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My husband, Joseph, and I were raised in traditional Puerto Rican homes — our moms stayed home with the kids while our dads went out to work. Our parents' roles were very much defined.
From a very early age, I was well aware of my parents roles. If I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or couldn't find my school uniform, I'd ask my mom. If I wanted a few extra dollars, I went to my dad. I knew that my dad was the provider in a financial sense, but it was my mom who did everything else. She went to school meetings, checked homework, did our laundry and cooked our meals. I don't ever recall my mother asking my father for help — not to fold a piece of laundry or wash a single dish.
But that was decades ago. Times and parental and gender roles have changed.
In a recent interview with Parents Latina, Shakira shared that as a working mom, she's raising "modern men" and credits her soccer star husband, Gerard Pique, as being an excellent role model for their sons. For Shakira, work/life balance comes down to delegation and prioritization to "make room for the things that are most important."
From the moment I was pregnant with my son, Norrin, I knew that being a stay-at-home mom was not for me. Not only did I need to, I wanted to work.
I was raised by a strong Latina who did everything on her own without help. But I am not my mother. I don't even pretend to be. I may be strong like her, but I can't do it all.
Norrin is now 9 years old and is being raised in a two-working-parent household where machismo does not exist. Being a working mother raising a son with autism requires lots of delegation and prioritization. However, choosing to focus on the things that are most important hasn't come easily. I was raised by a strong Latina who did everything on her own without help. But I am not my mother. I don't even pretend to be. I may be strong like her, but I can't do it all.
If I need Joseph to wash the dishes, I ask him to wash the dishes. Maybe he doesn't always do it immediately when I ask him to, but eventually. (Accepting this is part of my prioritization.) Joseph may have been raised by old-fashioned parents, but he's very much the modern man. I'm grateful that he helps and understands that parenting is a team effort.
And our son is better off for it. He sees no distinction between mom and dad, nor does he see us in specific gender roles. Norrin is aware that we both work outside of the home and sees us both cook, clean and do laundry. He knows to come to either of us for any request. Joseph and I work with Norrin to do things around the apartment, to pick up his dirty clothes, to put his dishes in the sink and to help with laundry. He can make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and use the microwave with supervision.
I don't know if Norrin will ever marry or have children, but I want him to be as independent as possible and be able to do things for himself. Because that's what a modern man is supposed to do.