In her day-to-day life my mother’s many roles - business leader, thought leader, philanthropist, author, speaker, advocate, mentor – inspire and support numerous individuals. In honor of Mother’s Day, however, I want to give insight into what Rebecca Contreras considers to be her most important job, her most powerful job, and her most challenging job.
Every child deserves a childhood embraced with love. My mother did not have that childhood, and although I knew her story before, reading the details of the hardships in her book Lost Girl hit me like a ton of bricks. It was heartbreaking to envision the reality of her youth, and everything she had to suffer through even before her teen years. It struck me how she really came from nothing but managed to achieve so much. This is especially evident in motherhood. She had no baseline for what it meant to be a good mother, and no role models. Yet she poured (and continues to pour) herself into motherhood. When it comes to her children, her love is fierce, and it protects. She is determined that her children and grandchildren know a family life as a place filled with love and support, and nothing like the neglect and abuse she experienced as a child.
My cousin Elicia – who my parents took in at age 17 and has become like a sister to my brother Caleb and me – has always admired my mother: her grit, her determination, and her resilience. She inspired Elicia to believe that our past does not define our future. And when Elicia became a young single mother herself, that admiration leveled up because she better understood my mother’s experience. Mom assured her of the blessing that motherhood would be, as difficult as it would be especially at that age. Elicia drew strength and courage from my mother and continues to see her as a role model for motherhood.
To top that off, Mom has managed to build an amazing career and company from scratch, with no formal education. Much could be said about her success, and how she has been a trailblazer as a Latina business and community leader, but what has impacted her children the most in this regard is that her family has always remained her number one priority. Through a demanding career working for POTUS and the all-consuming embarkment in entrepreneurship, she has remained steadfast in her presence and support of her family. When Caleb and I were kids, for example, we moved across the country to D.C. when Mom got her job at the White House. At the time we didn’t understand how my parents worked hard to ensure we stayed strong as a family. Caleb, who recently moved across the country to pursue his own career ambitions, says that he has a deeper appreciation of how difficult those years must’ve been for them – both the move itself, and the challenge of balancing a high-stress career with a young family. He says that one thing he vividly remembers from that era is the dedication my mom had to preparing healthy family dinners where we’d gather every evening, despite long tense workdays and hour-long commutes. Mom always refused to let work interfere with quality family time, and as a result we have only ever known family as a solid, loving foundation in our lives.
My mother’s embodiment of motherhood is what I aspire to be with my own children. I love them fiercely, as I have known my own mother’s love. I work hard for them, and strive to demonstrate gratitude, knowing everything my own mother endured - and the battles she fought - to ensure her family doesn’t face the same hurdles and cyclical curses. Through her transformational journey she has empowered Elicia, Caleb, and myself – as well as her grandchildren in the next generation – with the courage to face our own challenges, the strength to prevail over them, and a legacy of love that endures all.