Robin was one of those interviews that we read and said, “Wow. Other people need to see this!” She is the mom to 2 biological children, 1 foster child, and countless other people who have needed support over the years. She has been through a lot including divorce, poverty, and unemployment. All of these things can easily bring you down, but she decided to use them as a chance to learn and grow. She is now traveling with her family while also “world-schooling” her son and writing a novel.
Please help us welcome her to the Mom of Fame, it is a better place with her in it! Also check out her blog at the link below for all of her traveling adventures.
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
When I was a little girl, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I responded, “A mom.” Frequently the response I received was “You are too smart for that, what else would you like to be?” From this, I learned that US society didn’t value motherhood. Luckily, that didn’t deter me from pursuing my dream of being a mother. I am fortunate to be the mother to two biological children, my son is 14 and my daughter is 21. I also am privileged to be called mom by my 29-year-old foster daughter. Our family also includes youth or friends who needed a place to stay, a safe space to be, or those without a traditional family of their own. I spent years as a single mama and parented while struggling to climb out of poverty. I recently remarried, and then, in a strange twist of fate, I was laid off from my job in academia. The position I believed would be the pathway to financial security for my family.
As a family, we decided to use lay off as an opportunity to do something profoundly different. We sold almost everything we owned and hit the road. I am now “world-schooling” my son and focusing on writing a young adult novel, “Mi vida, My sorrow, Mi Libertad,” which has been swirling around in my head since I finished my dissertation. The book is a tribute to alumni of foster care who generously shared their stories with me. For more about us and tales from a year of traveling as a family, please follow our blog at lifeeducationtravel.org.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?
The best piece of advice about motherhood I received was to not lose yourself while mothering. I wasn’t given that advice until I had been mothering for well over a decade and until after going through a divorce. When I first heard the advice, I probably thought something like “too late” or “yeah, right.” Now, in conversations with my adult children, they share how they loved seeing me play music, write stories, and pursue my passions. Pursuing my passions is good for me. It also helps my children believe they deserve to create a life they love. I definitely recommend this for all mamas. Children learn what they live. If we want our children to be happy, we must allow ourselves to do what makes us happy!
How is motherhood different than you imagined it would be?
Honestly, even though I was deterred from being a mother as a child, I am still surprised how little mothers are respected and valued in the US. In my own life and in lived experiences of countless others, I see mothers taken for granted. Not only by their own families but also from professionals, and employers. Teachers and other school staff often talk about mothers negatively and complain they are not doing enough, without understanding their family situation. Is the mom also providing care for younger children, elderly parents, an ill spouse? Is she working multiple jobs, just to pay the bills? Is she struggling with her own physical or mental health issues? Additionally, in general, women earn less after having kids (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/05/upshot/even-in-family-friendly-scandinavia-mothers-are-paid-less.html). This is not to say that I don’t love being a mom or watching my children grow into their unique selves. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. However, I do think, at least in the US, that we have an unrealistic expectation that mother’s should give of themselves tirelessly without receiving gratitude or the support they need to be able to thrive.
What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?
Persistence. Honesty. Unconditional love for my family.
Describe a time where you were completely overwhelmed as a mother.
After my divorce, I was utterly overwhelmed. It was during the housing collapse, so I lost my house and had no savings. The kids and I moved into a rental, and I had to start over from scratch. Shortly after, one of my mentors was murdered, and then I received word that my research funding would not continue and I was going to be laid off. Needless to say, it was one of the darkest times in my life. During that time, people who I barely knew rallied around me in a show of support. One friend, who is now considered family, started cooking dinner for us once a week. Other friends began stopping by under the guise they happened to be walking through the neighborhood. Although mothering was overwhelming during this time, it was also what pulled me through the darkness. I wanted to see my children laugh and I know they were looking to me to determine if things were going to be ok. I let my tears flow while I was in the shower away from their gaze. I created mini free-adventures we could enjoy without leaving our town. I invited their friends to invade our house en masse, so there was more laughter and activity. We had more people staying at our home on a regular basis than any time before or since. The friendships and teen hormones filled the house with life again. And even though I had to fake it for a while, things became “Ok” again.
Is there anything you feel that you have lost about yourself since becoming a mother? What have you gained?
What I have lost and what I gained go hand and hand. I experienced a lot of trauma in my life. It hardened me, and I put up walls to protect my heart. My children softened me. They taught me how to love unconditionally and how to remain open even when I experienced pain. They taught me how to live together even when communication isn’t going well, how to forgive, how to get over hurt feelings and move forward. In many relationships, when things sour people go their separate ways but when this happens with my children we all want to make things right again, and so we learn how to communicate and collaborate until our relationships improve. Although being a mother changed my life path and I made choices that were different than I would have made if I was flying solo, I have gained much more than I lost. More than anything else I have achieved in my life, I am most proud to be called “mom.”
What do you want your child(ren) to learn from you?
I hope my children have learned they can go after their dreams and they can create a life they love. I hope they have learned they deserve to be loved, respected, and honored as a person and within their relationships. I hope they learned to keep going no matter how hard life gets because the pain or struggle will pass and they will experience joy again.