Rocio Herbert_new.jpg.HEIC

ROCIO HERBERT

MEXICO

'I moved to the United States from México with my parents and seven siblings when I was 15 years old.  It was the most amazing experience to notice all the opportunities available to me if I only worked hard enough to achieve them.  Having the freedom to choose my career and adventures seemed much more attractive than having a large family.

 

I have two kids, 10 years apart, carefully planned.  I have spent quality time with each of them and have gone on to have the adventures in my life I dreamt of as a young teen.

 

While studying Anthropology,  it was then when I first noticed and made the connection of how high population growth rates affects cultures, the ecosystem and resources.   Population growth has slowed down, but not let up, and it is predictably unsustainable.'

FULLER STORY:

'My mother was the fifth child in her family of seven. I was her second child, out of eight. She had five of us out of wedlock before she and my father got married. This was a very bad thing in Mexico, something shameful. I asked my father why he had so many children. He said it was my mother’s choice. He thought she had more children to make sure he would be more committed to the family. I asked my mother why she had eight children and she told me she did not find birth control that was effective. My parents never had the conversation about choosing the size of their family. They just did what they did, as everyone else did.

 

Our family home had no running water. Fetching water and washing clothes was a great burden. When I was barely four years old, my mother had my twin sisters.  She gave me the responsibility to help her raise one of my twin sisters.  I took that responsibility very seriously.  As a four year old, I did not question it.  In hindsight, now I see this is what parents did to raise large families, especially low socioeconomic families. Children raising children.

 

I didn’t receive loving, individual attention from my parents when I was a child. There were just too many children and  household chores. As a child, I hated it because there was not much time for play, with so much of it spent helping my mother with household and child rearing responsibilities.     

 

Despite the weight of these responsibilities, there were some good things. On Sundays, my father would take us all out for a ride to town or to the beach. On our way back home, he would stop at a Chinese restaurant and order take-out. I loved that!  Especially because we usually parked right outside the kitchen where we could see these chinese men cooking chow mein. We could see the steam rising up while they were cooking, the smell so sweet!  We were all mesmerized by it.

 

It was during these family Sunday drives that I and my siblings would read all the billboards, something I still do to this day. I was lucky to grow up at a time when there was an intentional campaign in Mexico to reduce family size. The billboards would read  “La Familia Pequeña Vive Mejor”. My siblings, all six of us at the time, would read them and repeat the words. The words had a catchy sound.

 

In my teens, I was angry. I  saw too many women my mother’s age, unhappy mothers strapped with children, dissatisfied in their marriages. There was great cultural and family pressure to be a virgin and marry ‘properly’. It meant I would have to live in my parents’ home,  wait until the right person somehow crossed my path and then I could marry him, leave my parents’ home and then have children. I just could not see it for myself. I put marriage and children out of my mind. I felt I had changed enough diapers growing up, helping raise my younger siblings. I decided I was not going to listen to my mother and move ahead with my plan to get an education. Of course my parents could not help me financially, so I worked and put myself through college. It was a battle with my mother as she did not support me doing this.  She simply could not understand it.  

 

In hindsight, I can see how reading those billboards with the words La Familia Pequeña Vive Mejor, gave me language and volition to make my choices.   I did not have to do what my mother did.  I could get an education.   I could choose my family size.'