By Gio Arteaga
(My mom and I, Monica Arteaga) (My brother and I, Carlos Arteaga)
It’s been a year daddy–I really, really miss you. Funny, no? Really though, it’s been more than a year; my whole life actually in retrospect. My upbringing has been unusual to say the least, as my mom is my sole guardian– undoubtedly the strongest and most independent woman I know. My name is Gio Arteaga and this is the story of my life with a single mom.
Life with a single mom is something most people can’t fathom. The ideal picture of a family (the standard family) is one dad, one mom, and two children. But when you remove the “father aspect” what are you left with? Growing up in a world without a father figure was difficult, seeing all my friends with their dad’s at ice cream socials, seeing my friends with both parents show up at back to school night, and seeing them run around in parks all day under the sun. I used to think I was weird or out of place only having one parent present in my life, questioning if it was my fault, or if I did something. I was always bullied for being the “kid with no dad” because somehow that’s my fault, people criticizing my views just because they don’t know what it’s like. But my mom was (and still is) my hero and never made me feel it was my fault, always reassuring me all the family I ever needed was right with me. She’s sacrificed so much to make sure me and my brother are always comfortable and have everything we need and I’m so incredibly grateful.
Growing up in this environment with a single mom was very different. Being raised in a more feminine setting with primarily women made me have a deeper understanding for what women go through on a daily basis. I can’t speak from experience, but always having my mom around me made me realize being a woman wasn’t as easy as it looked. But we always had each other’s backs. My mom never had the opportunity to further her education but I’m so thankful she isn’t like other parents in the sense she only wants me to do my best. She’s taught me so many life lessons outside what school can teach, being ever so precious. Nonetheless , I’m always wanting to push myself in school and outside, and give 100% to hopefully, one day, pay my mom back for her sacrifices.
Understanding where my place is in society without a father was difficult, years of talking with professionals and unpacking my story was a lot to come to terms with. But having people alongside me, especially my mom, who is the most inspirational person I know, was really important to me as she truly helped me find who I was and who I want to be.