The following is an excerpt from my interview with Kerry Rosado on my podcast, You’ve Got This.
Kerry was born in Managua, Nicaragua. She came to the U.S. in the early 1980s with her family to escape the war in Nicaragua. She was raised in San Francisco, and now lives in San Jose, California, with her husband, two sons with autism, and their pets. In 2018, she ran for school board and won. She now serves as a Governing Board Member for Franklin McKinley School District in San Jose. In addition to being an elected official, she works as a technical program manager at Microsoft and is an advocate for diversity and inclusion. In the past, she has served as a board member for People Acting in Community Together, a nonprofit that helps empower the community to solve social issues. She has mentored youth at the Boys and Girls Club of Silicon Valley through Google’s CS First Program. A program that teaches computer science fundamentals using Scratch. She also led and won hackathons at Women Who Code Silicon Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to helping women excel in technology.
Let’s talk about the importance of self-care for parents because no matter if you have one kid or 10 kids, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves. So many times, mom is the last one who takes some time for herself. Why is this so hard for us as women to take that time to do self-care?
Kerry: Honestly, from my experience, I think us women, we just have that tendency to be the caregiver. We give so much of ourselves to our husbands, our family, our children, even our extended family, our siblings, our parents. We’re caring for everybody and we always tend to put ourselves last. I really want to highlight the importance of making ourselves a priority. It’s really important for our mental state of mind just to stay healthier and happier. It makes everything just flow better when we take good care of ourselves.
I like how you put that it’s not so much that we’re trying to do it all—it’s more because a lot of us have that part of our makeup to want to nurture and help others. Sometimes, we forget to turn that inward because we don’t always recognize that we need nurturing and care as well.
Kerry: It’s important to make time for yourself in order to take care of others, especially if you have special needs kids or you’re caring for your own parents. If you’re not staying healthy, it’s going to make everything that you do that much more difficult. You have to find that balance in your life to be able to do it.
You mentioned you’re a mom with two kids on the autism spectrum and I have four kids. I think it’s a mental switch that we have to make first as moms. We really have to go, “Yes, I need to prioritize some of my needs.” How do you balance that? How do you personally kind of make that switch?
Kerry: One, I really believe in an equal partnership so that means your husband has to also contribute to the household needs, not just working outside the home but also helping maintain the home and the kids. Something I always try to do on a monthly basis is to do a mom’s night out where I get together with my friends and we just hang out. It’s challenging to get a date on the schedule sometimes because we always have things going on, but that really helps. So let him know in advance that you have an event coming up. It’s just finding that balance that works for you, and you need the support from your family internally and just being creative and finding ways to fit into your schedule.
I loved what you said about our husbands or our spouses being as much as a parent as we moms are. Sometimes, we moms need to let them. I think that is part of that mindset: “Hey, I do have a co-parent here. I am not in this alone. Let’s work together.” For single moms or dads, there are ways to kind of get that self-care time by hooking up with another single mom or single dad to switch childcare or finding those memberships that offer childcare as well. There are creative ways to get that self-care time. I used to do a neighborhood kind of exercise co-op when our kids are little and it was just too crazy to try to get to the gym because by the time we got there, somebody needed something. One summer, a friend and I alternated watching each others kids along with our own while we exercised.
Kerry: Something that’s really helped me just staying more social is to join various Meetup groups. When my kids were not in school yet, I went from working full-time to staying at home as a mom, so that was a big transition for me. I fell into the postpartum depression with my first one, and something my doctor recommended was to just socialize and join mommy groups, so I did and that really helped tremendously. It helped socialize my son and myself, so that’s something I really recommend. There’s a ton you can find on Meetup and it’s free. You can download the app on your phone or go on the computer and find something local in your area and just hang out with other moms that have kids in your age group.
One of the nice things about it is even if your kids are older and in school, you can still find groups for different ages. You can find groups of moms with similar age kids or similar interests, fairly easily. Is technology great? One of the things that I often encourage moms to do is to make sure that they are feeding their creativity because I think that is so important for us to have some sort of creative outlet, whatever that may look like – a hobby, a little side business, or whatever you want to do, but just that feeding that kind of creativity that we all have in us.
Kerry: Two of my major hobbies are running marathons and dance. I actually joined two running groups. One of those is exclusively for women, which is really nice. I like to do performance dancing, so I like to perform to an audience. Every year, I do San Francisco Carnival in May, so it requires me to dedicate time for rehearsals, and balance my time with my husband to make sure he’s available to watch the kids.
I want to highlight Meetup because it’s a great way to find a club of things that you can relate to. Your local library is also a great resource too. How do you kind of get your kids kind of on board with some of the self-care that you do?
Kerry: As far as exercise, especially if I exercise at home, I bring them into it. If I’m doing a yoga video, they’re invited to join me and they do it. They think it’s fun and they get to be silly and do the weird poses and stuff. They feel grown-up. I always invite them to my marathon runs, I invite them to my dance performances, and I try to include them on everything that I can that’s kid-friendly. That’s the other balance of finding something that I enjoy but that is still kid-friendly.
For the parents who have kids with special needs, I think there is an extra layer of concern and pressure because the kids may need a lot more physical care than other kids. How do you find that balance in your own life with your own self-care?
Kerry: In my case, my kids have autism, so they don’t have any physical impediments that prevents them from doing what typical kids can do for them. It’s more of the social aspects. Sometimes, if this place that I’m going to do is going to be very crowded and loud, I usually bring noise-canceling headphones and different input activities they can engage in. I try to do a social story in advance to kind of mentally prepare them for wherever it is we are going, so that helps. Just taking that extra step, but I also take it upon myself to start an autism playgroup for kids their ages. It just made it easier for me just because that way, we are surrounded by other kids who are like them, they won’t be judged. I won’t be judged, and it just makes it a lot easier, but you’re right, definitely.
We forget sometimes that it’s okay to be in your comfort zone with other like-minded moms and certain types of groups. Those are great for when we need that comfort and that connection.
Kerry: Sometimes as moms, especially as women, we tend to put a lot of guilt on ourselves for wanting to give ourselves that personal time and I think we need to let go of that and not feel guilty because we are human and we need that personal time for our mental state of mind. We need that balance, and so whatever it is you need to do to stay balanced, even if it’s just reading a book or drinking a cup of tea, just to owe it to yourself, whatever it is you need to do, do it. Don’t feel guilty for it. You deserve it, you’ve earned it!
To hear more great advice and stories from Kerry, listen to “The Importance of Self-Care for Moms” on the “You’ve Got This” podcast.