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Mother Knows Best

By Gloria Romano Barrera.

Motherhood is full of both expected and unexpected twists and turns. Whether it’s sharing online calendars with their support system or having a back-up sitter on speed dial, having the right focus and tools to blend motherhood and work can help your career and family flourish. Read on for stories on how mothers have reached their goals with authenticity both at home and at work.

Maria Isabel Rocca

Senior Project Engineer, Marine Operations
McDermott, International, Inc.

Maria Isabel, Camila Isabel and husband Victor Hugo Rocca.

I consider myself an “older first-time mom” because according to my Mexican upbringing having children after 30 is considered “late”.

What changed after having a child? My perspective changed. I chose to be a mother, and choose to make my child a priority. I always knew I would have to be a working-mom because of my humble upbringing. After having my first and currently only child in 2017, I had planned to go back to work; however, I was laid off the day I returned from maternity leave.

This changed my plans and gave me the opportunity to stay at home with my daughter for one year. I wholeheartedly embraced this, yet in parallel, I updated my resume, brushed up my soft skills and looked for a job.

I was very fortunate to find a job in my field and return to work. The previous sentence is loaded with logistics. Plan for baby daycare, drop-off/pick-up, baby lunch, cooking, laundry, time with husband, exercise, volunteer as President for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Houston Chapter, and not to mention taking care of myself, to name a few!

To say that it is a balancing act is an understatement. I could not do all that I do without the support of my husband. My husband is very supportive of my career, in fact, when I started doubting my decision to go back to work, he motivated me and reassured me that Camila would be ok at daycare, and that both baby and I, at this stage could use more mental stimulation. My husband is Latino, Venezuelan, and he is not “Machista”, this certainly helps break any
barriers.

Do I feel guilty because I am not with Camila all day? Yes, I do. I overcome this guilt by telling myself that I am doing all of this for her, and that I want her to be proud of me. This drives me.

Motherhood is what you make of it. After I pick up Camila from daycare I am present. I am not working, I am not on my phone, I am making my time count. I make it a point to do activities that are specific for Camila and ensure that we spend lots of quality time together.

My strategy for managing work and family commitments are:

• My personal rule: work stays at work. I work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If I have a deadline that requires me to work after work, I do it after the baby goes to sleep. However, I try to keep this to a minimum. I have a demanding job, however, I set my boundaries.

• Communication: I communicate clearly with my husband on what I need help with and we also have a shared calendar so that we can manage our time commitments. Communication and facing challenges head on and together is what keeps us strong.

• Having a readily available babysitter is out of the question, I manage this by planning and coordinating scheduled babysitting times for date night, social outings, etc. When this is not possible, I stay home with Camila.

To say that I do not struggle with culture norms that are engraved in my brain would be a lie, but that is how my parents raised me, so I embrace all that I know and adapt. I am very proud of my career, and I do continue to set professional achievable goals and maintain a strong work ethic.

Emmalie Fagundo, Wilfredo Fagundo, and Janille Fagundo.

Janille Fagundo, CF APMP®

Director, Proposal Management
Marketing Operations
Prudential Workplace Solutions Group

Back in college I wrote a thesis paper titled “Motherhood and the Loss of Identity”. It was a comparative analysis of three fictional mothers coping with the tremendous responsibility of being a mother. I got an “A”. I laugh now at how little I knew then.

At 25 years old I was three years into my corporate career, married, and a new mother. My Dominican parents had married in their late teens and had me in their early 20s, so being a young newlywed, a career woman and pregnant

with a baby girl felt like a rite of passage. I felt capable. I felt strong. I felt accomplished. But once my daughter was born, I struggled with inexperience and the gravity of having very big, stereotypical Latina shoes to fill, while trying to balance my instinctual need to advance my career and establish an identity outside of being a mother and wife.

One sleepless night after another, faced with the enormous task of figuring out how I would do it all after returning to work 10 weeks later, I was hit with postpartum depression. Being a Latina I was aware of the stigma around mental illness. As Latinas we sometimes feel monumental pressure to clean well, cook well, mother well and wife well. There’s no room on that list for depression. You don’t “depress” well. It doesn’t exist.

I kept my feelings of ineptitude to myself, not wanting my family to know the depths of my struggle. To cope I relied on routine. My husband and I had figured it out – outside of work, I fed, he washed bottles, we alternated waking up throughout the night. Rinse, wash, repeat. It took two years of medication, therapy and routine before the fog started lifting. My confidence grew, and parenting became less of a guessing game. I felt like I could do hard things, and with my newfound ambition I was reenergized to ask for more out of my career.

My daughter is 10 now. She watches me get ready for work in the morning. She helps me pick out my shoes. She listens to me practice my presentations and vent about my workday. She cries when I have to travel. I may miss a couple of soccer practices here and there. I may have to rely more on a strong support system of my husband, parents, family and friends. But I do it because she’s watching me, and she sees all my identities. Her mom. Daddy’s wife. Career woman. Latina. I have to imagine that the example I’m trying to set will help shape her own identity. Because for me – contrary to the naïve message of my college thesis – becoming a mother was a gain of an identity and never a loss.

Aurelina Prado

Operations Manager
Boeing, San Antonio

Aurelina with Amelia Katharine Prado.

I’m a mother of a future leader. The word bossy or demanding is not allowed for my daughter. She is 14 months old and already leads us. She brings joy to our family with her eyes full of discoveries and amazement.

I am also a leader to a wonderful team who ensures our countries executive assets are maintained and safely returned back to flight. In my role as a manager for Boeing Executive fleet programs, I am responsible for the maintenance, repair and modification of multi-million-dollar projects. It is a demanding role that requires many hours and undivided attention.

As a woman in a male-dominated field, and as a mother in the workplace it’s a daily struggle to live up to the standard. The most difficult aspect of being a mother and being a manager is definitely balancing my emotional intelligence.

Shortly after returning to work, I struggled in getting back into a normal rhythm and many times felt I was not completing the task at the pace as my counterparts, this disturbed me. Today, I do not waste time in non-value-added self judgement and concentrate on delivering results at work and being present when I am with the baby.

One of the things I realized I have improved has been my cognitive flexibility. I am able to switch between thinking about two different concepts, and to think about multiple concepts simultaneously at a faster pace.

I get the “oh poor baby” or “have you consider staying home” comments every time I say my daughter is in daycare. The idea of the perfect women or mother staying at home still exists in some individuals. But as a daughter of a mother who was a business owner, I learned that you can have it both ways.

The key is to be present when you are with your child. My Amelia has her own library and we read at least one book every day. We also do arts and crafts, and spend time outside. I praise those who stay home as it is a hard job. I believe, we, working mothers, have to work twice as hard to ensure our child does not stay behind. For those of you who work, you can do it.

I’m a wife, mother, daughter, friend, and full-time manager. My motto, the sky is no longer a limit but the beginning.

Evelyn with her daughter Stella, son Tyler and husband Bryan Brooks

Evelyn Brooks

Jewelry Designer

My life as a mompreneur in my 15 years as a jewelry designer has had many ups and downs. Missing my daughter’s first birthday because I didn’t realize I had booked to travel during those days made me feel guilty and sad. On top of that my so Latino parents criticized me for being such a bad mom for not being there for her.

Most of the times I feel guilty for not spending as much time as I want to with my kids, because I am constantly thinking I have something pending. My kids keep saying ‘why do you work so much?’ Although, today my daughter told me: “mommy when I grow up, I want to be a model and a jewelry designer like you.”

My son Tyler tells me, “Mommy, I can make bracelets and sell them at school so I can invite you, have ice cream and have some mommy and me time.” He says “I will take care of you mommy.”

In our recent trip to Peru, we had the opportunity to do social work in a community of underprivileged families. My kids learned so much and were able to realize how lucky they are.

Yes, I have been absent many times, but when I see my kids taking charge and imitating what I do –like trying to make jewelry and sell it– or simply giving it away as a gift, trying to invite me an ice cream, or simply concern because there was an underprivileged kid who was not going to receive clothes, it makes me feel I have been teaching them life lessons.

Maricela with her son Leo and husband Jose Blanco.

Maricela Huerta

Co-Founder
The Twins PR

Since having a baby, my heart has been full, but so has my calendar!

As a Latina, we want to be everything to everybody. As a Latina mom, we want to be the ones raising our children. As a Latina mom and entrepreneur, we want to do all of the above while being a boss lady in the workplace.

How can one person do all of that when there are only 24 hours in a day? Trying to find the answer (and the energy) to tackle that question has been the biggest challenge of my life!

Not to mention, I would also love some “Me Time” other than hitting the gym or taking long showers just so I can be alone for a little while.

I have learned to say “Yes” to help and “No” to commitments that I feel are not worth the little energy I have left.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that I might not be able to do multiple things at a 100% simultaneously, but with some help and time management I can try to be my very best for my son, my family and my business.

Fortunately, The Twins PR, a public relations firm my twin and I launched in 2017, has grown each year. We provide media outreach, social media and event planning services to clients in Washington, D.C., New York and California.

Therefore, we frequently travel throughout the country.

When I’m not traveling, I work from home. I always thought I could take care of a baby while running a business, especially since I worked from home more often than not. Wow, was I wrong! Try writing a press release for a client while a baby continuously yells, “Mamamamamama….!” Honestly, I love him saying mama, but mama needs to focus when she works.

Can a woman do it all? Yes, with a strong support system. Thankfully, I am one of the lucky ones that has a small village made up of family and friends that help my husband, who is also an entrepreneur, and I.

Whether it be babysitting, occasionally checking in to see how we are handling parenthood, or stepping up to manage more of the business so we can tend to family time, it all helps tremendously.

Motherhood, especially while managing a business, has been my greatest accomplishment. Hopefully one day my son will say, “My mama always held it down.”

Monica with daughters Miranda and Arianna.

Monica Estrada Nuñez

Government Relations Senior Advisor
Southern California Edison (SCE)

After having my two daughters, Miranda and Arianna, life changed for me in different ways. I became more focused on raising two strong, intelligent, kind and loving children instead of solely on my career. My priorities shifted, as they often do when one matures and learns that success can mean many things at different times in life. I take great pride in my professional life but have learned that timing is everything.

Prior to having children, I was focused on climbing the corporate ladder. I had received my undergraduate degree from UCLA, a Masters in Public Administration from NYU and happily joined the corporate world. I was the first to go to college in my family. I felt a need to succeed. I was driven. I worked late, came into the office early, produced great work, built a sisterhood of networks, and served on a non-profit board. I was sure I would be able to juggle it all. After all, I was an educated, strong Latina. Then, reality set in very quickly. Having two daughters thirteen months apart was an eye opener.

I can laugh now but the early days of motherhood were tough. I am fortunate that I have family support and a husband who shared in the responsibility. I believe moms who work can do both. Sometimes it all works out but sometimes something has to give. Yes, we can be successful at work and be great mothers. A support network is crucial and being able to ask for help is also very important. We can’t do it all. Its a myth. No one can. Men aren’t expected to do it all, but, often as women we ask too much of ourselves at a high cost – health issues, mental health issues, chronic fatigue, etc.

Further, we all have to make decisions on what are our priorities are for us at any given stage in our lives. Priorities change. Demands shift as children get older. We as women in the professional world change as well. We can have it all just not all at the same time.

Being a new mom was scary and taxing. I was tired and worried I would fail somehow. Being a mother and a professional at the same time really calibrated my thinking. I grew a greater appreciation for my parents and especially my mother. I think about all the love and hard work that went into raising four children.

The profound love, the pain, the fear, as a mother is all too real. What I have learned after 12 wonderful years as a mother is that moms can do their jobs well and still be wonderful mothers. We fall. We get back up. We learn.

Understanding that sometimes success can’t be attained all at the same time is the key. Being kind to yourself and self-care is so important. What has changed for me is that I am kinder to myself. I enjoy the journey of being a mother, a really good mother, faults and all. I also enjoy and am fulfilled in my demanding job. I have healthy boundaries and know now when to take a break or ask for help. That is how motherhood has changed me, for the better.

Cheers to the moms, mamas, mommies, tias, nanas, abuelas, etc. out there doing their best to raise healthy, loved children. Falling and getting back is what we do. Because what other choice do we have?

Maria with her son John Greyson Liscano and husband John-Michael Liscano.

María L. Villagómez

Dean | Language Arts, Educational Support
Learning Technologies

So many of us don’t expect to feel overwhelmed after having children; after all, they are a blessing! And they are, except…

As a first-time mother and as a working professional, I felt extremely overwhelmed after having my son. That my husband and I decided to wait until we were 38 and 44 years old didn’t help the situation. By waiting so long before having kids, we made our situation worse because we had already been accustomed to having so much free time before we had our son. Our energy was lower, our routines were well established, and our commitment to work was our priority.

After having our son, everything changed. No one shared with us how difficult the change could be. Sleepless nights along with low energy and full-time jobs were a bad combination. However, after five years, we can confidently say that having our child not only was a true blessing, but a valuable learning experience. It has made us more humbled and more compassionate human beings. And you learn that there is no one else in the world whom you’ll love more than your kids. They bring you joy and unconditional love.

Right after having my son, some people would ask us if we were planning on having another child, to which I would quickly say “no, absolutely not”, “it’s too difficult”. Some accepted the response, others less so. Here’s the thing. My husband and I felt that we gave up part of ourselves, part of our lives when we became parents. We don’t regret it, but it was a reality; we did give up time to raise our child. We had to. We chose to.

I think it’s important for parents to talk about how difficult parenting can be, in addition to sharing the wonderful things about being a parent. It’s healthy to do so. It’s realistic. It’s humane. Other parents need to hear about all realities that come with parenting. It’s therapeutic.

Karen with her son Martin and husband Sammir Perez.

Karen Gutierrez

Sr. Program Specialist
Maryland Department of Health

I am first generation immigrant from Colombia. My husband and I got married in 2006 and a week after our wedding we decided to pursue the American dream by traveling to the U.S. for good.

Five years after our arrival, we decided it was time to have a baby. Both him and I were working hard to grow in our professions. As a woman and Latina entirely unaware of the challenges ahead, I was ready to have a baby.

My son is eight years old now, he is the engine of all my achievements and passions to continue to grow in my career. On a side note, this does not mean it has been easy to be where I am today.

It is difficult. The most challenging time was when my son turned one month, and I had to go to work. My heart was broken into pieces when I had to leave him the first day.

My husband, as a Latino man did support me in many ways.

Nancy with her daughter Scarlett and son Derek.

Nancy Calderon

Banker
Beneficial State Bank

I am a single mother of two, my eight-year-old son Derek and my four-year-old baby girl Scarlett. Derek is in the second grade and enjoys learning about dinosaurs, and sharks. Scarlett is in preschool and enjoys dancing and singing.

My son was a very shy and timid boy and preferred not to go out and play during recess but stay in class with his teacher. I decided to enroll him and my daughter in a modeling and talent academy in our hometown. That was such a huge success. When they are not modeling, we enjoy finding shells at the beach or banana slugs on our hikes.

While they are in school, I work full-time as a Senior Beneficial Banker and Community Engagement Point of Contact for North Bay” for Beneficial State Bank. I was part of opening a brand-new branch and introducing the new bank to the north bay.

I also teach financial literacy to my community. Not only do I work for the bank but I am also the Marketing and Sales Coordinator for a wonderful restaurant/community event center and kitchen called Tu Mola Madre. I am honored to say that I was also part of their grand opening project.

I passionately contribute my time and energy to my community as much as I do with my babies. I have them be a part of what I do as much as I can.

As a young professional, I am fortunate to be part of the Hispanic Chamber Young professionals of Sonoma County and help businesses build bridges and link with other businesses.

I also sit on a couple of non-profit organization boards. Everything I do, I do it from the heart. As a mother I know that whatever we do, whatever seed we plant, our future will feel the impact of it. Parenting is one of the hardest, most rewarding jobs god has blessed me with.

Alexandria with her daughter Layla and husband Daniel Terrazas

Alexandria Terrazas

Assistant Dean of Student Success
Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills, IL

I became a mom at the age of 33 to a beautiful, smart, happy seven-month-old little girl named Layla.

My life has changed in so many ways after having Layla., personally and professionally. In my personal life, I find myself trying to catch up on life via social media at 10:50 pm. For example, browsing LinkedIn and writing this email before it hits midnight!

But also, realizing that things around the house will just have to wait and just spending time with my husband and my little girl on the couch is okay!

Being present for the both of them is worth more than having laundry folded in one day or dishes washed or put away by the end of the night. Time waits for no one and something that you can’t buy.

With that being said, I find myself working harder to achieve the next level in my profession, thinking about going back to school for my doctoral degree and all because my sweet Layla deserves to see a strong woman achieve what she wants from her professional career and have a family all at the same time. She deserves to reap the opportunities that come from generational education achievement. I want her to fall in love with what education can do for a woman of color and the power she has within herself to not only change her life, but change it for the generations to come.

I don’t believe working hard in your career to succeed be viewed as a “negligent mother” but the example of hard work to be used as a catalyst to be the best in your profession. Not working hard and giving up on life just because you have a child/children is a poor excuse. You can have a successful career and be a great mom!

Some people think that a woman can’t have it all, but I disagree. I have it all… I have love, happiness and peace that run through myself, family and work. That’s my ALL by my definition and on my terms at 11:13pm!!

Rocio with her son Emmanuel Gomez.

Rocio Gomez

School Counselor
Orange, CA

I became a single mother when I was two months pregnant but never thought of it as a barrier. At the time, I had a Master’s degree and was working on my second Master’s. Unfortunately, I did not have my career set due to the recession.

A few months before my son turned one, I officially began my career and finished school. Now, my son is five. I am blessed to work at a school where I have summers and holidays off. I am also a big believer that work stays at work and home stays at home.

When I am with my son, he is my priority, and when I am at work, my students are my focus. I think the key is to know that we are equipped to do well in all and that our children may not fully understand but they observe and they feel our love. I am also a firm believer that being a working mom makes me a better parent because I feel fulfilled and successful.

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