Mothers and daughters: what we learn from each other

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Sylvia and her daughters
By Sylvia Lopez and Karina Martinez

My name is Sylvia Lopez. I’m a single mother of two daughters. One is twenty years old and my baby is nine years old. The births of my two daughters have been the most beautiful things that have happened to me in my life. Since the moment I knew I was pregnant, both times, and started to feel the movements inside me, something really big happened that I can’t describe. At the moment when I had a baby in my arms, that little thing that was part of my body, and just by looking at her eyes, I became filled with so many wonderful emotions that made me cry because of the joy that I had.

The time that I have shared with my daughters has been full of challenges as well that have helped me learn. To keep myself firm and moving on from domestic violence was a complicated decision, because I didn’t know if it was the best for my daughters. There are also difficult moments for a single mother when she wishes she could give lots of things that economically I just couldn’t do. Still, I believe that as a mother I am very fortunate. My children understand that there are more important things than clothes or shoes. Being able to buy things for them—that’s second.

The first thing is being with each other every day, taking our time and space to listen to one another, like the support the staff gives when we go to the organization Mujeres Unidas y Activas, which my family has attended for seven years, ever since we got out of domestic violence. The first thing is also the motivation my children give me when I go to trainings and later on my daughters attend, too, and that they’re involved and enjoy it as well. They participate and accompany me to events, to fight beside me for our domestic workers bill of rights AB241. They are not embarrassed of the work that I do, and they value all of my strength and to keep studying. I feel that I’m not missing anything because I have my children; they fill my life and that’s why I feel that I’m a very happy mother in the world.

Sylvia has been a domestic worker for over 15 years, cleaning houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a single mother of two U.S. citizen children. Trained as a nurse, Sylvia has been unable to realize her full potential in her chosen field, as a result of her immigration status. She and her two young daughters live with the fear that they could become separated if Sylvia is detained or deported. Sylvia is an active member of Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and a leader in the domestic workers movement.


Hi. My name is Karina Martinez. I am the sister of a nine-year-old girl and the daughter of a strong leader in our community—my mom. For me, following the footsteps of my mom is wonderful. Someday I want to reach that goal, to become like my mother. Life has its ups and downs. It’s been like a roller coaster ride full of challenges. The first person I go to for advice is my mom, because I know she will have an answer for every obstacle.

It's been seven years that we have lived separated from my dad because of the domestic violence that we went through with him. Not only were we going through rough situations with him, but there was a point where I wanted to commit suicide because I was tired of the way we were living. When I told my mom the way that I was feeling, she immediately decided to break the silence and get out of that violent relationship. She did what any mother would do—she protected her family.

She is the reason I’m moving forward in life. She has given me a helping hand, and her help is not just for me, but for whoever needs it. To me, my mom is a special person. I have learned a lot of things from her, things such as how to be a leader, the way we see life, and how to help one another.

I love my mom and I am so proud of her.

Karina is the daughter of Sylvia Lopez. She is 20 years old.

This blog post is part of the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration. You can read more posts in the series on the Strong Families blogStrong Families is a national initiative led by Forward Together. Our goal is to change the way people think, act and talk about families.

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