It is not uncommon for a young woman to joke about her Latino parents being strict. But is it really funny? Whether it be a new boyfriend, getting a bad grade, when it comes to telling our parents we aren’t exactly looking forward to it.
From personal experience I can only tell you what it’s like having a Latina for a mother. It is a wonderful yet stressful endeavor. There are many expectations one has to fulfill growing up in a Latino family and let’s be honest, we know that it’s either their way or no guey.
A lot of the times, these expectations are never directly told to us. They aren’t written down, there’s no guidebook to help you check them off or get through them, but they’re there. You know they’re there when you do something “wrong” and your mother starts telling you you’re a disappointment to the family. You know they’re there when you think you’ve done something incredible and it turns out that was what was expected of you so it’s not a big deal.
As we grow older we learn what these expectations are and try to center our lives around them. So let’s go over them, shall we?
- Maintaining great body image: I have experienced several things when it comes to body image. It seems as if I am never the ideal weight for my mother. I’m either too skinny,”Come algo, hija!” or too fat, “Ya ponte a dieta, gordita!”. I gained ten pounds in one year and soon enough I start getting diet books for my birthday and a Women’s Health magazine subscription I didn’t order.Oh Latinas, always so subtle.
- Learning to cook: This one is a big one. Particularly for someone like me who has no time to cook even if I wanted to. Even so, every time I see my mother she asks me what I have been cooking for myself. After I reply with “nothing”, she insists that I take cooking lessons once a week.
- Going to college and having a career: This one is forced mostly in modern day Latino families. We must get good grades so that we can get a good job so that we can make good money. The making good money part is always followed by a “para que puedas cuidar a tu mama cuando ya sea vieja.” Oh and of course so I can support my future family (see next point).
- Getting married/having kids: Although most moms won’t admit it, aside from your happiness, what they want most in the world is grandchildren. So, all in all, all of those things that are pounded on you growing up lead to having a family of your own. We have to look nice so we can catch a good guy. We have to know how to cook so we can cook for our man. We have to go to school and have a career so that we can support our family just in case our husband leaves us.
Aside from expecting all of these things from us, we know that our mothers only want the best for us. They know that we are smart enough to become successful (with their guidance of course), and they will support us every step of the way. What they do not know is that sometimes the things they say or do to “help us” actually hurts us.
I can’t tell you how many times in the past my mom has made remarks about my weight and I have taken offense to it. We have fought about it because I don’t think she should be telling me to lose weight, but she doesn’t understand how hurtful it is to hear things like that. Whether it may or may not be true, there are different ways to approach the subject of someone’s weight. Body image is a sensitive topic to begin with, and if you are hearing that you are too fat or too skinny from others like friends and the media, the last person you want to hear it from is your mother.
Learning to cook is a huge part of Latino culture. I understand that, and I do wish that I had the patience to do it. I wish that I had that passion to cook for others or even cook for myself but I don’t. Most of the time I have so many things on my mind I forget to eat. I’m not saying that what I do is a good thing, but going to school full-time, working part-time, is pretty exhausting. Mom says I should make time to cook but not because it would benefit my health or save myself money, but because it’s “feminine”.
Being feminine is one of those hidden expectations that was always present in my life. Wearing dresses and skirts is always more acceptable than pants, applying make-up and doing my hair was pretty much required before I left the house. And que Dios me libre, if I forgot to put on jewelry. Now that I don’t live with my mom I am pretty careless about these things, but whenever I am going to visit, I would rather not test her.
School was stressed more when I was younger, now that I’m in college, what is being stressed is my choice in relationships .This is strange to me because up until last year, dating was almost prohibited. According to My Latinitas, an online blog for young latina women, most girls in the age range of 18-21 feel extremely pressured to be in a relationship so that they have a chance at marriage before the age of 28-30. This is so stressful to some because by the time they finish college, the age of an “acceptable” marriage is near. I can definitely relate, even though I have a boyfriend I have so much more that I would like to do before I get married and have a family. That might be the future my mother would like me to have but that is where we differ. I don’t want that, or at least not yet.
So how do we face these pressures without fighting with our loving mothers? We talk to them and hope they understand. If we do not tell them how we feel, they will never know. It is always best to tell them when the expectations are too much for us because they think they are doing what is best for us .Their intentions are always good, even if we don’t always think so.