My mother has always come home exhausted from work, without one ounce of energy left in her body.
After hours of cleaning someone's home until spotless, she came to her own home to take care of her two daughters. My sister and I would ask my mother about how her day went, but often, we'd only hear a sigh.
My mother is self-employed and cleans homes for a living. She has done this for about 25 years.
As I have gotten older, I have come to realize all the struggles my mother has had to overcome as a self-employed, immigrant woman. But her anecdotes were telling of a prejudiced experience long before I could even realize it. She would often come home and tell my sister and I stories about her employers and their treatment of her.
I recall a story regarding a man whom my mother was referred to by a close friend of hers. Despite the false familiarity, he asked her for proof that she was legally living in this country.
My mother was in shock. To this day she says she didn't know how to respond to his offensive and unethical question. My mother was able to migrate to the U.S. legally and had never been asked a similar question by any other employer before.
I saw the anger in her eyes and I couldn't muster together the words to comfort her. "I can't believe he asked you that," was all I could offer. Nothing gets my blood boiling more than hearing the tone someone takes on when they talk down to my mother.
But, the actions which pair with the degrading words and tone are often worse. The late-night, dehumanizing texts after her work hours which delineated the next day's seemingly-endless list of work showed her little respect.
I've watched her respond as the exhaustion crept in, but I've never found the words to comfort her.
It is my mother's resiliency that has gotten her to be the successful individual she is today. It is not a college degree or a fancy title that has made her successful, but her strong character and her love for her family.
My mother traveled to the U.S. when she was 17, knowing only a few words in English. She left Chihuahua City, Mexico not knowing what her future would hold in the U.S.
She was leaving her friends and her culture behind to be reunited with her family in the U.S.
She moved from a large city in Mexico to a small town named Casa Grande, Arizona. Upon arriving to the U.S., my mother experienced homesickness and missed living in the city. It was the opportunity she had to be reunited with her younger sister that made the transition easier.
Her sister had been in the U.S. six months before her, and no homesickness or culture shock could make my mother want to leave her sister's side again.
"I didn't want to be separated from Ivon ever again," my mother said. Only 15 months apart in age, her sister had been her rock and her best friend.
From a young age, my mother realized she would face any obstacle or challenge if it meant she would be with family. At the time, Casa Grande was a small farming town with several surrounding fields and little to do for a young teenager.
Compared to the city my mother grew up in, there were no shopping malls within walking distance or fun nights out in Casa Grande. There was one movie theater and a small downtown area with a few restaurants, but my mother had little money to go out to eat.
Her two sisters, niece, nephew and mother lived in a small trailer and they had little to no money growing up. My mother often recalls the days she couldn't go out and buy herself new clothes or even go buy a soda from the store to have an excuse to get out of the house.
Somehow my grandmother managed to sustain their family by working in the fields picking crops and taking any job necessary in order to put food on the table and pay the bills. My mother came to resemble my grandmother's attitude after my father left the picture and she became the head of our household.
She doesn't get paid days off when she becomes ill, and at times she struggles to find or keep her jobs because employers move away or no longer want to pay for her cleaning services.
The stress my mother experiences when she comes down with an illness is disheartening. There are times she has had to choose between powering through her immense headache or her sore throat, or not being able to pay the bills for that month.
How is it that because my mother doesn't work for some large corporation or a job that requires a degree, she has to work tirelessly with no breaks in order to survive? Does she not have the right to recover from a sinus infection like everyone else?
The doctor at times would tell her the sinus, ear, or throat infection could have been cured much faster if she had come sooner. Little did the doctor know she had no choice, and that she only felt the need to come in if it was severe.
Even with the struggles, my mother has faced in her life, she is the most loving person I know. She would do anything for her family, and her family is the one thing keeping her going.
She works long days to provide for us and does her best to remain positive in the face of adversity.
Her favorite pastime is being in the presence of her family when we celebrate birthdays or holidays. My mother and her younger sister tell an endless amount of jokes as they continue to laugh hysterically, just as they did when they were young girls. They sound like children sitting at the adults' table. It makes parties a million times more wholesome and sweet because you can't help but laugh with them.
With family sitting around the table enjoying a nice Sunday evening with bowls full of pozole or barbacoa, my mother remembers the past and gives thanks to God for the present. She looks around the table and remembers what all the hardships in life are for: her family.
Struggles from the past have led my mother to learn the importance of family.
She always tells me when I'm going through hardships or I am weeping from heartbreak, "no one will be there for you like family," and she couldn't be more right.
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