I've known Marlene for over a decade from our "clubbing days". We were never close friends, just more of acquaintances, so I can't say I knew her well. However, as social media would have it, I stayed up-to-date on her life. I could always anticipate a sexy, fly #ootd photo of Marlo, as some may call her, with the trendiest designer accessories at a hip event or restaurant. But, all of sudden, once she had her baby girl, I noticed a change on her social media feed. I started seeing a genuine, and very transparent, progression into motherhood. Instead of seeing quotes like, "Table For 3, You, me, and my it bag" I started seeing photos or her and her daughter experiencing life, quotes like, "Popularity is NOT success" or "We repeat what we don't repair" and her asking social media what are the best preschools in NYC - it was fascinating to see the change. I do not doubt that Marlene has always been this strong, focused woman, but it was obvious that her focus had shifted and she was on to a new mission - parenting her niña. - Verky Baldonado
Check out Marlene's essay on motherhood: "I recently read an article that debated whether motherhood is a sacrifice or a privilege. I couldn't help, but to reflect on my journey and try to answer the question with as much honesty as possible.
Last year, my beautiful daughter, Alaiyah, turned one and I threw us a huge celebration. Yes, I said us! Besides celebrating her milestone birthday, I also honored that I made it through the first year and that didn't let my fears take over my life. I marked the blessing of having a healthy support system who immersed themselves in my life with Alaiyah. For me, the first year was about discovery and patience and about learning a new and unfamiliar world filled with raw emotion and pure joy. This year has been different than what I imagined, and through my daughter, I have discovered an entirely new me.
For a lot of women, motherhood is a dream they look forward to since they, themselves, are young girls. I was different. When I found out that I was pregnant, my instinctual response was fear. I had so many reservations and tremendous anxiety about taking on the life-long responsibility for another human being. When I thought of myself, the person I was and the person I had always been, I couldn’t imagine myself as a “mom”. Moms, the way I understood it, at that time, were particular kind of women who led particular kind of “mom” lives. It wasn’t me. I couldn’t see it.
My life before Alaiyah was carefree. There was no rush toward anything because I was too caught up on making money to blow on luxury bags, pricey shoes and anything else that could provide instant gratification. I would buy Chanel, Givenchy and Louboutin at the same rate that other people buy their groceries at Wal-mart. It was a life focused on just me and the moment.
The money I spent didn't grow on the trees in my backyard. It also didn't come from a trust fund or a benevolent financial provider. I worked hard, long hours, juggling two different, but equally demanding jobs over the course of 7 years. It was gruelling and draining, but with the same fervor that I worked those long nights and endless days, I spent my cash on things that made me feel good. I got a little liposuction and injected some fillers in my forehead to neutralize aging lines. How I looked and how I dressed was important to me. In that shuffle, I lost connection with many friends, people I care about and love dearly. I barely had time to see my family and or even speak with my Mom and Dad. I remember posting photos of my outfits and the new bag of the month because, for some reason, I felt I needed everyone's approval, including total strangers on the internet. That's the intoxicating thing about social media. It makes you fall in love with other people's lives, or the experiences they’d like us to believe they’re living. It makes us want to do the same or better.
Having Alaiyah has humbled me. I now understand the immaturity of trying to keep up with everyone else. I know that what matters is family and real friends. I started to value quality time with them. Of course, I still work like a horse, but now I work for different reasons. I'm working to renovate a home I recently purchased, a home where Alaiyah and I will live and build memories. I’m working to put her in a top-notch school so that she has a chance of going to the Ivy League and becoming a respected rockstar in whatever field she chooses. The time I would have spent on myself, I now spend working to make sure that she never feels like I didn't go hard for her and her future.
Soon, after Alaiyah turned one, the questions started to roll in. Am I doing everything I can to set her up for a great life? Why do I feel like I have lost touch with friends who no longer include me in fun social plans? Am I in a relationship that embodies love, trust, support and loyalty? I don't know the answer to any of the questions that continuously run my mind, but what I do know is that these issues keep me motivated. I don't mind the long days and nights because I have a clear set of goals and now know exactly how I want to execute them. I'm not afraid to fail because my daughter has taught me resilience, perseverance, and strength!
There are some things that I know without a shadow of a doubt. I want Alaiyah to be the best version of herself and to understand that she is beautiful inside and out, exactly the way she is. I want her to have the strength of character not to be swayed by the ever-changing social trends. I want her to value work ethic and education and to see an example in the way I work hard for her.
One day, I will have to own up to the fact that I have chosen to get liposuction and that I once chose to put fillers in my forehead. I’ll confess that the "street life" was cool. That person is long gone - dead! I am hoping that she understands that it is ok to change little imperfections, but only for her satisfaction and never for anyone else. I want her to know that I never lost my integrity or moral compass for the thrill of a good time. My parents voice always rung off in my brain, and I wouldn't allow myself to do anything to compromise the values and principles they raised me to have. That respect helped me stay on course, and I want the same for Alaiyah.
Today I look around, scroll through my social media timeline and all I see is people, and particularly women, forcing an image of a perfect life, perfect body, perfect wardrobe, and perfect shoes. To satisfy men? I guess. We are so superficial, and it bothers me that I was sometimes that girl. How do I make Alaiyah see what I didn’t know before her, but see now?
To answer the question, motherhood is both a privilege and a sacrifice. Of course, things change when you become a parent. You lose the life as you once knew it. On the other hand, the reward of having a child to call your own and to see them grow and flourish is baked into the unbridled love and intense joy that one feels as a mother. It’s a feeling that can't be compared. My life started when I had Alaiyah. Everything snapped into focus and became clear. My life has a purpose, meaning that goes beyond the moment and the newest “it” bag. My life is about being happy, being at peace, and giving Alaiyah security, love, and a future to look forward to. My wish is that she doesn't judge me for the mistakes that I have made and that she learns from it all and does better. Mommy isn't perfect, but every day I strive to be the absolute best version of myself, for Alaiyah."