The initiation into motherhood
Today I have the pleasure of speaking with Maria Luisa Salcines, a freelance author and certified parent coach. In the interview, Maria Luisa talks about how motherhood changed her perspective and about how self-compassion, self-care, and faith help her to rise above the challenges she faces as a parent.
What are some experiences you feel are unique to your parenting experience or your identity as a mom?
I have experienced motherhood by giving birth and adoption. Even though these are two different ways of creating a family the ultimate blessing is the same. I can attest to the profound love you feel for your baby regardless of how he or she came into your life.
Blood does not make a family, love does, and when you hold your baby or child for the first time the love in your heart is the same.
In contrast, what are some experiences that make you feel connected to other moms?
The initiation into motherhood is painful and filled with nerve wracking moments. It has no prestigious award or gran celebratory gala for its new members other than you becoming a part of the most rewarding society in the world.
Motherhood changes your perspective and opens your eyes to a world you were not aware of. All of a sudden, everywhere you go, you notice pregnant women, couples with children, and when a child cries out “mom” you turn even if that little voice doesn’t belong to you.
A few years ago, I was waiting in line to use the bathroom in the George Bush International airport in Houston, Texas when I saw a young woman leaning against a stall crying. She was carrying a little boy on her hip, had a baby in a stroller and was holding the hand of a little girl that was about 5-years-old. I tapped her shoulder and asked her if there was something I could do to help her. She began to cry even more and between sobs told me that she was traveling alone with her children and had not expected it to be so difficult. She had been standing in line to use the bathroom, and now that it was her turn, she couldn’t figure out how she was going to do it. “I can help you,” I told the young woman.
I looked at her little girl and asked her if she would be willing to help me with her siblings so that her mommy could go to the bathroom. The little girl smiled shyly and nodded yes. The young woman handed me her little boy; he was hesitant to stay with me at first, but his mom reassured him. I guided the little girl so she was standing in front of me and told her to hold on to the stroller so that we could get out of the way. When she came out of the bathroom, I helped her walk over to the changing table so she could change the baby’s diaper. She apologized, and told me she was embarrassed she had lost control. I told her there was no reason to apologize because we all feel overwhelmed at times. When we said good-bye she gave me a hug, and just before she turned to walk towards her gate with her beautiful little ones, she thanked me and said she would never forget my kindness.
Life today is very different from previous generations when women would marry and live close to their families. The majority of young women today live in different cities and cannot count on their families for support. If they are lucky, they create a support system within their close friends, but most women are struggling while juggling marriage, career, and motherhood.
Motherhood is a blessing and the most life changing gift a woman will receive. It’s a sisterhood that binds women by shared experiences regardless of race or nationality. We must cherish this connection and always look out for each other.
Wow. That is a powerful story and an example of how much we all need compassion in our lives. Can you tell me about a moment when you needed a reminder to be compassionate and kind towards yourself as you parented? What helped you get through this moment?
“As a mother you are only as happy as your saddest child.” I found this quote by Beth Moore to be true when my daughter was diagnosed with anxiety and depression her freshman year of college. To see our beautiful daughter struggle with so much sadness and hopelessness was more than I could bear. I am a problem solver and have always been the go to person for my children, friends, family and clients. I am the kind of person that dives into challenges and always moves forward with a positive attitude; however, depression and anxiety cannot be fixed overnight. I could not help my daughter. She had to learn how to understand and live with this disease. Overcoming depression is a slow progress that cannot be rushed. It affects the whole family, because it is very difficult to see someone you love going through this.
For the longest time I blamed myself for not recognizing the signs. I didn’t know how to help my daughter. Then I took action. I began reading everything I could about depression and anxiety. I learned how nutrition and vitamins can help. My daughter went to therapy and began taking medication. Her doctors believe her depression is genetic and that one of her birth parents might also suffer from it. We went through some very difficult years, but our daughter has learned how to recognize her triggers and now knows how to take care of herself. She is healthy and happy and discovered during this life changing process that her experience has been a gift. She and her best friend co-founded Mental Monarchs a non-profit dedicated to spreading awareness, knowledge and resources in hope to end the stigma and break the silence on mental illness. They provide psychoeducation and fund mental health initiatives to support and better understand how to cope with illness.
The most difficult thing my daughter went through gave her a purpose in life. My heart bursts with pride for the strong woman that has emerged from this experience.
Last year while stuck at home during the pandemic stay at home order, we wrote a children’s book. You Can Do It, Chickadee will be released this May. It is a story about a Chickadee with depression and how her resilience helps her cope with the challenges brought on by this disease. It’s also about Chickadee’s loving relationship with her mom, and how her mom helped Chickadee return to her daily activities.
Motherhood has always been the center of my life. It is the most important and most rewarding thing I have ever done. I believe that the root of many societal problems goes back to the family connections in our life or lack thereof. When we have a loving and strong relationship with our children the burden of the challenges they may face is shared by a loving supportive family. We have two adult sons and a daughter. Our sons are married and we have four beautiful grandsons. What I am most grateful for is the close relationship we have with our children and that our grandchildren are going to have that relationship with their parents, as well. We not only raise our children, we also help raise future generations.
Self-care is key
How do you find moments of respite to re-energize you and remind you of the aspects of yourself that sometimes get pushed to the side when you’re caring for others?
Self-care is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, I have had to learn how to take care of myself. My faith has always given me the strength to get through the challenges I have faced in life. I pray all the time, and thank God every day for my blessings. I also remind myself every day to, “Let go, let God.”
Writing has always been an emotional outlet for me. Last year I retired from writing a weekly column. For 26 years, I wrote about family issues often sharing stories about my experience as a mother and Cuban immigrant. Writing has helped me understand my life, and I often advice women in my coaching sessions to take up journaling. It’s not only a great way to document your life, but it can also help you understand your fears and concerns. You can learn a lot about yourself by going back and reading what you have written.
My favorite place to re-energize is our ranch. My husband and I go there every weekend, and it is like plugging ourselves into natures source of positive energy. I sleep, I read, I write, I go for long walks, and I find that I can unwind in a way that we cannot at home. Nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but according to scientists, it contributes to your physical well-being.
Writing has helped me understand my life, and I often advice women in my coaching sessions to take up journaling.
I wrote this column in 2001 and when I read it a few weeks ago I thought it was a perfect way to end this questionnaire. My “mini-me” is 26-years old and she is now my writing partner.
Spending Time Doing Girl Stuff with ‘Mini-me’
For years, all of our family activities revolved around the men in the family. I went to baseball games, basketball games, to the deer lease on weekends, and did everything I could to spend time with my sons. I have always loved watching my sons with their father, the way they connect, when they’re doing guy things.
The boys call their sister “mini-me” because she is my little shadow. She follows me everywhere I go. She is my companion. When we go to the mall, we love trying all the samples at Bath and Body Works, and we always come home with bath gels, lotions, body glitter, and an assortment of things we really don’t need.
On Saturdays when we’re alone in the house, we’ll have a beauty day. We wash and condition our hair with a special treatment and sit in our bathrobes with our hair wrapped in a towel. We talk and giggle, and when a good song comes on the radio, we dance and act silly in front of the mirror.
When we’re in my car, she doesn’t complain about the mushy music I like to listen to; instead, she sings along with me, and knows the words to my favorite songs. When I’m cooking, she is my assistant. She loves to bake cookies, and when I bake a cake she is the official frosting person. Her favorite part is licking the spoon when she thinks I’m not looking.
We love watching “Nick at Night”. Her favorite shows are I Love Lucy, Laverne and Shirley, and the Brady Bunch. I love the way she laughs at the silly things that happen on the shows, and she’s the only other person besides me who knows the words to the Brady Bunch theme song.
On Sunday mornings, we come downstairs in our pajamas and make tiny Mickey Mouse pancakes. We read funny books about little bears and cute lovable things, instead of monsters and sharks.
My daughter has given me the opportunity to go to dance recitals and to play with Barbie dolls. When we play together she always wants me to pretend I’m her sister, and not her mami.
Instead of wanting to shoot the birds in my back yard with a BB gun, my daughter helps me fill up the bird feeders. Then she’ll hop on my lap and we’ll sit quietly watching the humming birds drinking nectar, and the sparrows eating birdseeds.
When I’m working in my office, she sits in her desk and draws pretty pictures with hearts, and writes me notes which she tapes up all over the office walls. Every once in a while, she’ll come and sit on my lap. I’ll give her a hug and she’ll ask me what I’m writing about.
I’m writing about you, I tell her. She always reminds me to mention that her favorite color is pink.
“When I grow up,” she said to me the other day. “I’m going to write a book.”
“That’s great!” I said. “What are you going to write about?”
She thought about it for a moment and then said, “It’s going to be a, ‘I love my family’ book.”
If I didn’t have my daughter, I would be through with the child-rearing stage in my life, and I would have time to do all those things I have to squeeze in now. However, I’d have missed out on all the hugs and kisses, and the tender moments a mother shares with her little girl. Most of all, I’d have missed out on knowing the young woman she will become someday, and the love that can be compared to no other.
Maria Luisa Salcines is a freelance writer, author, and certified parent coach with The Academy Of Parenting Education and Coaching in Redirecting Children’s Behavior and Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Follow her on Instagram @mlsalcinespoweroffamily, @youcandoitchickadee, or contact her on her blog: FamilyLifeAndFindingHappy. To learn more about Mental Monarchs follow them on Instagram @mentalmonarchs or visit their website.