The Love That I Needed

My name is Lauren. I am 26 years old. I am a mother of two beautiful children; a student and I have 2 part-time jobs. I was adopted when I was 3 years old from Guatemala. I never realized the ups and downs of emotions I would have nor do I think my parents really knew the ups and downs we would have.

My parents loved and love me unconditionally. They never kept it a secret that I was adopted. My mom often asked me if I would like to find my birth parents and when I was younger I often thought it could potentially be nice to find them one day.  My immediate family or my friends never treated me differently. My parents loved me as if I was their flesh and blood and I loved them the same way too. But, a part of me always felt like something was missing and I sometimes felt guilty for feeling that way. I had unconditional love, clothes on my back, food in my belly, a roof over my head- what else could I want?

When I was a senior in high school, for our yearbook, the yearbook committee had asked that all senior students submit a baby photo of themselves. They were going to put the baby pictures on a page and people would have to guess which student it was. Sounds fun, right? It would be if you actually had a baby picture- I did not. I submitted a picture of myself when I was 2 and in the orphanage. This may sound like it is no big deal, but to someone who does not even know why she was put up for adoption, it was huge a deal. I had nobody who was a blood relative or even looked like me. I would go to my friend’s homes and I would see their parents and siblings and see how they all looked liked each other and thought that was what I wanted. I wanted to have people in my life that looked like me.

I found out I was pregnant when I was 19 years old and had my son when I was 20. My whole life had changed. He was everything that I needed. My blood relative and a somewhat mirror image of myself. I am 26 and just had my daughter who is a spitting image of me. I told my mom that when I look at her, I get a chance to see what I probably looked like as a baby. I am complete. That void that I had in my life has been filled. These little angels are my life-line.          lauren picture

Work and Single-Parenting: A Tough Balance

Working as a single parent can be very difficult, especially if you do not have childcare throughout the week. I am a single mother working part time at a grocery store, I would love to work a full time job somewhere, but that is currently impossible for me. My son is 2 years old and he is not in daycare yet ((we’ve been on the wait list since he was 1).

mieya

I receive no help from the government, so I rely on my mom and his dad to watch him. Now it may seem like the problem is solved, but it is not. Some days when my mom has to watch my child, she is scheduled to work, so I have no choice but to call out from my job. At times, my son’s father is unreliable when it comes to taking our son. He may tell me 3 hours before I’m supposed to be at work that he will not watch him because he has “things” to do. This leads to me calling out of work more than I should, or showing up 30 minutes late just because I am looking for a babysitter. I wish I did not have to rely on them to watch him just so I can go to work to provide for my child. I believe that when my child gets reliable childcare (daycare/school), it will make my life a lot easier because if he is in school Monday-Friday, with the exclusion of holidays, I know that I will be able to have the exact same schedule as him. Part time employment is not enough for me right now. All of the money I receive goes to my bills, and I barely have leftover money to save and spend. Right now, I am trying to work at a daycare full time so that I can get my son enrolled for half price, be able to work full time and not rely on others to watch him.

*Mieya Neely is one of Stronger Generations’ 2017-2018 Young Parent Ambassadors. TO learn more about Mieya and our Young Parent Ambassador Program please visit our young parent ambassador page!

 

 

 

 

My English Journey and the Journey to Motherhood

Like many in the United States, I am also an immigrant. I know what it to miss where you came from, struggle to learn a new language, fit in, and be discriminated against.

marinel photo

My parents decided that the family (I came when I was 10 years old); was coming to the US in order to provide us opportunity for a better life and future; however, that’s very hard to understand when you’re being laughed at because you barely speak English and your struggles have just begun. As a parent now, I now understand that my parents only wanted the best for us and that life is about taking chances and making the decisions that at the beginning might not seem right but the end result is better than expected.

Learning English was not easy; I was in school from 6:30 am to 7:45 pm; I had six classes and a 7th period for enrichment which other kids got to use it to play,I however, had to stay in a room with a tutor learning how to pronounce my vowels and stay after school to practice my pronunciation. I would get home, eat, and begin to do homework with five translating dictionaries and both of my parents until two, three in the morning and wake up again to go to school. There was not a day I didn’t cry; I wanted to go back home and never come back. It took a year and half for me to perfect my English but I did it with the help of my parents that stayed all night long helping me do my work and to my tutors and my teachers that dedicated the time to also guide me and help me perfect my English. It wasn’t easy but today I am grateful and very proud of myself for over coming what I thought was my biggest challenge. I made friends and soon enough became known to everyone because I began to get good grades, always in honor roll and I became involved in extra curricular activities like soccer, word wizard, and the math club. However, all of that came after working very hard to get there. Life will always have challenges that you’ll have to overcome in order to gain new abilities, hone skills, and become a better you. It’s easy to get discouraged but always remember that it’s in you to work hard and reach goals, no one will do it for you and always remember to do what’s best for your child. That experience shaped me into the person, daughter, mother, and learning student I am today.

As a parent, I make decisions all of the time for the well being of my daughter. I want to offer her all that I didn’t have and more and provide her with the tools and guidance that my parents gave to me while growing up facing these challenges. They are my support system and that’s what I want to be for my daughter, her support system, her best friend, and the person she can always count on. The challenge I faced while learning English is nothing compared to that of becoming a parent and now having to look after a little human being that needs my help to survive. Making decisions for myself have always been hard, imagine making a decision for someone other than yourself. Just trust and believe that your judgment and your desire to be the best parent your child can have is the right one and no one will tell you otherwise. It’s okay to be wrong, parents not always make the right choices but acknowledgment goes a long way and your child will be appreciative of that. I am forever grateful of the education and guidance my parents gave to me and because of them and my struggles, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I knew I was ready to face the world with her.

*Marinel Fuentes is a 2017-2018 Stronger Generations Young Parent Ambassador. To learn more about Marinel and our Young Parent Ambassador program visit our young parent ambassador page!

 

 

What does it mean to be a parent?

I have always been ambitious in life, filled with hopes, dreams, goals, and desires. However, I have also always been indecisive about how I was going to manifest that ambition. I have gone from wanting to be a pediatrician, to a lawyer, to an actuary, to a psychiatrist, to a psychologist, to now working in Human Resources and am still trying to figure out and focus in on my purpose in life. Although most things in my life seemed uncertain and ambiguous, the one thing I knew for sure that I wanted to be was a MOM. I loved caring for children since I was young. When I was little I used to help my mom at her daycare, help look after my younger God brothers and sisters, help care for my God children, and so forth. Most people would be happy to give a child back to their parents after a long, playful, energetic weekend. But returning the children always broke my heart and I could not wait to have a child of my own that I did not have to return. I have always admired the bond between a parent and a child, for to me it is the ultimate, purest, and most fulfilling experience that someone could be blessed with. Therefore, being a Parent was the most important job that I could have.

I feel like most would agree that being a parent is about providing financially for your children, making sure they are healthy, well feed, clean, and have all their basic needs. However, for me being a parent goes beyond that. I break parenting down in 5 categories which are basic needs, protection, preparation, love, and leading. Basic needs has to do with the task already mention, such as making sure that your child has food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and etc. This is where most parents focus their time, and some parents feel as though as long as they are supplying the basic needs that they are doing their job as parents. For me, this is just the minimum requirements of parenting, the foundation to the reset of the house that needs to be built. Next would be protecting your child, and this is the metal and wood framing of the house in which if you broken the whole house comes tumbling down. Childhood is the most vulnerable state in the life cycle because not only are most children defenseless against dangerous people, environments, or experiences, but they usually cannot recognize danger. Therefore, it is a parent’s job to identify, avoid, and stand up for their child when it comes to harmful situations. This is especially important with bullying and suicide on the rise amongst children.

The third aspect of parenting is the preparing position in which you prepare your child to go out and maneuver through the world on their own. You prepare them by providing them with analytical skills and the education needed to critically think about life and make smart decisions that will allow them to prosper rather than perish. Most of the time preparing and protecting can combat each other because you cannot prepare your child from what you are trying to protect them from. They also conflict because when you are preparing your child most times it involves allowing them to start doing things either on their own or with supervision. For example, when is the right time to protect your child from strangers and preparing your child by allowing them to walk to stores themselves? When is the right time to protect your child’s innocence and hide sex and when is the right time to prepare them by educating them on the topic to avoid them learning about it through unhealthy, misguided sources, or without you even knowing that they have learned about it. As parents we will always struggle on when is it time to start letting go, stop protecting, and start preparing a child.

The last two aspects are my favorite and to me the most important. It is a parent’s job to love their child. I believe that the love that a child receives from their parents is a huge determinant in how they seek and express love in their friendships, life/intimate partners, and other relationships. It can also influence how a child learns to love themselves. My child is a part of me, my creation, flesh of my flesh, for me not to love her is me not loving myself and I cannot love myself without loving her. Therefore, I will always love her and she will always love me, and in me loving her unconditionally I hope I show her how to love herself unconditionally. If you do not love your child, and your child does not love themselves, they may be more susceptible to or even perpetuate false love and mistreatment. I think that most people hurt others and cannot sustain relationships because they were never taught how to love, did not receive love, and thus, do not know how to react to nor give love. Love is important as “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened”. Therefore, if I want my child to be a part of the solution to healing the madness and hatred in their world, I have to do my part as her parent and love her.

Lastly, you should be a leader and an example to your child. You child or children will hear what you say and see what you do and we as parents cannot choice what the child will follow. Thus, it is important that your actions are aligned with your words. I feel like this is the aspect of parenting that many parents forget or think can be override. Children are sponges and even when we think they are not watching, learning, observing, and absorbing, they actually are. Children are a reflection of you and you cannot create change by changing the reflection but rather by changing what is being reflected….you. This was important for me to write because I cannot measure, monitor, analyze, or promote what I cannot define. Thus, I wanted to outline what it means to me to be a parent to make sure that I am always checking to see if my actions are aligned with my beliefs. And by expressing my beliefs they can be challenged, expanded, reinforced, or even changed. Therefore, I challenge those that read this to use my definition or create your own definition of what it means to be a parent and ask your three question: Am I living up to this definition, how am I doing to live up to this definition, what can I do to better fit this definition. Stay woke, stay blessed.

*Daquana Geneva Harper is one of our 2017-2018 Young Parent Ambassadors. To learn more about Daquan, check out her bio on our young parent ambassador page!

 

10 Steps Forward 5 Back

I recently went to the RMV to take my permit test. After waiting 3 hours I was told that I could not take the test because I had my son with me, who they do not allow in the testing room. They told me they assumed I had someone with me to watch him. They told me that if I was taking a test in school I would not be allowed to bring my son in with me.

If this had happened to me a few years ago I would have reacted a lot differently then I did. I kindly let them know it would be a courtesy to the customers to either put up a sign, put it on your website, or tell us at customer service. I kindly told them that if I had to take a test a school I could bring him. I kindly told them that I do not have someone I can just leave my son with.

When I was first told I could not take the test I was so angry and discouraged. After failing the test 6 years ago I was so afraid to go in and take it. I got past that fear and went and studied and was ready. I never needed my permit/license until I had my son; it would make life easier for both us. It would also free up space on the bus and train; my carriage is pretty big. I was embarrassed; I was ashamed, and so upset. Honestly, I just felt like I was being shut down; like a door was being shut in my face.

A part of me gets it. They do not want anyone to fail the test because they were disturbed. However, I feel like they need to accommodate their customers if they have children. Why are you turning down someone who is trying to better their life for themselves and child? I have a 4 month old son who breastfeeds every 2-3 hours so he needs to be with me. I should not be turned away because of this.

A big part of me does not even want to go and take the test now. I am more nervous then I was before. I am going to stress about how long it has been since I last breastfed him. I am going to worry about if I can get someone to watch him or come with me; will I have to pay them to watch him? All of these factors are going to affect me while I am taking the test. So what are my chances of passing now?

I guess the only thing I am positive about is that I will go back and take the permit test, I have to. I need this for me and my son. If I fail, then I fail and will be better prepared for next time. I will not let the way certain things are shut me down like they have before. After all it is no longer just about me. Hopefully society can learn to support young parents, learn to help us, and learn to not shut us down.

The Struggle of Coparenting

Ariadna, Mónica i Sergi

You’re not in a relationship.

…and it’s still complicated.

I can hear the collective sigh of frustration.  I know.  I get it.  Coparenting is tough.  But it’s also so very important for your kids!  The other day, I found myself clicking through random articles on the web.  I came across one about the “Best Arrangement for Kids of Divorced Parents.”  Being ever so curious, I opened it.  The article just said what we’ve all heard a hundred times before:  it’s important to have both parents in the picture.

Well of course it is!  That’s easy to say for a researcher with no kids, or for a parent in the perfect relationship.  But what about the rest of us?

The article conveniently left out the fact that coparenting is difficult.  It’s hard to deal with the other parent sometimes.  It’s hard to be flexible, to be understanding.  It’s tough to agree on the same rules and the same schedule.  Every time you drop him off or pick him up, it’s important to make sure you both know the child is the most important part of the relationship.

I’ve been pretty lucky, both of us are in the picture, and we both get a long pretty well, for my son’s sake.  It can still be difficult though, especially when you two don’t agree on something.  Try to remember that the little human in the carseat is still the most important thing to your world.  If you truly want what’s best for them, it’s important to try and make it work with both parents.

You may not think the other parent is amazing, but your kid probably still loves them, and they’re very lucky to have both parents in the picture.  Every time you drop them off, you’re teaching your child that family is important, even if you don’t get along.  You’re teaching your child respect and love.

If you have trouble (like me) try some of these tips for coparenting!

  • Try and have some consistency with rules, schedules, etc.
  • Focus on the kids, not on your feelings or frustrations.
  • Always treat the other parent with respect.  Never say anything bad about them in front of the kids.
  • Try to commit to honest, frequent conversation with the other parent.
  • Be flexible with your time.  If you want a few extra hours with the little one this week, make sure to return the favor.
  • Remember what’s most important, you kiddo!

Join our Young Parent Success Video Campaign!

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We want to know how you define young parent success! Send us a short video of you (and your kids too) letting us know how you define success and we’ll enter you into a raffle to win a gift card! Plus your video may be featured at our 2015 STEPS event!

Post your video on instagram or twitter (but be sure to tag us @proudtoparent) or send it in to alchilds@partners.org. All video entries are due by May 10th at 5:00 PM.

Don’t Forget About You!

CalvinHobbesParenting

The number one thing people tell you about parenting?

Kids come first.

End of story.  No discussion, no questions.

Now, I don’t disagree with this advice, but there’s a fine distinction between the “kids come first”, and the “I have to do what’s best for my kids” approach.  The moment you do something for yourself, there are plenty of people ready to write you off as a selfish parent.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to you kids.  Ask your kiddo, “Do you like it better when mom and dad are stressed out, or when we’re happy.”  Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Thankfully, people are starting to realize that if you want to raise happy, healthy kids, you have to be healthy and happy too!  This is important to remember, and I noticed it the most in this Proud to Parent program.  Every meeting, we go through a few questions at the beginning.  Guess which question is the hardest to answer….

“What have you done for yourself this week?”

This might seem like a strange question to ask, especially coming from the “drop everything for the kids” approach to parenting.  But it makes a lot of sense, and I think people need to remember that.  Any parent, no matter what age, will tell you that parenting is exhausting at times.  Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it.  But it’s also so incredibly rewarding, and in order to get the most out of parenting, you have to be able to take a step back and reflect on it.

If you’re like me, it’s always hard to take time for yourself.  Between work, school, kids, and every other obligation I’m signed up for, “me-time” isn’t exactly a top priority.  You feel guilty, you can’t stop thinking about work tomorrow, or that exam coming up, you miss your kids.  But I’ve also started to see how important it is.  Trust me, if I’ve had time to hang out with a friend or relax and read a book, I have way more fun with my son.  Sleeping too; man does getting enough sleep help…

So don’t be afraid to help yourself help your kids.  If you need a break, that’s ok.  If you need a night out or time to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not entitled to that.  Parenting is a full time job, and full time jobs have vacation time for a reason.  Everybody needs a vacation, even if it’s just one night.  Trust me, taking a day to recharge, catch up with an old friend, do some yoga, take a nap, whatever, will pay back tenfold.  If taking a night to yourself lets you be able to relax and have fun with the kids all weekend, it’s totally worth it!

So let me ask, what have you done for yourself this week?

Headless Chicken

218px-headlesschickenI have been sitting here staring at this screen on and off for the past hour trying to figure what I have to say about being a young parent. Clearly I have decided to start typing, but I still have no idea where to start. I know what I want to say. The problem is how do I tell my story without sounding like a crazy woman.

Here is my attempt…

Since becoming a young parent, I do not remember the last time I was not tired. Between work, school, and caring for my son, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off running around aimlessly. With that being said, I have never been happier in my life. I smile so hard that my face hurts more than my exhausted brain. The best part of my day used to be falling asleep to Netflix. Now, the best part of my day is when Caleb is asleep and his diaper is full. I pray that he doesn’t wake up while I am changing him because I have so much work to do, but by the time I’m done and I look up at him and he’s awake. My first thought is, “Just great!” Then he looks into my eyes and he smiles at me and I can’t help but smile back. I feel like giving up EVERY SINGLE DAY, but his smiles gives me the push that I need to keep going. I laugh when I should cry, I watch him sleep when I have a million other thing I should be doing, and while people thought becoming a young parent meant my life was over, but I have never felt more alive.

To all the other chickens with your heads cut off, I can’t tell you how things will work out for you because I am still trying to figure that out for myself. What I can say is that you are not alone. Stay strong and be #proudtoparent !

Louisha

Hard working single mom’s

denise imageBeing a single mom is very hard, stressful, and depressing. Being a single mom and working is even more stressful and depressing. Work causes stress, and being a mom also causes stress so you feel so stressed out and don’t know what to do or where to go. You get so desperate that you feel like you are all alone and don’t have anyone to help you or cheer you up. You feel like your not a good parent because you have to work enough hours to get enough money to pay bills and take care of your child. I am here to tell you that you’re doing a GREAT job and keep up the good work!!

I know exactly how you feel because I am going through it myself. I am a young single hard working mom. I am my daughters mother and father. Alot of times I get out of work so tired that I just want to lay down and sleep my life away, but then reality hits me that I am not able to do that because I have to take care of my daughter first and put her to sleep before I can get some rest. Most of the times I feel like I’m stuck in between these four walls and can’t get out. But then I think of all the help I get from my family and how lucky I am to have that help.

Never feel alone. There’s always someone out there willing to hear you and give you advice. Never feel like you are not good enough, because you are. Keep working hard even if you feel like giving up because “Hard work pays off”. Give all the love you can to your child because they need to feel it. Never give up, strive to do better in life for you and your child because in the future that child will thank you for never giving up on them.