Honoring the Woman Who Cleaned Houses So I Could Have a Better Life


This article is part of our Mama’s Day 2013 series published in partnership with Strong Families.

I am a proud first-generation college student. I am proud to be a Chicana and a Mexican American. I grew up with the best of both of these worlds. I grew up with an amazing mix of cultures. I was able to travel both sides of the border and experience both Mexico and the United States. I grew up on a ranch in Zacatecas, but also in San Antonio, Texas. I grew up with pan dulce, pozole, and tamales on special occasions. I grew up with rancheras, tejano, and norteño music. But I also grew up with basketball, McDonald’s, and Hot Cheetos. I am honored to be a mestiza and part of all worlds.

I love my mommy. It has been just my mom and siblings since I was five years old. Ever since, I have celebrated Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) by giving my mom flowers and telling her how much I appreciate her. Today, I only understand a little bit of how difficult it is to raise a family. I have a great relationship with my mom, but it hasn’t always been easy.

It was hard for me to be compassionate toward my mom growing up in the United States, where English is the dominant language. I was surrounded by friends’ parents who were able to communicate well in English and knew what it was like to go to school.

Sometimes I liked to blame my mom for coming home in a bad mood. My siblings and I would call it “the mood.” We would know when to ask her for something and when not to. I didn’t realize “the mood” happened because she worked so hard for us and for so little. I also liked to blame my mom for not knowing English.

Overall, I thought it was tough being the daughter of a migrant.

I hated when folks would treat my mom like she was dumb because she struggled with English. I hated having to make business phone calls for our family when I could’ve been watching TV or playing outside. I was the one who made the phone calls for the cable, phone, and electricity. I had to pretend I was my mom. I felt like such a grownup, but I didn’t want to be one. I had to write all the checks for the bills, translate for the teachers, and try to relate to someone who had no idea what I was going through as an American child.

When I was growing up, I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be like the kids on the television screen. I wanted to have all of the toys and not worry about taking care of my family.

Now that I am about to graduate from college, I have a better understanding of the world and my mother. My mom came to the United States so that she could have an opportunity to be independent and take care of her family. My mother did not see migration and how she used her agency to change our lives as a political act. She was simply creating a better life for herself and for her children.

My childhood and the woman I have grown up to be is an example of a bicultural, bilingual experience that can never be taken away from me. My struggle as a Mexican American is what has made me who I am today. I am so grateful for my mother, who cleans houses every day so that I could have the opportunity to have a better life. On Mama’s Day, I remember my mom for driving me everywhere so that I could make it to cross-country practice even after being exhausted from her day. On Mama’s Day, I remember my mom’s struggle and how that has made me a better person.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.