How Societal Expectations Contribute to the Latina Mother Wound

Apr 17, 2023

Hola familia I'm back and this week I want to talk about how societal expectations contribute to the Latina mother wound and play an important role in the dynamics we have to heal within our family relationships and our relationship to ourselves. It's very interesting to see how the changing Generations we are living in have such differences in what’s considered “acceptable parenting” and what determines that a child is growing up “the right way”. Society is informed by the systems we live in and around, of course, but to add to the Latina experience; culture, traditions, and the trauma of colonization also inform how we were raised and how we now are raising Daughters of our own.

I've had the opportunity to talk about the systems of Oppression that inform the way we were raised. I'm specifically talking about the systems that our mothers were indoctrinated under, and essentially influenced how they were expected to raise us. Many of our mothers come from a generation where a daughter that was meek, quiet, helpful, subservient, well polished and adorned, and  showing early signs of being a good wife and mother someday –  was considered to be a Good Girl (una Niña Buena). Below is a list of a few of those system of oppression that I'm referring to:

Systems of Oppression and Latinx Parenting Styles

  • Marianismo / Patriarchy
    • Women are to be controlled, nurturers, grateful, humble and subservient
  • Capitalism
    • Racism, sexism, anti-immigration, survival mode
  • Organized Religion and Purity Culture
    • Purity, modesty, and social expectations of marriage and motherhood
  • Colonialism and Immigration
    • Suppression of one’s own culture/heritage, assimilation without access to resources, minimal opportunities for original landowners, threat of displacement (contributing to fear of asking for help)

You may have experienced all or some of these systems above, and it came through in some of the things you heard as a child, for example:

“It's your job to help keep the house clean, chores done, and to help take care of your siblings.”

“I expect more from you because you're a girl, you should know better.”

“Don't complain or ask for too much, it's not very ladylike.”

“If you're not working or doing something, you're being lazy.”

“Rest is for millionaires, so get to work.”

“Make sure you cover up and dress decently, don’t draw attention to yourself.”

“No man wants a woman who is too confident, too smart, or sexual.”

“A man will not want to marry you if you're not a virgin.”

“Don't focus too much on career or education, your job is to become a mother and make me a grandmother.”

You may have even heard these in Spanish?  Even if the words typed above don't sound exactly like what you may have heard, you get the message here. there were little hints, sayings, and beliefs that swirled around our households… quietly telling us what was expected of us as daughters. Considering many of our moms were not allowed to be free thinkers, do things differently, and challenge these systems without punishment; they eventually trickled down to us. Our generation is now doing the work to break these patterns, interrupt these cycles of oppression, and we have the audacity to be, do and live differently.

Yes, the systems of Oppression are important to note, but they also contribute to the large amount of judgment that we place around mothers and women as a gender. I'm sure we've all heard conversations of our mom's and tia’s  sitting around the dining room table, having a cup of coffee together, and gossiping about the other women in the family or their friends.  the drama, disgust, shame, and judgment that came from those conversations was palpable and I learned early on that there was a lack of awareness in the women I was surrounded by. They so quickly and easily brought up the shortcomings and Imperfections of other women/mothers around them, but could never acknowledge their own. and I hate to say it, but even I have fallen into this trap myself. I'm actively working on ending this cycle but I also acknowledge that it is a pattern of behavior that women engage in to share their frustrations with this societal pressure we have on one another as women.

Along with these societal pressures, also comes their expectation of what an ideal mother/daughter relationship looks like. Here's some of what I've picked up on:

For Mothers, you are expected to:

  • Always put yourself last.
  • Maintain a clean and organized home, always.
  • Be a great cook.
  • Care for the family's needs.
  • Plan and execute all of the family outing and maintain their social calendars.
  • Do it all and make it look easy, without complaining or asking for help.
  • Lose the baby weight as quickly as possible.

 For adult Daughters, you are expected to:

  • Always be available for mom, no matter what.
  • Ensure that your extended family has access to you, as needed.
  • Don't move too far away, in case you are called on for assistance.
  • Do not enforce too many boundaries.
  • Do not be selfish with your time, resources, or access.
  • Do not be too much of an individual, as it reflects poorly on mom.
  • Even if you are married and raising a family of your own, your mom should always take priority. 

…. just to name a few.

 It's important to note this so that you understand that the relationship that you have with your mother today, likely experienced some of the quiet messaging of these systems and societal expectations. many of our mothers didn't have the strength of courage to challenge these systems and expectations, but we come from a different time. we get to live differently. we get to be courageous and change the game for our lineage. we get to be The Descendant that our ancestors needed to speak up for them, and say loudly and proudly, “NOPE!!  I'm going to do it my way!”. Your way could be so many things: choosing a more spiritual path instead of a religious one, choosing conscious parenting instead of abuse tactics, enforcing boundaries that support the health of you and your family, limiting people's access to you and your resources, etc.

 This is a message of love to all women in my online community:

There's no one way to be the perfect woman or mother,  but there's a million ways to be a really good one.  Everyone will always have an opinion about how you do things, but that's none of your business. Let them talk, gasp, and judge you from afar.

You're not here to gain the acceptance or validation of others.

At the end of this lifetime, your goal is to have lived without betraying or disappointing YOURSELF.  

May this message find your heart and bring you comfort. If you feel so inclined, please respond and share how you are practicing this courage for yourself and your family. What systems of Oppression and societal pressures are you challenging in this season of life? How can we support you in doing this work? we would love to hear from you.

De Cara Y Corazon,



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