This week I interviewed Erika, who is pictured above. Erika is currently living in the Hudson Valley with her two young children, Jake who is enrolled in Kindergarten and Jenelle, her 6-month year old who is presently under her 24/7 care at her cozy home nestled in the Hudson Valley. Though her world right now appears quiet based on the scenic mountains and river that surround her each day, the stories of her motherhood are much more complex. Inconsistently having a stable male figure in the lives of her children, Erika has engrained independence in her children and her method of parenting to ensure that her children are not reliant on others, but rather complemented by those who fall in and out of their lives.
The role of religion in Erika’s life has proved to be not only a release for her daily challenges, but has allowed for the formation of a reliable community for herself and her children. In my conversation with Erika, she was very transparent and genuinely expressed moments when she felt that the only explanations for her ability to move forward were her family and angels that helped her maintain the purity of her mind and body.
As a woman who was 8 months pregnant with her second child and coping with “emotions from a love that she believed to be true,” Erika knew that positivity was critical but would only be able to do so much for she and her children. Throughout my entire interview with Erika, she emphasized how receptive her children were of her emotional distress. She explained that at a point of breakdown she was unable to eat and her son held a forkful of broccoli up to her and asked, “mommy, why don’t you eat?” She recalled this event as a turning point in her parenting, her thinking and her interpretation of what motherhood entails. In Erika’s eyes, motherhood is more than providing for her children, it is “staying strong for her children” whether or not she has the means to be stable. Family and the local community have provided Erika with a network for employment and in some cases small lends of money in order to make it by.
Erika moved to the United States from Peru when she was in elementary school. Erika often referred to her cultural background as serving as leverage for her partners to use against her in court as well as in employment. Though one of her past partners threatened to bring her to court, Erika did not passively allow this to envelop the connection between she and her children. She voiced the pressures that she felt from her father to come back to Peru with her children, but did not cave when faced with the prospects of comfort and stability. Erika combatted her vulnerability and the temptation to clean her slate and move back to Peru. Erika is aware of the manipulation that relationships can bring, whether they are blood relationships or not and whether or not they involve intentional manipulation.
Erika did not use the phrase “single mother” at all in my time with her and it appears to me that she does not feel alone in her journey of motherhood. The community and her family fill the void that most would assume not having a consistent partner would leave empty. Erika does not harp on the perceptions that people have of her as a member of a minority group or as a mother. She enters each day with the lessons that she has accumulated over time, but does not allow her past or her future to be influenced by how she is viewed or how she thinks she is viewed. Erika’s final words of advice to the mothers and future mothers of the world are to “think with your head and not always your heart.”
Return to Shauna Ricketts Project information blog here [LINK].