Learning from my mother’s sacrifice

Melisa Robles Olivar, article author, headshotTHERE SHE WAS, the woman who carried me in her womb with every inch and every muscle of her body for nine straight months, exasperated on the couch next to my 4-year-old sister.

It didn’t occur to me until I was 14 years old that my mom had her own goals to achieve within her life­time. I had viewed her only as the person whose life revolved around making sure her children’s dreams came true. I never saw her as an individual who had dreams of her own. It was something I was going to find out for myself.

Even after leaving Mexico for America, she probably never imagined that she would have to sacrifice her aspiration of becoming a schoolteacher to work a minimum wage job, wake up at 3 a.m. for work and not return home until the late afternoon.

She was stuck in an endless rou­tine: Work, sleep, eat, repeat.

One late afternoon, I arrived home from school. The apartment was quiet, enough to only hear the voices of the actors in the soap opera on TV. I stood in the door­way, observing the place I called home, but my eyes firmly narrowed onto her.

I noticed her crinkled hands and long, mahogany arms bent with exhaustion, lying unevenly together on the couch.

I kept looking at her, observing her, remembering what she would always tell me.

“You don’t want to be working in these unskilled jobs. These jobs aren’t for you, they won’t get you as far in life as you want.”

This has always stayed in the back of my mind.

Melisa Robles Olivar, at age 6 with her mother at the Mall of America in Bloomington.

She wanted me to have the life she could have had, but even better. For her, this “land of the free” gave my siblings and me the potential to succeed far more than we would have in Mexico.

My mom could have been a schoolteacher. But she didn’t choose that path. She couldn’t. Under the circumstances in Mexico, and with the lack of resources, there was no possible way for her to be able to sustain herself and her family, and achieve her wish of leading a class­room of kids.

What she doesn’t know is that her dream of teaching did come true. She’s the greatest teacher I know. And I have learned a lot from her. She’s hardworking. She is always grateful for her children and for having a job. And she never gave up when things got tough.

That woman, who’s resting on the couch, as tired as she is, may not have become a schoolteacher, but the choices she did make have allowed me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.