BY ana g. valdes
As the oldest daughter in a Hispanic household, I’ve noticed how everyone’s experience is different from others when speaking on the subject about being the first daughter in a hispanic household, especially when you’re the first generation in the US. But yet it depends on the family. I’ve known many girls who come from the first generation and have to follow gender roles because their family said so, but others have the privilege to actually be listened to about our mental health. In this interview I will be questioning my friend whose family doesn’t follow the common lifestyle of machismo as a hispanic family.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Ana Valdes: In your experience overall, what is it like living as the oldest daughter in a first generation hispanic household?
Divian Camille: Living as the oldest daughter in a Hispanic household can be a hard task sometimes. Due to having a younger sibling and a single mother, I often feel the pressure of being a sort of second parent figure to my sibling. I like helping my mother when she needs it, but it can be stressful to have another person often depend on you. It’s also challenging to try to be a good and responsible role model for my teenage sibling when I’m still a teenager who’s figuring life out.
AV: Does your family take care of your mental health?
DC: My family tries their best to take my mental health seriously. They try to be sympathetic and understanding of my mental health issues and they pay for my treatment when I need it, but they don’t necessarily understand how and why these issues affect me.
AV: Does your family expect you to take on a traditional Hispanic “role” as a woman?
DC: Like I mentioned before, I take on a second caretaker role in my family. My mother always tells me that it isn’t expected of me because I’m a woman, it’s because I’m the oldest sibling in a household with one parent. Naturally, my mother needs help, so the role falls on me because of that.
AV: What does that [role] look like in your daily life?
DC: A day in my life with this role usually is taking care of my brother when my mom is working or busy. I sometimes take him to his sports practice, to school, to the doctor, to buy things he needs, give him food when he wants something that he hasn’t learned how to cook yet, teaching him to cook sometimes and overall just making sure he’s okay when my mom isn’t there to do so.
AV: Do your parents have double standards when it comes to you and your siblings from the opposite sex?
DC: My parents don’t have double standards when it comes to me and my brother. For example, even though I have a second caretaker role in my family, my brother is also expected to in some way take care of me. Also, we both are encouraged to do things like cleaning, cooking, mowing the lawn, etc. Therefore, she always tries to treat us like equals.
AV: How has that role changed upon entering college?
DC: Now that I am in college the role has progressed. For example, I have a car now so I can do more things for my mom and siblings. Like I mentioned before, I can now take my sibling to school, the doctor, etc.
AV: What were some challenges you faced that impacted your transition to college as a hispanic student?
DC: I believe the hardest challenge I faced when I transitioned to college was having to pay for my education, gas, etc. Thankfully my parents and federal aids help with the payments, but I still have to help myself in this expensive college life, so I started to work. I now have to manage college time and work time.I still live at home as a college student, so my family obligations are kind of the same. Although, my family now understands that I’m busier and gives me space for my other priorities.
AV: Did you ever feel pressure to fulfill multiple roles for the family while making the college transition stressful?
DC: Having a role in my family while transitioning to college was stressful. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to divide my time well to fulfill everything I needed to, but I managed to take everything step by step and now I’m accustomed to doing multiple things. It can still be stressful at times, but not how it was in the beginning.
AV: Any advice you have left?
DC: Even though being the oldest in a Hispanic household can be hard sometimes, I would suggest we try and stay positive for a future in our own separate household. We should do things like staying in college and getting a degree or finding a good stable job. Overall, we should try and do things to make a better and different future life for ourselves.