“So, I remember my mother working a full-time job, cooking in the morning and evening for the family, cleaning, doing laundry, taking care of us 4 kids, and going to our after-school activities. She was very present and was always involved in our lives. My father also worked a full-time job but wasn’t that involved in our after-school activities, household chores, and overall in our lives. It’s like he felt household chores and cooking were for women. He also felt that his income for the family was enough to show his love. I remember one day after getting back from school, my mother was cooking. She was always the last one to eat as she would serve everyone’s food first. My father was waiting, sitting around the dinner table with a fork in one hand and knife in the other. Once my mother served all of us, my father ate but got thirsty and asked me to get him orange juice. My little feminist self-said, “But, you have two hands.” That made him angry, told my mom to control me, and then my mother still hadn’t served herself, had to get the juice for him. I remember when he had these types of days or moods, my parents will get into these arguments where he would use abusive words like “burra” which means goat but in Dominican slang it means dumb. These belittling words were a norm in our family.
I also remember, my father, encouraging my brothers to be very macho, strong, and even encouraged them to have girlfriends and have sex at a young age (12/13). However, it was totally different for me. I was turning 15 and I was with my first boyfriend when my mother was planning my “Quinceañera” party. My boyfriend was my dance partner or “galan” but my father noticed we were a thing. I told him that we liked each other, but he gave us the hardest time to prepare for this party. He wasn’t present for the dance practices because he didn’t agree for me to have this boyfriend at that age. He gave my mother a hard time asking and demanding why she’d allow this to happen. So I canceled my party as I felt my mother was the only one putting in all the work to make this party happen and she was receiving too much pressure from my father. There was just not enough support from my father to continue the celebration.
Lastly, the biggest issue in my childhood environment was the infidelity from my father. Ever since I was a toddler until I was about 18, my father would cheat on my mother with several women. My mother suffered so much but always decided to stay as she believed we needed our father around. As a 14/15-year-old, I would encourage my mother to leave him as the tension in the house was thick and toxic. Thankfully, my mother decided to leave and move on when I was about 17/18. She found new love and got engaged to be married after almost 7 years of being separated from my father. But then, all hell broke loose. My father was an emotional wreck and harassed my mother to break her engagement, although he was already married to another woman during this period. He believed my mother couldn’t move on and find love because she is a woman and she belonged to him. It’s like he did not believe my mother deserved happiness. I honestly felt he just wanted her for sex, comfort, and as a house servant. But, at some point, I honestly felt bad for him because he was in so much anguish. It’s like he was experiencing the biggest heartbreak of his life and I honestly hate seeing any of my parents in pain. But as I tried to console him, I reminded him of how much pain and hurt he put my mother through for so many years, and his answer was “But I am a man. She is not supposed to do this. She is the mother of my children.” It took him several months or maybe a year for him to get over this.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of beautiful childhood memories with my father. But his flaws really impacted all of our lives. I believe he believed he was a good father. I also believe he was ignorant and was influenced by his Dominican machismo culture. Thankfully, and although he still has some flaws like many of us, he has changed. We forgave him and he is very present with his younger children from his 2nd marriage. It’s like life gave him second chance which I am very grateful for. We are actually a large happy family now. We love him and his wife and he is very good friends with my mother and her husband. I believe he learned that women are worth way more than he ever believed in the past. I believe he learned that women have the strength to let go, carry on, and redo their lives in order to be happy.”