As a child, my mom had to support four kids with a part time job and studying at nights. My mom have always been my inspiration. Being a single mother, having to work and then go to college at night, was very difficult for her, especially because we couldn’t spend time together, but I remember every time my mom got good grades at school, the first thing she used to do was say with enthusiasm, “My homework was harder than yours! If I did it, you can do better!” Oh I was so proud of my mom! My mom was my hero. I wanted to be as smart as her. My mom motivated and inspired me just like Mr. Escalante inspired his students.
My dad disappeared when I was young. Most of the time, we didn’t have anything to eat at home and our healthy meals were at school. Our clothes were old, given by my mom’s best friend or my cousins. All the money my mom earned from work went to bills and a little bit of food! I watched my mom crying at nights for us. I remember her always apologizing for not being able to provide what we need.
Twelve years ago in Puerto Rico, I was 16 years old and in high school. After being in a relationship for a year, I found out I was pregnant with who is today my 10 years old daughter. My mom requested my boyfriend to take care of what was gonna be his family. So I moved to his parent’s house where I was mistreated most of the time. Their house was in the middle of the forest. There was no public transportation around. My “husband” stopped bringing me to school. I lost so many classes, that when I finally found a ride, I wasn’t allowed to go to school anymore.
I felt lost, with no future. I didn’t know what to do. I was just an inexperienced child expecting a baby. My husband was a very jealous and insecure person. He didn’t want me to go to school or work. He was afraid that I would find someone “better” than him. He made me depend on him so I wouldn’t leave him.
When we first broke up my daughter was 1 year old. I was tired and decided to move out of that house. But where to go? I didn’t have a driver’s license or a stable job, and I couldn’t rent an apartment for me and my daughter. So I called my mom to pick me up. We went to her house, but she had more people living with her. My old room wasn’t my room anymore. My mom’s house was too crowded so my daughter and I moved out to my sister’s house. I found two jobs in restaurants as a waitress. I was happy that I had an income, but I wasn’t spending much time with my daughter. I passed my driver’s license, and bought an old car. I was saving for an apartment, but the money got stolen by my sister’s friend. This caused problems with my sister, therefore we had to move.
We moved back to her father’s house. He rented an apartment for us. I lost both of my jobs because of him. We had two more babies. We moved to Massachusetts, hoping all the time that he would change. I didn’t want my daughters to grow without their father like I did, so I put up with a lot of things. I was depressed, unhappy, and hopeless. I didn’t have a lot of experience. I didn’t know a bit of English. I even tried to kill myself twice.
One day, I told myself “enough is enough.” I couldn’t live my life like that anymore! I remembered my mom surviving with four kids, without help from the government. I said to myself what my mother used to say: “If she could do it, I can too!” I remember every morning when he go to work, I used to take my daughters to look for help. I went to a free ESL program in Holyoke. I applied for housing and food stamps. While I was waiting for my name to be called in the list for housing, I started to look for a job. All the interviews I had failed because I didn’t know much of the language. Therefore, to kill my time, I started to volunteer at my daughter’s pre-school (Head Start) for about a year.
When housing called me three years ago, I left him and moved out with my daughters. A few months later Head Start offered me a position as a Teacher Assistant. Head Start motivated me to go to school and even paid for my education. Now, I still work for them but as a Teacher! Isn’t that great?
Just like my mother, I work and then go to college at night. Yes, sometimes it is very difficult for me, not only because sometimes I can’t find a babysitter to take care of them while I’m at school, but because I don’t get to spend quality time with them. I have a very busy life between work, college, homework, and the house. I don’t get time to have fun with them! They might not understand now, like I couldn’t understand a lot of things as a child, but I know they will one day. Following my mom’s example, the first thing I do when I get a good grade is show them my work and tell them, “If I could do it, you can do better.” My mom and my daughters are my motivation. Just like Mr. Escalante’s students, I admired my mom for being strong when she needed and not giving up when things went wrong. Like my mother, sometimes I cry at night when my hope is fading, but then I remember all the times that my mom felt that way, got up and kept going, and all the things my mom did for us and how blessed we were for having a mother like her. I can’t predict my future, but there’s one thing I know for sure: If she could do it, I can do better!!