“Slow down. Men don’t like women who are smarter than them. And if you want to one day find a husband- you better slow down.”
A few days ago, as I walked the halls of my alma mater – DePaul University – those words rung in my head. A little over twenty years ago, my mother had spoken them to me.
Before jumping to conclusions and judging my mom, who loved me dearly, allow me to explain.
After serving in WW2, my mother’s father returned to the pueblos of Puerto Rico. There he met my grandmother – who at age 14 was eighteen years younger than him. He married her shortly thereafter. After their second child was born, they moved to Chicago and settled in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
My mother was the fourth child of seven in her family. She had three older siblings – two brothers and sister – that she looked up to, and three younger siblings – all brothers – that she absolutely adored.
For my mom’s elementary education, she attended the Chicago Public School in her neighborhood.
She was a struggling reader.
For my mom’s High School education, her parents enrolled her into Visitation High School, an all-female private high school with a high price tag.
But they had their reasons.
They thought it would provide her with a better education. And they wanted to keep the boys away from her. Even back then, she was an attractive young lady.
Since my grandparents couldn’t afford the tuition, they made the necessary arrangements.
After school my mom would clean the school building in exchange for a significantly reduced tuition rate. It was during this season that my mom actually contemplated being a nun.
Obviously, that didn’t happen.
She met my father, when she was sixteen years old.
Eloped with him the same year.
And together they had me one year later.
My mom ended her education reading at about a second grade level.
Although, my mom was moderately illiterate, she was able to get and maintain jobs. She managed to work around her disability. She was a strong, smart woman that articulated her thoughts and opinions well (my father would say-too well). No one around her knew anything of her learning disability. But she did, and it brought a lot of insecurities.
Let’s fast forward to 1993.
I was a senior in High School, and my mom and I were standing in the kitchen.
There we were.
A mere seventeen years apart.
But our ways of thinking, and living were two worlds apart.
My mom: “Slow down. Men don’t like women who are smarter than them. And if you want to one day find a husband- you better slow down.”
Me: “I am not looking for a husband. I am going to college.”
At the time, I had a lot of good things going for me- assistant manager of a store, honor student, applying to colleges, and heavily invested in my future dream of becoming a lawyer- mock trials, model UN, and debate.
But no boyfriend, and I was okay with that.
Looking back now, I knew that my mom and I weren’t the only ones who took part in that conversation. My grandmother and great- grandmother weren’t physically there, but my mother spoke for them.
And I spoke for the next generation- my daughters, their future daughters, and so on.
I was the shift.
I was coming against the norm for our family.
I wanted to go to college, and to make matters worse – I was leaving home to do so.
It is important to mention, that I am not saying that all girls, or everyone for that matter, should attend college. What I am saying is that the decision should rest on the individual, and not the parents.
My mother had her reasons to say what she did. She valued marriage and having a family more than achieving a degree.
At the time, this may have been the dumbest advice she gave me. But, I think I understand it more today, than I did back then.
Because of my mom’s sickness, I can’t inquire as to why she said, what she said, but I have my assumptions.
She didn’t want me to be walk around acting like a know it all – a smart mouth.
She felt like I was surpassing her, and one day I wouldn’t look back. I will forget where I came from.
I was a reminder of what she didn’t obtain in life – an education.
After high school, I did go away to college to Northern Illinois University.
My mom eventually came to terms with my decision. She took me shopping for my dorm room necessities and school supplies.
The day came for me to leave home. Both my parents dropped me off at the university. When it was time to for them to leave, my mom cried.
As time went on she would never really ask me about my grades, but when I brought Juan- my future husband- home to meet her, she was ecstatic.
After two years at NIU, I transferred to DePaul University – my dream college. At DePaul I had the amazing privilege of founding their first recognized Latina sorority on-campus— Gamma Phi Omega.
I graduated from DePaul University with a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education.
Over the years, I have achieved two Masters Degree – in Early Childhood and Reading Specialist.
If attending school was a career, I would be the first to sign up.
It is important to note here that, growing up I was diagnosed with a learning disability in Reading. I didn’t learn how to read and write until the fifth grade. This is an amazing story that I will share at another time. – https://rosabelsanchez.com/2015/02/02/a-struggling-student-a-blind-teacher-and-the-masters-hand/
Today, I spend my mornings teaching students how to read. As a former student that struggled with reading, I have great empathy for them. I also do it for my mom.
My oldest child, Bianca is a Senior in high school. Next fall she will be attending her dream school- Northwestern University. I would like to think I paved the road for her.
In my heart, I know my mother would be proud of me for the woman I’ve become and she would also be overflowing in pride for Bianca, for the woman she is becoming.