Note: To celebrate Mother's Day, Gloria Guadarrama, Church Relations Coordinator for Mennonite Mission Network, was invited to reflect on her mothering.
I was ready to give lots of love and as many hugs and kisses as anyone could imagine. But what happens when the stars do not align for a "good" pregnancy, a "happy" baby or a "perfect" world? Or when you face challenges that you were not prepared for?
My children, Cristian (16 years old) and Kalét (4 years old), have brought me the joys and challenges of motherhood.
These challenges have not only tested my faith but also me as a mother — raising Hispanic young men in a time when it is more acceptable to discriminate based on appearance, while also having a child with sensory sensitivities.
I understand that I cannot change the world for them. But I can educate them. I can continue those difficult conversations on discrimination, racism, and White privilege. I can be honest with them, since the real world doesn't have any filters. Sugarcoating our realities does more harm than good. My sons have to fully understand the world we live in, so they don't just survive but thrive.
So, I pray, I pray, and I pray with an open heart.
Being a mother is hard and overwhelming at times. I've learned I need to build a support system to help me navigate motherhood, because I feel lost at times. It is difficult not to be hard on myself when I want to give the best love and support to my children.
So, where does a mother's self-care fit into this?
During the last four years, I kept overlooking and denying myself the important thing any mother should do — self-care. Self-care has always been important to me and was something I could manage. But it became unthinkable after Kalét was born.
Kalét was not a "happy" baby. Rather, he was a unique baby, born with Sensory Processing Disorder. This disorder made it difficult for him to sleep, since he startled easily due to sounds in the environment. This was especially true of high-pitched noises, which caused him pain. He also preferred not to be touched, among other challenges.
So, the hugs and kisses waited a couple years.
Learning about his disorder gave us an overview of the challenges we are facing, as well as some relief. Naming his sensitivities helped us to manage them and help him cope with his surroundings.
But how could I think about myself, knowing Kalét needed me?
My children are my priority! How could I think about myself, when every day is a different struggle? I feel guilty for taking care of myself when my children are not well, so it is difficult for me to practice self-care.
As a result, I have neglected myself — until recently. With the help of my close friends and my husband, Jose, I snapped out of it by taking action. I took a couple of days to do whatever I wanted. I had lunch with a friend and got a massage. I intend to continue to practice self-care like this regularly.
Now, I can't stop thinking about why I didn't take care of myself sooner. Being a parent is a tough job; working full-time is a tough job; housework is a tough job; and I cannot change the world. If I don't take care of myself, who will?
In order for me to give my best to my children, they need me to be at my best, and they need to see me at my best, which involves me feeling my best. And that starts by taking care of myself. So, the difference in my mothering today is that, in between of all the challenges, hugs and kisses, I'm a better-balanced momma.