Being an executive and a mother can be exhausting, especially for Latina executives raised in a culture where traditional gender roles usually require them to make family the number one priority.
Working in the baby/infant marketing categories in both the US and Latin America in particular, I noticed that Latin American mothers always prioritized maternity and motherhood (being a “good mom”) and their partners, while still wanting to reach the top of their field. But how, then, do they balance this multitude of expectations?
The answer is often little balance and a lot of burn out. Many Latina mothers, myself included, are often described as the Mamá Toda Poderosa, all-mighty superheroes ready to carry the family’s heaviest burdens with style and grace. And, indeed, we often do become said mythical figures with over 3.47 million US Hispanic families in the US being supported by a single mother.
We are mothers, spouses, daughters, friends, and rockstar executives leading teams and accomplishing massive feats for our employers. However, unlike at work, motherhood does not offer training or development programs despite the constant evolution and adaption required from us—from pregnancy, through our children’s early development stages and beyond. With little support and massive expectations, burnout becomes inevitable.
How a Mamá Toda Poderosa Can Avoid Burnout
As a mom and marketing VP climbing up the corporate ladder for the past twenty years, I have found a few ways to better balance my roles. Though they are often difficult and require a lot of support, these four principles have helped me better navigate motherhood and being an executive:
1. Enjoy the Moment
Celebrate with your little ones, every moment, every laugh, every tear. For example, while working in Mexico City, I took the time every day to drive up and pick up my daughter during her first twelve years of school. It may have been a small bit of time, but it allowed us to have consistent mother and daughter touchpoints where we could talk about what happened during the day.
2. Embrace Your Network
In Latin America, we typically rely heavily on our family, neighbors, and community when it comes to childcare. While that isn’t always the case in America, I have been lucky to have a great partner that challenges gender norms and does their part in childcare. “You’re playing the working woman role too much, doing too many things at once, please slow down,” he tells me, and it’s a helpful reminder that I can ask for help and receive it. I also recall a former colleague who once collapsed from burn out, which finally forced her to rely on her mother’s support.
3. Prioritize Yourself
Remember, you need to build your child’s future and yours in parallel—your futures are linked and depend on one another. Latina mothers will often give it all to their families, out of abnegation and immense love but to neglect one is to neglect the other. One of my mentees was torn apart by the pressures of career, her pregnancy, childcare, and additional family planning. We dove into where she envisioned for her future and what balance really meant for her. We drafted her personal ambitions, which included a plan to navigate her maternity and her first child’s development, while also redefining her relationship to wellness. With this plan she was able balance her career ambitions and motherhood.
4. Create Your Own Definition of Motherhood
I believe raising a healthy and happy child through sharing love and care makes me a good mother. This sometimes looks like cooking for them and with them, spending time together, making new memories, being interested and engaged in their schooling, and exposing them to Latino culture as they’re growing up in the US. That is all I aim for, and as long as I achieve this, I am a good mother. Ask yourself, what makes me a good mother? And don’t let others define this important role for you.
For me, a good mother is a balanced mother, one who cares for herself and, because of that, can give her best in all the roles she holds. And as you journey through motherhood and career, I hope you will reflect, choose for yourself, and plan your motherhood journey.
Nathalie Darres is a marketing executive with over twenty years of experience in major consumer packaging products in Latin America, Mexico, and the US. She is currently the VP of marketing at Reckitt Nutrition USA where she is responsible for leading the marketing efforts. She is an independent member of the board at HIR Insurance Mexico, active mentor for female executives and former board member at the Swiss-Mexican Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Mexico. She is passionate advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate culture and women in leadership roles.