Blog disclosure: This post is sponsored by the Florida Prepaid College Board. All thoughts are my own.
With Mother’s Day upon us, I thought it would be fitting to do an ode to my own mother. I’ve mostly kept my family out of my blog, mostly because none of them asked to be in the public eye. However, recently, I’ve been getting asked more about my experience as a Latina and first-generation American. So, when Florida Prepaid let me know they wanted to celebrate and thank moms this Mother’s Day, it seemed like the perfect time to tell my story.
I’ve also been really introspective lately (I guess that happens when you turn 30), and I’m starting to see the connections between what I learned from my mother and the career I have today.
The truth is, I would not be where I am professionally or financially if it weren’t for my mother. She’s a tough woman (as was my grandmother), and she taught me to be tough and fight for what I really want in life.
My Mom’s Story
My mother was born in Santa Clara, Cuba in 1955 (sorry for dating you Mom!). She fled Cuba in the 1960s after the Cuban Revolution. She was only a pre-teen when my grandparents decided they did not want to raise their daughter in a communist regime and decided to do everything possible for their freedom. I’ll spare you the details of how the Cuban Revolution affected my family, but it was pretty bad.
When they finally got out of Cuba, my mother and grandparents ended up in Spain. This was because, at the time, the Cuban government would not give them permission to go the U.S. My mother lived in Madrid until she eventually made it to the United States in the early 70s.
And this is when my mom really starts becoming a rock star in her own right, though I doubt she saw it that way back then. My mother got to the U.S. at the age of 17 without speaking a lick of English, and here’s what she’s been able to accomplish:
- She completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science
- She entered a field that was predominantly male and was a very high earner. Not only is this not the norm for women in general, but according to statistics, it’s especially not the norm for Latina women.
- She was a computer programmer for 35 years with Miami-Dade County and at one point was responsible for the 911 department.
- She’s been married over 30 years, raised two kids and helped her own parents financially because they came to the U.S. much older
- She helped put two kids through college so that my brother and I would not graduate with debt like she did. She did this, in part, by opening Florida Prepaid college savings accounts for each of us when we were born. She saved money every month for 18 years, and that money would put is through college.
- She and my father own two properties in Miami, one of which is rented out.
What My Mother Taught Me
As I already mentioned, my mother raised me to be tough. It’s because she had to be tough herself. At times, it was difficult for me to handle because I didn’t understand it. Now, as an adult, I get why she pushed me the way she did – even when I gave her a really hard time.
My mother wasn’t just a working mom trying to balance it all. She was a political refugee and an immigrant who started over in a new country. She had to fight to get out of poverty and she wanted her kids to have better opportunities than she did.
She also understood the value of political and economic freedom and understood the sacrifice her parents made so she could have a better life. Naturally, this would affect the way she raised her children.
Here are just a few of the things my mother taught me:
- It’s not easy, but you can have it all.
- The U.S. is the best country in the world (just get ready to work hard because nothing is free)
- You have to really fight for what you want. If you get knocked down nine times, get up ten.
- It’s important for women to make their own money. We need options and choices that only come from having economic empowerment.
- Don’t forget where you come from.
- Family over everything.
- Be responsible with your money. This includes saving your your kid’s college.
- Whatever you do, make sure you are saving for retirement.
- Try your best not to get into debt.
- Have faith in yourself and in something bigger than you.
As my mother often tells me, perseverance is omnipotent. If it wasn’t for her teaching me this I probably would have given up on being self-employed a long time ago. I’d also be quite average and merely existing in the world. She didn’t want an average life for me, so she made sure to raise a daughter who wouldn’t settle for anything less than what she wants in life.
I am forever grateful to my Mami.