Why I'm grateful that I wasn't raised by a nuclear family
People who don’t come from families like mine often assume it’s a sad and broken family portrait. I don’t blame them —there are a lot of misconceptions about single parents out there.
As a child, I assumed it was the norm for my mom and I to live with my grandparents. I believed lots of families were like ours. We moved frequently from various buildings and basement apartments until we were finally able to live in a house together. It wasn’t until I got older and started elementary school in our new hometown that I started noticing the difference between me and the other kids.
I noticed most of my friends came from two-parent homes — and, more obviously, they didn’t live with their grandparents like I did. Most of my friends didn’t treat me any differently for it, but some of their parents looked at my mom and I with pity.
But they didn’t get to see what I did: How hard working my mom was and how selfless my grandparents were by helping my mom raise me. Most people didn’t see the happy childhood memories I was able to have as a result of their hard work and selflessness.
My mom worked 12 hours a day as an esthetician. Some days I was able to spend time at my mom’s work after school. I sat in her waiting room, reading the tabloid magazines, finishing my homework and drinking a cold pop from the fridge. I often overheard my mom laughing with her clients behind the closed door. I imagined her hunched over, painting their nails a bright color.
My mom worked so hard as an esthetician over the years, she developed problems with her back and wrist.
I remember the nude-colored bandage she wore tightly around her wrist. Despite the physical pain, she never complained or made me feel like I was a burden to her.
By seeing my mom’s hard work, I was able to understand what goes into raising a child on one’s own. I saw how selfless my mom had to be in order to spend so much of her day just to make sure I had a happy childhood.
Because of my mom, I did things “normal” kids got to do. One summer, my mom drove me to and from basketball camp every Monday night and cheered me on (even though I was terrible). She also drove me to track and field meets (even though I came close to last).
My mom made it a tradition to take me to the fair each summer. She won stuffed toys for me by playing the Whac-a-Mole. We ate pizza, popcorn and Dippin’ Dots. We also had movie nights together almost every Friday, renting a flick from Blockbuster and eating chips and dip. It was often just the two of us, and I liked how close I was able to be with my mom.
My grandparents also played a big role in raising me. While my mom was at work, my abuelo picked me up after school and we walked home together. My grandparents encouraged me to excel at school and told me from a young age I could do whatever I dreamed as long as I worked hard for it.
This doesn’t mean having a family like ours wasn’t hard. Without my dad around, it meant my mom lived pay check-to-pay check.
Toward the end of high school, I worked overtime on scholarship applications. I spent hours perfecting assignments out of necessity, with the hopes of getting the most amount of scholarships I could to help fund my education.
Despite the hardships that come with having a family like ours, I was still able to have a relatively happy childhood. And all my mom’s hard work, paired with my grandparents’ belief in me, paid off:
I not only made it into my dream school, but I was also able to pay off most of my first year of undergrad with the scholarships I earned.
Even though there are a lot of misconceptions about single parent homes, I will always know the truth: I wouldn’t be who I am today without my family.