I am a mother to three girls. I volunteer at a community center, where I teach math to Spanish-speaking immigrants.

 I am a mother to three girls. I volunteer at a community center, where I teach math to Spanish-speaking immigrants.

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MONTSERRAT

In 2013, my husband and I moved here with our daughters, from Mexico City. After about a year, I wanted to do something. My girls still needed me, but I thought I could do some volunteering.

I knew I wanted to help Mexicans. We came here on a plane, with visas. Our family was together. My husband had a job waiting for him. Meanwhile, so many people cross the border, without knowing the language. They have nothing. If I can help them, that’s a good thing.

The Mexican consul referred me to a nun from Puebla who runs a community center in the Bronx. She needed someone to help teach reading and math to adults. A lot of volunteers come for a few months and then leave. I said, I can commit.

It is not easy teaching adults to read. Many have never gone to school. Math is easier, because they know more than they think they know. They use it in their daily lives. I teach students at all different levels. I go one by one, see what each person knows. They are really eager to learn. They’ll sit for hours without getting up to take a break. It’s amazing. Some travel for hours to get there. Many of them have such terrible stories. When they move on from our classes and get a high school diploma, it’s very gratifying.

Back in Mexico, before I had kids, I worked for Marriott. I did PR, marketing, and events. I liked it a lot. I earned my money; I traveled. When my first daughter was born, I tried to keep working. It’s common there for grandparents to help, but my mother was four hours away. I took my daughter to a daycare, to try it out. I just couldn’t do it. I was lucky I had a choice.

I worked a little between my second and third girls, freelancing as a wedding planner. The social aspect is a big part of what I miss. Without it, you get to where you talk only about your kids. I miss talking about other things.

“You meet so many women doing amazing things. Sometimes it can make me feel smaller.”

Most of the other moms here work. My girls ask me, why don’t you work? I say, I could, but I choose to be with you. They don’t think that being a mom is work. I’m a very hands-on mother; that’s my personality. You have to do what makes you happy. If you and your kids will be better with you working, that’s what you have to do. No one wants a mom who’s angry and frustrated all day.

The kids assume because their dad is the one who works, he’s the smart one. Sometimes I take them with me to volunteer. I show them there are good things to do without money involved.

Doing all of the cooking and planning, keeping the calendar, taking care of the school stuff—that’s my job. It’s a huge responsibility. Every time the phone rings and I see it’s the school, I get nervous. I don’t enjoy thinking about what we are going to eat every day. Sometimes I envy my husband and think I’d like to change places with him. But I can’t complain. I love watching them grow every day.

 Interviewed on April 11, 2018

I’m an independent photographer, working with a mix of editorial, corporate, and private clients.

I’m an independent photographer, working with a mix of editorial, corporate, and private clients.

I’m an attorney with my own law firm. I also mediate and train corporations, governmental entities, and nonprofits in mediation and conflict resolution management.

I’m an attorney with my own law firm. I also mediate and train corporations, governmental entities, and nonprofits in mediation and conflict resolution management.