A Person in Her Own Right
Since becoming a mother, I have been surprised many times by unexpected displays of love and support. Chrystal was an acquaintance of mine in college, but during that time I never got to know her very well. When I first began telling my story through social media and eventually through ispeakmom.com, Chrystal extended a hand of friendship and sisterhood that I will always be grateful for. She may not know it, but her occasional check-ins and chats with me, have provided much needed comfort in some of the darkest moments of my motherhood journey. She is a phenomenal, brave woman and an Amazing Mom! I am honored to feature Chrystal Rambarath!
Chrystal Rambarath is an Indo-Trinidadian American daughter, sister, wife, and mother of two young biracial children, in whom she is trying to cultivate a sense of civic duty, empathy, social awareness, and passion for justice. She has spent her entire professional life in the non-profit sector, working in support of social justice issues - usually behind the scenes. She has recently stepped out of the shadows and is expressing her newly found political voice through political activism, speaking, and writing. Currently, Chrystal works at a local non-profit organization that seeks to improve and increase access to early childhood education, a subject area that she is passionate about. Chrystal has a Masters degree from the George Washington University and a Bachelors degree from Florida International University.
On who she is:
I migrated to the United States from Trinidad with my family. With the naivety of youth, I excelled at my directionless endeavors. Ha! Plainly speaking, I did what was expected of me. I went to college and performed well academically, without ever knowing what I really wanted to do or how I was going to do it. All I knew was that I wanted to make a difference and engage in work that was meaningful. My efforts led me to the George Washington University, where I earned my Masters, but most importantly, where I entered the professional world as a true adult. I was excited and fulfilled working at a non-profit organization that had both a domestic and global reach. It was an exhilarating feeling to learn, grow, and thrive in understanding and articulating the intricacies and intersectionalities of policy issues. I fell in love with the city, my work, and eventually with the man I would marry.
I met my husband in my second year of graduate school, and four years later we married. Our four year old daughter came along exactly two years after our wedding, and our two year old son, 20 months after that. Throughout that time, we weathered several storms. Together we got through major job uncertainty, job losses, resignations, buying a less than perfect house and making it a home, losing our first baby, births, post partum, and a cross country move! Seven years later, I am still waiting for things to slow down so we can focus on our marriage. However, I remind myself that, this is it, this is marriage, this is our life, and this is how we get through everything life throws us as a family.
Most of my time, thoughts, and energy are spent on or with my children. I am constantly trying to figure out how to raise them to be kind, thoughtful, socially aware, and civically engaged people in this ever-changing world, so different than the one in which I was raised. Each day, I struggle with the shifting sands of time in my constant effort to be and become a better parent. I probably succeed as often as I fail, but I pick myself up and resign myself to try harder.
A large part of being a better parent, to me, is to be a better person and citizen of this world. And so, I often take my young children on my quests to serve, speak up, and advocate for equality, equity, dignity, and justice. When I am not at work, I am with my children. We spend a significant amount of time reading, and I consciously work with them on developing life skills, and laying the foundation for academic success. Libraries, parks, the outdoors, and any child friendly community events are our frequent haunts. Our lives right now are entirely focused on our children.
On the greatest challenges of her motherhood journey:
Isn't every day a challenge? I briefly mentioned that we lost a child - that was almost exactly a year before our daughter was born. As a consequence, I take my role as a mother very seriously. It is an emotionally driven responsibility. For me, I became a mother long before my daughter was born. From the moment I knew of her existence, (at 3 weeks!), my whole life literally revolved around her, and my son once he came along, especially because my latter two pregnancies were considered high risk. Years later, I continue trying to juggle putting my children first, and to do what is best for them, all the while tending to my responsibilities as a wife, daughter, sister, and professional.
Presently, that is especially difficult. My mother is very ill, and most days all I want to do is be there for her, to talk to her endlessly, go out alone with her, go to all her doctors' appointments and soak up all the time I possibly can. Very often, my role as my children's mother and their main emotional provider takes precedence. This usually means that I have to stay behind and care for my children or take them along. I often feel sad, guilty, and frustrated that I cannot devote more time to my mom when I know how selflessly she cared for my siblings and me. Sadly, sometimes it takes becoming a mother to recognize and appreciate all that our own mothers did for us. Reconciling and coming to terms with a parent’s mortality is a daunting emotional roller coaster.
On her best moment as a mom:
On the second day of his life, we learned that my son had a heart defect. In my highly emotional post-partum state, I was devastated. At first it seemed that he would require open heart surgery immediately, but once my sense of rationality returned, we were able to face it head on. That sense of urgency gave way to us to delaying his surgery until he was almost two. By the time it became absolutely necessary, I thought I was ready. However, it was only after his surgery, when I walked into his room and saw him lying deathly still, a bandage covering his entire chest, and hooked up to machines, was I overcome by the severity and significance of what he had been through. Even his surgeon was surprised by how much he must have been struggling but gave no outward indication. When he was finally awake, he seemed withdrawn from me, and that stung. But as he recovered, he came back to me. The best moment was watching my beautiful son take his first steps, for a second time, after his surgery. I was so proud of him for all his strength, resilience, kindness, and indomitable spirit.
On recharging her batteries:
What I constantly struggle with is the feeling of invisibility that comes with being a mother. When it all gets too much, I try to create the time and space for me to do something for myself. To those ends, I've escaped reality by delving into a good book, writing, taking walks, attempting to exercise (special emphasis on attempted!), enrolling in college courses, forming friendships with other parents, returning to work, volunteering, and investing in professional and personal relationships. In short, I do something, anything, to remind myself that I am a person in my own right.
On advice for new moms:
My advice to any new parent is that there is no absolute right way to do things. You need to do what is best for yourself, your partner, your child, and your family. You do not have to figure it all out immediately and you will constantly change your routine. Parenthood is dynamic!
Further, what is best for you, and what makes you your best self is what is good for your child. Try to prioritize your own needs at least sometimes.
And finally, find your village, whether it is entirely your partner or a large group of family and friends, or whether they are with you in person or are virtually there. Surround yourself with people who will simply listen, sustain you, inspire you, and be there without judgment.
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© Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Rios Nogales and ispeakmom.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.