Yes, My Mom is My Roommate

Man’s best friend may be a dog, but a Latina teenager’s is her mom.

Hispanic mothers are known for being neurotic and psychotic while also loving and warm (a weird combination, but just like rice and beans, it works). Since the moment I was born, I was destined to be my mom’s companion. This harsh reality was a role bestowed upon me, not one that I had wished for. It had always been just us two (excluding my older brother) against the world. All my summers were spent cleaning houses or shopping the clearance sections in CocoWalk with her. Two vastly different experiences, yet moments I treasure.

In no way am I saying our relationship is perfect. My mother can be controlling at times — my older brother loves to compare her to Norma Bates (which scares me considering what Norman does to his mother), and he’s not totally wrong. I understand that it can be scary raising two children in such a volatile world, but my mother did her best. I always felt her hovering over me, shielding me from any harmful energy. When it came time to move away for college, I was conflicted as to whether I should be happy or bothered that my mom was coming along for the ride.

Getting Gator ready

My admittance to the University of Florida was a very difficult process. Unlike many of my classmates, I was not admitted as a freshman but as a high school/A.A. transfer. When the time came to open that admission email, my mom was by my side, and we were both relieved to see that I had been admitted. Throughout the months leading to August, my mom kept repeating the phrase, “Los vamos para Gainesville [we’re heading to Gainesville].”  I paid no attention to her comments and prepared to move in with my best friend. As the date neared, she signed a lease for a two bedroom apartment. She was my new roommate, and we were both gearing up for our big move to Gainesville.

Move-in day was just around the corner, and the fear of having to live with my mom in a college-centered town grew. Most teenagers pack a couple of bags and then are off to college, but not I; my mom packed a rice cooker, a pressure cooker, a grill and an at-home pharmacy. We moved in by ourselves with six seventy-pound boxes. The move-in process was not easy, but the most dreadful part was signing in. The staff at my apartment complex (that I find very rude) was perplexed by the fact that my middle-aged mother was, in fact, my roommate. They made me explain to them that my mother did not need a spare key but that she was a resident in the apartment. Talking to boys has never been a walk in the park for me, but having to explain to the two beautiful staff members that my mother is my roommate because she believes I am unfit to live on my own was extremely embarrassing.

“Dianelda can’t live on her own”

This whole idea that “Dianelda cannot live on her own” was a big issue that arose between my mother and me. As we had settled in, my best friend had called me a few times when she felt homesick. I offered her the chance to relish in the motherly love my mom possessed, but instead of basking in it, she brought up the wedge issue. My friend mentioned time and time again that she, unlike me, isn’t focused on boys but is focused on studying (her night at Bricks says otherwise, though) — she blatantly told me “you would not have survived this.”  People act like going to college is the equivalent of going to war. If my own mother doesn’t believe I could live on my own, how is anyone else going to think I could?

It’s true, I have never lived on my own, but that’s the point of college. You learn to be an adult (or at least pretend to be one). By living with my mother, I was worried that I would lose that opportunity.

It’s true: I was lucky to have her aid me with this transition from Miami to Gainesville. Most of my friends moped around the first week, but I had the chance to explore. One of my friends was so homesick that she ate only waffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which eventually led her to being physically sick. Luckily for me, I had my mother to cook food for me.

At the back of my mind, there’s the worry that once she leaves (if she leaves, that is), I’ll face those hardships later than everyone else.

Hardships, friendships and relationships

In terms of actual hardships, having to constantly translate English to Spanish has been a bit challenging. The majority of residents in Alachua county don’t speak Spanish, which puts my mother in a predicament. On the other hand, there’s nothing more wonderful in this world than speaking in a different language with your mom about people who irritate you. That right there is the cure for any bad day.

My mother has always been very liberal with me, but going out to clubs is a bit of a gray area. For example, staying out past 10 p.m. here in Gainesville causes her Hispanic paranoia receptors to go off. She’ll call me constantly for about 30 minutes, and after getting tired of leaving me life-threatening voicemails (don’t worry, they’re endearing), she’ll begin to harass my friends. The times when I do ignore her calls and come back home late at night, I know I’ve done wrong because she’s in bed and all the lights are off. 

I’m at an age where clubbing with friends is the norm, and while my friends have control over their own situations, I do not. With the counsel of my brother, we’ve managed to make a system where I can go out as long as I maintain communication and contact with my mother. As always, my mother has volunteered to be a chaperone at the club for my friends and me. Although my friends may hesitate, it’s nice knowing my mom understands what’s it like to be young.

Speaking of friends, man, do my friends love my mom. Their love for my mom makes this whole experience 10 times easier. Each day, they run to my apartment to see “Mama Luisa,” not me.  They’re not only my friends, but they’re also hers. It’s also nice to have a motherly figure around for moments of despair.

Not to mention the wonderful cooking powers my mom has. In just the four weeks we’ve been here, she’s managed to feed the whole apartment complex. One of the many things I love about my mom is her willingness to give to those around her. Ever since I was a kid, I always did as she would. I’d see her become friends with every single person taking the bus home from work, so now I do the same. I’d see her give food to those who needed it most, so now I’d offer my lunch to others who need it. All these little nuances that make my mom so unique have shaped me into the woman I am today.

My mother had cancer when I was 10, and it really affected our relationship. Even though she survived, it felt like a part of her had died and disappeared. It wasn’t until now that I realized my mother was reborn. She finally understood that her whole life, instead of spending time with her kids, she worked endless hours for undeserving clients. God had given her a second chance at life, and knowing her, she would not let it go to waste. She became a better mother, but most importantly, she became my best friend.

I know now that this is a new chapter in both of our lives, not just in mine. Instead of sulking or feeling embarrassed about living with my mom, I feel proud to have a mother who is willing to sacrifice everything just to let me live my dream. She became not only my roommate and a mother to all Gators but my best friend and supporter.