What does this even mean? I guess I have been a good girl because I have been a good person, but I know that the connotation of this phrase is much more weighted. It has the patriarchy written all over it. It is dripping with sexual undertones. It screams cultural gender norms at me. This is not a phrase I ever use with my daughter. It is a phrase I would employ in the presence of a dog and even then, I would prefer to use the dog’s name.
I understand how it can be an automatic phrase used when parenting. It is a seemingly simple phrase that kids can understand. But good and bad, boy and girl, black and white are not simplistic opposites. They are very nuanced and complex terms. I am not saying that I know what would be a better alternative. In parenting I am really just trying my best but mostly making it up as I go along. All I know in regards to the phrase “good girl,” or more specifically, “be a good girl,” is that I do not use it.
Usually I have written about a topic before we talk about it on the podcast. This episode was improvised. Honestly I do not remember much of what was said except that the reason I never use the “be a good girl” phrase, is because it is confusing. Be a good girl means do not do bad things. Why not just say “don’t do…” fill in the blank? I also never use this phrase because I do not want my daughter to equate actions that are seen as “bad” as descriptions of her character. The action may be bad, but she is not, therefore she does not have to be a "good girl" or be anything really. She can just be herself.
In Spanish there is no phrase that is used in parenting that is the exact translation of "be a good girl." We say "portate bien," which translates to "behave well." I definitely use that phrase often, but I don't use it as a threat the way my mother would use it, engaging a stern voice and a severe gaze. Rather, I use it as a friendly reminder.
Do you find yourself using the phrase "be a good girl," with your daughter?
What are you really trying to say when you use this phrase?
Is this something your mother said to you?
Would love to hear from you!
It’s Safe to say Latino culture is male chauvinist oriented and generally revers the machismo persona. There are a lot of factors that come into play. Catholicism which is inherently part of being Latino, proliferates the idea of traditional gender roles as the best way. What does this mean? Women in the home and men at work. But it starts earlier than that. It starts with how we treat our kids and the differences that exist in how we treat boys versus girls.
There is a juxtaposition between what culture may dictate and what is really being practiced in the home. For example, I am always reminded of a scene from my big fat Greek wedding where one of the aunts says The man is the head, but the woman is the neck, meaning the woman is the one that navigates which way the head or man is going to move. While Latin culture may adhere to the man as the ruler of the home, it is matriarchal in the sense that the mother figure, usually the grandma is the one that is the most respected in the family and often times consulted on important matters.
I hope to become the matriarch in my family.
I am thankful that my kids are growing up in an era when the world view is shifting on so many topics specifically those around gender. They will have a world that is much more open to them and I’m looking forward to seeing how they develop as people. They will be able to define themselves as they see fit and hopefully will not be shackled to cultural expectations around gender. In a way and because I am part of two cultures, and grew up straddling both, I grew up in a changing era but also experienced what it is like and what it feels like to be rooted in these traditional gender roles.
My big generalization is that in our mother's time there was a stigma associated with not following traditional gender roles.
What do gender roles mean to you? What gender stereotypes do you conform to? Which do you challenge? How will you explain gender roles and gender stereotypes to your kids?
Would love to hear from you!
I had a baby in December of 2019 and by March of 2020 we entered this never ending pandemic. I had a newborn and a 4 year old who needed my attention all of the time, but I was hopeful, optimistic, or maybe just naïve, but I swore that the pandemic would pass quickly just like other possible pandemics we had lived through. I had just gotten myself off the couch and back into the studio. I was feeling myself and managed to have one fabulous week. We went to a fancy dinner party, 4 year old and a 2.5 month old in tow. I dusted off my stilettos and wore white. That weekend I also had a girls night out and went to a speakeasy wine bar and classical concert. After recovering from a second c-section and settling into my new identity as a mother of two, I felt like I was starting to live again. And then the safer at home order came.
I leaned into this stay at home mom thing and really just stopped doing anything that was work related, or that had to do with anything about me. I learned quickly that it was not a sustainable way of living. You can’t be everything for everyone and nothing for yourself.
I have been extremely fortunate during this pandemic. I have not had to worry about anything except not getting Covid. I live in a beautiful place. I say this all the time, but really being at home in 2020, I have really lived in my beautiful place and I have really appreciated living in this beautiful place. I hate to even have a complaint because I know that what I am saying is coming from a place of privilege and really, how dare I? My 20 something self would roll her eyes at the current me and remind her to toughen up because we know what it’s like to have real worries.
But as a mom with 2 small children during a pandemic, this is what I am supposed to do right, complain? I don’t know, I can’t… It’s hard because my kids are great, but yes, it has been extremely hard to be a mom during the pandemic. My kids know that their job is to play and to learn. I am the mom and so I facilitate all of this. What does that mean for me? It means I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time on the floor playing. I’ve walked a million steps on our daily walks around the neighborhood. I’ve made up hundreds of stories and games. I’ve talked about little kid things until my brain started to disintegrate from lack of actual use, because you know, it’s a muscle. If you don’t use it you lose it. I shrunk an inch and lost so many brain cells, from lack of use and from my quarantine hobby of drinking cocktails. I played dammit! If my kids so much as allude to some bull that I never played with them I am going to disown them.
Yes, I feel very strongly about this, but for good reason. My mother didn’t really play with me. She would say “quieres que vaya a llamar al ejercito para que venga a jugar contigo?” First of all, what?! “Do you want me to call the army to come play with you?” I don’t even know where she got that from, what it means or why she would say this to me. All she had to do was be honest. “No I don’t like to play.” “No, I’m busy doing blah blah…” “No, I hate you.” Whatever, but it all goes back to communication and talking to our kids. The truth never occurred to her but this saying, which she said a lot, because I asked her to play with me a lot, was the right thing for her to say? In my little kid brain it was like a threat and a no at the same time. It’s so weird because with my kids, my mom is on the floor playing, dancing, laughing. It’s unrecognizable to me.
My big generalization is that our Latin mamas did not play with us because they were not aware of the cognitive benefits of playing in children. The idea that kids learn through playing is a new concept and so for them playing was just not necessary.
Did your parents engage in active playtime with you? How much do you play with your kids? How have you coped with the monotony that is every day with a kid?
Would love to hear from you!
The multigenerational household
My parents live in my house, down the hall, and did I ever imagine that this is how my life would be as an adult with a husband and a couple of kids? No. Is it hard sometimes? Yes. Would I change it? No. What most would call a “burden” has actually been a beautiful new beginning for my parents and I.
I moved out after I graduated from college, but it wasn’t because I found my own apartment and was ready to take on the world as an independent single professional. I left, because my house burned down. It was a cigarette left in the bedroom by my brother’s then crackhead girlfriend. And I’m not being mean, this is literal. She was a crackhead. My parents let her stay and supported her even after she burned down our house and so I never went back home. From the ashes of this tragedy I made my own sense of home, created my own family, and honestly it was a necessary and poetic rebirth for me as a young adult. My relationship with my parents already is distress though became pretty much non-existent. Through the years, we have slowly reconciled our relationship, but there was never a comfortable relationship to begin with so...
So why did my parents end up in my house? Well, because that is what family does. Regardless of the circumstances, family helps each other out.
And boy have my parents have helped me out. Their presence in my home has allowed me the freedom to work and to date my husband. I have built in babysitting for goodness sake! This is absolutely priceless. My parents are great playmates. They allow me to take a mom break if I need to shower, or just breathe for a second. The grandparent grandchild relationship is beautiful. I did not experience it first-hand but I am so thankful that my kids get to.
Is it hard to have my parents around all the time? Of course! No one wants to live with the judging eyes of their old school Latino parents. It’s getting easier. At first I felt like I was teenager again, rebelling and rolling my eyes every time my mom said something, especially regarding parenting. In my head I was always like “like how would you know! You were never there!” So yes, I have definitely had some issues to work through.
Not to mention that by having my parents in my home, I am the epitome of the sandwich generation. I take care of them and my kids and I’m sandwiched in between. It ends up feeling like I have four kids.
In Like Water for Chocolate- Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, the main character is the youngest daughter and they talk about how it is her duty as the youngest to never marry and devote her life to taking care of her mother. I’m the youngest. I’m taking care of my mother. I’m totally fulfilling an outdated stereotype that should have never existed because, how horrible is it that you are born just to fulfill this duty? But I’m using it to my advantage.
My big generalization is that since the pandemic, more people are going to adopt this very traditional family structure and like it.
Would you ever create a multi-generational home on purpose?
Do you live in one?
What is your experience?
Would you recommend it?
Are you expected to take care of your parents because you’re the youngest daughter?
Would love to hear from you!
My mom always said del amor no se vive, one does not live off of love. I always hated when she said that. It sounded so horrible, especially since my idea of romantic love came from the melodramatic Telenovelas I watched in the evenings and the romantic comedies I watched at the movies on the weekend. I always fancied myself one of the heroines, waiting for love to come and sweep me off my feet. And in a way, I was. I waited and waited and waited until I started writing sad poetry about my aging virginity.
As a kid I remember going to Toys r Us. This was a pretty big deal in my house because my parents never bought toys. I was allowed to pick something out and I picked out Heartthrob, The Dream Date Game from 1988. It was basically a bunch of centerfold cards or headshots of eligible bachelors, and I’m sure there were rules to the game too, but I never got to play with anyone because I didn’t have friends at that time, and I don’t think I even spoke English, so all I did was look at the cards and pick which boys I liked best solely based on looks. And that is how I would continue to pick boys to like for most of my youth, which is probably why I never had a boyfriend growing up. The “cute” or “cool” boys just weren’t into me.
My parents were pretty strict when it came to boys and dating anyway. I wasn’t allowed to go on dates, boys couldn’t call me on the phone, I think? Honestly my parents never said I couldn’t date or have boys call me on the phone, but I assumed as much because anytime any of this came up my parents made me feel ashamed for even thinking about it, or patronized, because how could a child understand the complexities of what a relationship entails? This could of all been something I made up in my head, but there it is. I did not date until college and I did not have a real boyfriend until I was in my 20’s.
Valentine's Day has always been a downer, except for my dad. My dad would always be my Valentine. He would bring me a flower or a teddy bear or a balloon, you know, the stuff you can buy from the guy selling them at the stop light. It was cute and thoughtful and my best memories of a contrived holiday that has for the most part just made me feel lonely and unlovable. If he ever brought my mom flowers though she would say, estas se van a morir. Porque no me das el dinero mejor, or “these are going to die why not give me the money instead.” Once he put money in the flowers and she was both happy and insulted.
My big generalization is that our ideas and expectations of romantic love will never live up to reality and that this hyped up holiday is not doing anyone any favors, but rather creating more reasons to feel bad about ourselves and our love lives.
Have you ever had a good Valentine's?
What were your ideas of romantic love before having experienced love?
My mother used to say del amor no se vive, one does not live off of love. Did your mom have any of these totally unromantic sayings?
Would love to hear from you!
single mama drama
Being a mom is hard. It’s amazing and beautiful, yes... But also exhausting and challenging! Especially when you’re a single mom.
Balancing work and motherhood is not easy, but I am grateful for all the challenges that have made me stronger than I ever thought possible. Just two days ago, another badass mamacita who I admire, shared some beautiful words with me. She said “children are resilient and adaptable.” Her words touched my heart. I must confess that I often suffer from “mom guilt.” I get overwhelmed and don’t know how I’m going to handle it all, but she reminded me that our kids will be ok. We just have to keep doing what we love and trust that things will work themselves out. They always do.
Here’s to all the single mamacitas out there! Keep going! You got this 💪🏻
I would like to say that I am totally against screen time regarding my children, but I am not. I use it daily but with a purpose. And I guess that’s the key word here, purpose.
My parents also used my screen time with a purpose. The TV was my baby sitter, my teacher and my friend. I grew up in front of the TV and learned how to speak English with a Valley Girl accent thanks to a cartoon called Beverly Hills Teens. The TV also taught me about American popular culture. Family sitcoms taught me valuable lessons on friendship, saying no to drugs, the concept of stranger danger, you know, all of the things my parents should have been inculcating into my every day upbringing, but were not around to do. Programs on PBS taught me math and science and showed programs about the arts which I was very passionate about. TV taught me pretty much everything I would need in order to assimilate, and assimilate I did.
American television did such a good job, that later I had to do the same thing in reverse and sought out what was accessible on Spanish language Television in order to learn how to be Latina. Telenovelas, the only programming I found that featured adolescents that I could relate to on the Spanish language channels, taught me Spanish as well as Latin cultural ideals.
I use TV with a purpose now as well. Every day, my kids have movie time with Grandma, but there is one rule: they have to watch a movie in Spanish with Spanish subtitles. I am implementing the TV as a language learning tool as well as a way for them to socialize with their grandma who happens to be 80 years old and has some limitations. To be honest, they have the best time together, it gives the kids something to talk about and bond over with their grandma, and most importantly, it releases some of the pressure off of me to be sole language teacher in the house.
My big generalization is that our mothers didn’t worry about screen time in the same way we do because there were not that many screens around, or so much content created by people who were not being regulated. The TV was just always on.
What was your relationship with TV as a kid? Do you monitor your child's screen time more or less than your parents? We’re you monitored at all? Do you think the perils of screen time are over rated?
Would love to hear from you!
Food for thought
My mother has a lot of food related chronic disease. She is a diabetic, has hyper-tension, and most recently, only has about ten percent of kidney function left. She goes to at least four different Doctors every month and takes medication all day long. She has been on a very strict diet for years: no sugar, no salt, only 4oz of protein a day, and little to no potassium which limits so many of the delicious fruits and veggies we all love. Had she been on a healthy diet, one that included fruits and veggies and maybe some form of exercise in middle age, had she had a better connection with her body, or not been so ignorant on nutrition, she may have been able to avoid all of these ailments.
Here is the irony in all of this. My mother worked in the food industry, yet knew nothing of the science behind the food she was serving. She cooked for a living for over 20 years and yet, would only cook for her family on the weekends. She was an organized expediter in her professional kitchen, yet could not get it together to organize how she and her family could eat a healthier diet.
I ate way too many sandwiches, way too much fast food and soda as a child and it was not okay. My body knew it wasn’t okay to the point trying to become a vegetarian at 14 and asking for “comida verdadera," or real food, daily. But alas, one cannot live off of white rice or iceberg lettuce alone, which is all that was in my house when I was trying to be a vegetarian with no income of my own for better groceries.
My food journey has been a long one filled with lots of reading about nutrition, trying out different culinary lifestyles, and eating. Lots of good eating. I have been vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, back to vegetarian, an extreme carnivore and now an omnivore who tries to eat mostly organic, wild caught, grass-fed, cage free, locally grown and in season.
I like to eat and so I like to cook.
My big generalization for this week is that we are probably not raising our kids with the same food traditions that we grew up with because so much has changed in the food industry, including how much we know and how aware we are of our bodies.
What did you grow up eating?
Do you have a food tradition in your family that you are propagating in your own household?
Or are you starting new food traditions that are more aligned to your current beliefs?
Would love to hear from you!
omg! religious upbringing
I am not religious. I believe that all religions are true. If a religion brings you happiness, comfort, community and a set of guidelines that align with your lifestyle or helps you to live your best life, then awesome. Practice and preach!
I am spiritual. And by that I mean that I believe in the soul and grew up reading Deepak Chopra, Gary Zukov and lately Eckhart Tolle.
Culturally I am Catholic. I didn’t grow up in the church. I did not go through all of the rites. I wasn’t even baptized till I was 7 and then when I was, it happened twice. I’m pretty sure my mother suffered a moment of guilt and thought to herself, “Oh what the hell?”
My parents couldn’t decide who the god parents should be so they chose two sets. A set my mother liked and a set my father liked. Each set of god parents did not know about each other. My parents lied in the church during a holy rite and then asked me to lie about it for my entire life. I’m pretty sure this is all a sin and that my two baptisms are nullified because of it.
I have not baptized my kids. I know what scripture says about the unbaptized going to purgatory but I cannot believe it.
I say I’m culturally Catholic because I know my prayers in English and in Spanish, thank you, anytime I’ve been scared I pray, and the mention of God happens every day. Si Dios quiere. Que Dios te bendiga. Ay Dios mío! I mean if we are not supposed to take God’s name in vain, in Spanish we are screwed because it’s built into how we express ourselves.
My kids are growing up without a formal religion. Without the guilt and hang ups of being a Catholic. Recognizing and respecting all the faiths that we encounter. And hopefully someday, they will read all of the books so that they know all of the stories. As literature the holy books of the world are pretty cool.
My big generalization is that Latin mamas, then and now, have felt a great cultural pressure to participate in some kind of religious practice.
Tell me, do you feel or have you felt pressured and guilt tripped into practicing a religion?
Do you see your religious practice as a way to teach your Latin culture and less really about the actual religion? How are you teaching your kids about religion? Are you, or will you give your kids the autonomy to choose?
Would love to hear from you!
Post-birth, the unmentionables
I love being pregnant. I feel healthy, strong and vibrant. I’m that mom that takes a weekly picture of her bump, publishes it as a pregnancy journal, and then prominently displays it on a shelf in the living room for anyone to look through. I love the changing, ever-growing bump and everything else it ripens with it. It’s getting the kid out of me that is problematic. I’ve had 2 c-sections and right after them, it feels like a death and a birth all at once. The person I was, the body I had inhabited is gone. The baby I hold in my arms and this new body that I share, granted, in a very awkward way, have to be nursed into being. The baby and my body change over the course of the year. Each becoming independent, beautiful, whole again.
My moms version of the sex talk was threatening me to not get pregnant or else, or calling me a whore when I came home too late in my very early 20’s and because of this, there were so many things I didn’t know. I read so much about parenting, a little about giving birth, and nothing regarding post birth.
My big generalization for this week is that our mothers did not prepare us for any aspect of the birthing process because it was considered indecent and probably gross to speak about anything related to women’s bodies. It’s getting better, but women are still embarrassed to speak to each other candidly about these experiences.
What do you wish someone had told you about the postpartum experience?
I wish someone would have told me that having a baby was going to make me a better version of me. I’m stronger, more patient, kinder, more efficient, more determined.
Do you think motherhood has made you better?
Did your mother speak candidly to you about any aspect of the birth experience? Making the baby, housing the baby, birthing the baby, being with the baby?
Would love to hear from you!
Wendy writes blog posts that turn into conversations for the Mamá Cita Podcast.