.
I may not bring home a paycheck or use my degree every day. Still, I can teach them how to make fresh tortillas, how to ride a bike, and maybe one day how to create a marketing strategy plan for a college business course, and that is enough for me as their college-educated, Latina mother.