Jul 31, 2015


The Latina Mother-Daughter Relationship: Inspiration and Challenge

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I was already married with children, and for years, my mother would still call me every. single. day.

¿Comiste ya?”  (Did you eat already?) she asked daily.

Bizarre?  Not really, not for a Latina mother.

I couldn’t find a way to tell her that her daily monitoring was unnecessary — that I had grown up (for heaven’s sake).  A once a week phone call would have been perfect for me —  but I knew that she needed to connect with me more frequently.

Caller ID was my savior.  When this telephone feature became available, years ago, I began screening my calls, and answered her phone calls every other day.  She would leave a recorded phone message instead, which, by the way, was exactly the same each and every time: “Hola Angelica, es tu mami, te estoy llamando para saber como estas y como estan los muchachos…” (Hi Angelica, this is your mami…I’m calling you to see how you’re doing and how are the kids…).

For a long while, she didn’t like the fact that I was ignoring her phone calls.  She got upset, she felt abandoned, ignored and unloved.  But I stuck to my plan.  I kept reminding myself that I deserved that space — I needed to set boundaries and limits.

It was not easy, but she did it.  She learned to accept that I was busy with my own life and my own family.  In turn, she began to focus her attention on herself and new friends.  I am proud to say that she now calls every other day — but she still asks the same question:  “Ya comiste?”

Although Latina mothers can be challenging — with their over-nurturing, protectiveness, or lack of boundaries — they are undeniably a great source of inspiration and motivation.  If you grew up with a good mom, I am sure she shared with you stories about her own childhood, to illustrate the short-comings of her life, juxtaposed to yours (with many more opportunities than hers).  I bet she told you about her dreams for you, and reminded you to keep focused on and keep trying.  Most likely she sewed, borrowed or purchased that expensive dress you wanted for that special occassion.  Surely, she lifted you when you were down, and strengthened you when you felt weak.   When sick, she made sopa de pollo (chicken soup) or te de anis. She worried when you worried, she smiled when you smiled.  You became her dream, hope and pride.

But again, with such a giving and devoted mother, how do you separate and individuate?  How do you become yourself, apart from her?  What do you say when you have grown into your own person and no longer need her the way she wants to be needed?  How do you stop yourself from feeling guilty and sad for her?  It can be a challenge.  But an important one to overcome.  Why?  Because in order to grow into your own person, you must let go:   let go of the guilt, the fear, and the pull.  Instead, ask for what you need. By letting go, you teach your mami a thing or two about letting go of her own fears and growing beyond her role of mother.

What do you find most challenging and inspiring about your relationship with your mother?

photo source: Mubina H

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Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Angélica Pérez-Litwin

Dr. Perez-Litwin is the Founder & CEO of ELLA Leadership Institute, a multi-platform professional development organization designed to advance the careers and leadership of women. She's the creative force behind the LATINAS THINK BIG™ national tour, sponsored and live-streamed by Google.

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  1. Angelica, just like you mentioned, I personally struggle with letting go of the guilt in some ways. But, some days I’m able to remind her that she “raised my brothers and I so good that we’re able to take care of ourselves”. Still, there are those days that I need my mami and will call or visit and tell her just that – “I need you.”

    I love our relationship, and as you said, it’s one that is really unique.

  2. Wow I feel like you’re talking about my mom!

    This is just a wonderful article. Its not easy creating boundaries. I remember when I went to therapy and started talking about boundaries my mother would say, “I hate your therapist.” LMAO.

    What she really meant is ‘I hate these new rules,’ ‘I hate that you’re changing the dynamic,’ and ‘I hate the thought of losing you not needing me.’ So we did a lot of talking about that.

    She still has difficulty with boundaries but over the years I’ve learned to manage the guilt.

    She’s a wonderful mother and as a result I am a great person (if I do say so myself). Kudos to all the wonderful mamis.


  3. Alicia says:

    My biggest challenge is getting my mother to realize that I’m not always at her disposition. That I too have my own life, husband, child, errands & that I’m old enough to make my own decisions. She still ask me why I’m shopping ir spending & tries to control my money lol. But I love her because her intentions are noble.

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