Putting yourself at the top of your list.

One thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it is ok if you feel you can’t “do it all”. This has not been an easy lesson to learn much less an easy thing to admit. I am self admittedly often too proud. And I am an especially proud Native woman – a Pueblo woman. So, realizing and accepting this not only didn’t come easy but even felt counter intuitive. And along with that the ideas of self-preservation or self-care also were foreign concepts to me as well. Something out of the books of Shangri-La. But I have accepted and agreed to taking my journey with these intentions.

If any of you are anything like me, you know all too well there are some days when you feel like the family super hero, Super Matriarch! flying through her list of not only the “to-dos” but also the “take care of everyone else’s” and the “keeper of all things”. Knocking all those out in a single-bound. BOOM! KAPOW! Then there are those days when the simplest of tasks that should be a pebble instead feels like a giant boulder you struggle to push up the mountain side. And that “to-do” list rolls out like an old cartoon scroll unraveling off into the never-ending distance. And all you can do is stand and watch it all seemingly get away from you. But it is ok. I repeat, it is ok. Just breathe.

Which leads me to yet another lesson, there is no finish line. Who knew, right? Now it is important to understand that I am a runner. Ever since I was a young girl trying to not only keep up with but also try to beat my superhero, my dad, at his own race. It has just always been a part of who I am. Competitive by nature. So, this concept of no finish line quite simply goes against my ingrained instincts. But I have learned it to be true. We are in a constant state of learning, we are in a constant state of being, and we are in a constant state of doing. Therefore, I have realized the finish line is really all just an illusion. Like an oasis that dissipates the moment you feel you’ve arrived only to realize that the line has somehow seemingly moved. And once again, you are off to the races chasing down this hazy yet magical mirage. But it is ok. I repeat it is ok. Just breathe.

Does any of this sound familiar? All too familiar? Just like so many other working mothers out there the feeling of being overwhelmed is nothing new. But what takes courage is to recognize and acknowledge that you simply can’t do it all no matter how much you deplete yourself trying. There are so many expectations placed upon us as Indigenous, working, modern – but stay traditional – women. I have also had to learn to admit that the biggest expectations usually come from myself. Because for any Native woman who grew up like me, honored but humbly raised in our traditional ways, we carry-on extra responsibilities. We carry-on the teachings of our elders, our grandmother’s, our mother, our Auntie’s, the women of our communities. We carry those responsibilities not just on our backs but quite literally in our bellies. All the knowledge passed down to us that we must now show and teach to our children – to our daughters. And for many of us who choose to fulfill those responsibilities it is not always easy.

It is not always easy navigating the many roads, avenues, and corners of the world that some of us travel to access education, to gain our experiences, or even seek adventure before taking on the responsibility of a career, being a partner to someone, and motherhood. And sometimes navigating those roads and paths back home can be just as tricky, sometimes even more treacherous than the ones taken when you first left. For me, personally, no matter how far I ventured or traveled or even lived away from my village, I was never too far away. My grandfather would always tell me assuredly “you will always come back home”. He was right. My heart always brought me back home. And home is where I stay to raise my daughter.

As much as we try to balance our everyday lives the one constant that grounds us as mothers is our children. As it should be. And as my daughter grows, I too continue to grow with her. I see many things in her – my mother, my father, my grandparents – all who are no longer with us in this physical world but who show themselves through her. Her laugh, her expressions, how she stands with her arms folded just like my dad did and her soft, compassionate, caring nature just as my mother. She is my new breath and yet at the young age of seven also my guide to my past. We, Pueblo people, often say the children came from knowing and she teaches me that every day.

So how do I honor her and raise her to be a strong, confident, Indigenous woman in this unforgiving atmosphere? I ponder this question almost every day. Obviously knowing all the challenges she will face. Surely, I don’t have all the answers but what I can give her is the same love and teachings I was given by my family and my community. There are many ways to do that but the most important for us both is learning and re-learning our Keres language together and utilizing our language in the things we do. We cook together just as I did with my mother and all the women in my family, acknowledging in Keres the traditional foods and plants we eat and how they were grown.

We also go on family hikes, bike rides, or fun runs which brings us much needed time together to actively enjoy our space in this world. Being outdoors in nature is where I find my place to ground myself, reconnect with our homelands, and just be. And, as parents, we realize the positive influence these places and activities also have on our daughter. When I asked her “what is the number one thing you want to do for your birthday?”, her response “go for a hike!”. So, hike we did. Almost five miles round trip into the mountains. “Challenge accepted!” as she confidently exclaims. And on this hike, I again speak to her the best I can in our language to remind us of the significance of all that we see, the name of the area we are occupying, and what it means to us as Pueblo people through our old stories, our history, our creation stories. We acknowledge the names of plants, trees, and animals. These is how I honor her and in doing so honor myself, and those before us. Remembering them and expressing our gratitude. Doing all these things is how I practice self-care and self-preservation. This is how I choose to prioritize myself. When I need my own space, I run. Just as I learned as a kid from my father, remaining grateful that I still run.

To all the single, married, or “it’s complicated” women and mothers out there remembering to replenish your spirit is crucial. To my Indigenous sisters, I implore you to prioritize yourself by recognizing the beauty around you, taking your place in this world, and most importantly recognize the beauty within. Follow our teachings by sharing your gifts but also recognize how important it is to give yourself the same love and care you would to others. I see you; I am you; I honor you.