photo: Lisbeth Vazquez
by Lisbeth Vazquez
“You wanna come over to a girl’s night out?”
“Sorry, I can’t I have to stay home and take care of
my brothers because my mom has work tonight.”
That is the story of my life most of the time. In my head I’m just like ‘why do I have to take care of them all the time, and why can’t I ever go out and have fun?’ Then I realize that my mom is out there trying to support me and my brothers the best she can, so why not be responsible and help her out as well? Maneto is 9 and he is the oldest, Alexander is the baby boy at 5 years old. They are young and can’t take care of themselves alone, that’s why I have to step in.
My mom works double shifts Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday in a small dairy in El Nido where we live. Because of this I am often either taking caring of my brothers or catching up with my school work, many times I have to do both at the same time. Although my mom’s job has long hours, it is a good job because my mom is able to completely pay all our bills and the dairy is just a few blocks away from our house.
While taking care of my noisy brothers, I am off doing my homework for AP classes and cleaning up the house so when my mom gets home from work the house is clean. It is not too hard taking care of my brothers because they usually listen to me and they do pick up after themselves but kids being kids, they often distract me with the littlest things while I’m trying to do homework. Because I have many interruptions, I can never sit down and do homework so I’m doing it here and there and it ends up taking longer to finish. The hardest part of taking care of my brothers is getting them in the shower. It’s always a big deal to get them in there. While I enjoy cooking for my family, it’s another time consuming task to do. It is not that watching over my brothers is hard, the issue for me is that it’s too much for me to do in a small amount of time.
Coming from a Mexican family, I’m expected to help out at home. In Mexican tradition it’s common for women to be domestic at a young age. Whenever I talk to my other family members they ask me if I’m helping my mom out and doing as she says. It’s kind of sad that I’m a 16 year old teenager with no life. No one ever asks if these responsibilities affect me or not.
Jessyca Quintero had a similar experience when she was a teen due to her family’s income. She was expected to start working early and at the age of 15 she started working as a cashier at Shopko in Idaho. She has helped her family since then here and there. “Although I feel I was cheated out of my teenage life, I feel like it was the best lesson of my life because it made me appreciate the things I have in my life,” Quintero shared. She was in the same position as me- she started working early on because also coming from a traditional Latino family, it was just something that her parents expected her to do.
Another teenager, Yesenia Vargas, 14 has sacrificed her own education at times so she could take care of her siblings and help out her family. “I have to help out because there is none else to do so,” meaning her family has nobody close to help them out and Vargas has no option. She says that coming from Mexico has made it really difficult here. Vargas shares that she’s had to stay home to watch her siblings during a school day. She admits it was not the best idea but says there were no other options for her and her family since her parents really needed that extra day of work to be able to provide a roof over their heads. Vargas sees the silver lining in it and feels that “this experience has made me more responsible, though I wouldn’t want anyone to go through this because it’s hard.”
In my case I feel like I have these responsibilities not only because I am a woman but also because I am the oldest. I manage to keep my grades high with struggles but I do feel like I’m taking on a role of a mother and my mom has the role of a dad.
No one else can look after my brothers besides my mom and I due to my parent’s recent divorce. I thought divorce was going to fix the problems we had at home but instead it brought even more struggle to our family. I don’t like to focus or blame my situation on the divorce but instead I choose to focus on getting through this with the family that is with me. I thank my mom for supporting me and my brothers, even though my teenage years have not been the easiest. I know that we will get to spend more time as a family and I will have a role of a daughter–and just that!
A typical day for me during the school year:
5:30am – BEEEEEEP BEEEEP! The most annoying noise ever! I have to get up from my comfortable bed.
6:30am – I’m out of the door but I usually eat my breakfast and do my makeup on the bus to save time.
8:05am – Time to open up my mind and get ready to learn!
3:05pm – School is finally over. I spend every second of the last five minutes of seventh period staring at the clock.
4:15pm – An hour ride home on the bus. When I get home and feel like just crashing out on my bed, but instead I have about 45 minutes to do homework until my two little brothers get home from school.
5:00pm – My brothers Maneto and Alexander get home I stop what I’m doing and make sure they eat.
5:30pm – I get my brothers to start their homework This gives me a chance to get some homework done.
6:00pm – Time to make sure the kids take a shower and then they are free to watch TV or play video games. That’s good for them but I have to clean up the house before my mom gets home.
7:30pm – My mom gets home tired from working at the dairy. It sucks, we hardly spend any time together.
9:00pm – I put the kids to sleep and finally have time to finish the rest of my homework.
11:00 pm – Now it’s time for me to go to go to bed. I’m drained with only 6 hours to sleep before tomorrow starts.