Blog Post, Written by Alé

My Biological Mother was a Domestic Worker: An Adoption Story

Title appears: My Biological Mother was a Domestic Worker, an Adoption Story.  Under appears the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo, on the right is a pregnant woman's stomach with her arms embracing it.  Alé tells the story of being her biological mother being a domestic worker to be then be raised by domestic workers.

Friends, this a tough one to write.

Being an overseas adoptee from Brazil is a huge part of my story and my identity, interwoven into the fiber of my being. Whenever I feel like I have my footing and a deep understanding of my adoption story, the universe never fails to provide a new lesson.

A few months ago, I received one of these messages, in the form of an Instagram Post from an educator on race and womanhood, Rachel Cargle. Rachel often challenges her followers to think critically on issues of race and feminism, she insists white women #dothework, and confront hard truths.

A photo of Rachel Cargle and Alé at Rachel's lecture, "Unpacking White Feminism."  On the right it says Allyship = Knowledge + Empathy + Action, a quote by Rachel Cargle.
Meeting Rachel at her “Unpacking White Feminism” Lecture in NYC

One post in particular asked us (white women), to think about the way we have interacted with and perceive domestic workers. I learned from Rachel, that second wave feminism was largely about encouraging women to get out of the house. Feminism was framed as a way for women have careers, and lives of their own. For black and brown women of color in this country, having to work was not some profound new wave concept. It was a means of survival. Droves of white women liberated themselves and began careers outside the home. Meanwhile, women of color were entering the homes of white families to clean and raise children. In turn, losing time to spend with their own children.

The Circumstances of My Adoption

As I read Rachel’s post, over and over, my mind was doing flips. I went twenty-eight years not knowing my birth story. I heard things like, “She (your biological mother) gave you up.” Even more harshly stated, “She didn’t want you.”

In 2016, my biological mother and I connected on Facebook. I heard my story, our story, for the first time. My biological mother took a job as a live-in domestic worker for a much wealthier family. If not for this job she would have no income, no place to live, she had no options. She was 21 at the time. She realized she was pregnant. Her boss said there was no way she could keep her job with a newborn.

My biological mother already had a daughter in the care of the child’s paternal grandmother. She turned to the father of her unborn child. As I understand it, quite literally had a door slammed in her face. She was given two options, live on the streets with her baby, or place the baby for adoption. Clearly, she chose the latter.

After my birth, she fell into a serious depression. She was ridden with guilt and uncertainty about the choice she made. My biological mother lived with that pain for twenty-eight years until that day we connected on Facebook.

Being Raised in Part by Brazilian Domestic Workers

The nuances of this story dig deeper. My adoptive family (I never refer to them that way but for the sake of avoiding confusion in this instance I will), were privileged enough to be able to hire help. I was raised by many strong, inspiring women, including my adoptive mother, grandmother, aunt, and two live-in Brazilian domestic workers. Both of those women had sons back in Brazil. In order for them to provide for their children, their best option was to come to United States and help take care of other people’s homes, and help raise other women’s children.

I am not sure irony is even the right word here, but the irony, of me, an adopted Brazilian child, being raised by Brazilian domestic workers, who are not even able to live in the same country as their children was lost on me. That is, until Rachel’s gut wrenching, thought provoking post. It is an incredibly painful thought to begin to comprehend.

I must admit I am still grappling with my feelings around this. However, I will tell you what I do know. My heart is filled with gratitude for my biological mother’s decision. She allowed herself to feel the trauma of loss for decades to put my needs before her own psychological safety. She is my hero, my angel. Every privilege and opportunity I have been given is all in thanks to her sacrifice.

Action Items

Title: Honoring the Sacrifice of my biological Mother: A critical look at our relationship to domestic workers.  In the background is a woman with a globe on her stomach.  Two hands hold it in place with their fingers in the shape of a heart.  On the bottom of the image is the Dream Chasers and Change Makers logo.

If you have the need and are privileged enough to be able to hire a domestic worker, the point is not to shame you here. I stand with Rachel Cargle in asking you to think critically about your relationship to the women you are bringing into your home. Are you considering they are people with full lives and families who love them? Do you compensate them fairly for the sacrifice they are making to help you clean your house and/or raise your children? Are you being considerate of their time? What do you know about their culture? Is what you expect fair and just? Do you know their long term goals?

I speak in depth about my experience of being an adoptee on Episode 6 of the Dream Chasers and Change Makers podcast.

In writing this vulnerable blog post, I ask you to sit with any feelings it may have stirred inside you. Feel free to scroll to the bottom of the page and share your thoughts in the comments.

Alé Cardinalle|LSW Candidate 2019 NYU

Blog Post, Manifest Your Best Life, Written by Alé

Setting Intentions for My 31st Year

Setting intentions for my 31st year.  Alexandra lists 31 goals she has to make this year the best of her life!

Setting intentions has been at the forefront of my mind, thanks to Betty, my podcast co-host/personal law of attraction and manifestation guru! Also, I have learned that setting intentions allows us to know our values and leads to less procrastination and more overall self compassion. Yesterday was my 31st birthday, and I have decided it will be the best year of my life, because like my toddler niece says, “Because I said so.” To celebrate this fresh, clean, shiny new year year of my life- I have written out 31 goals both big and small, I intend to accomplish in my 31st year on this planet.

31 Goals for my 31st Year

  1. Moisturize my face 
  2. Connect more and meet a ton of new people
  3. Grow the Dream Chasers and Change Makers Community- help me with this one and Like Our Facebook Page!
  4. Eat more vegetables
  5. Graduate NYU!
  6. Pass my social exam to get licensed
  7. Laugh a lot
  8. Read books by diverse authors
  9. Write hard personal stories
  10. Move my body in ways I look forward to
  11. Get a clinical social work job with great supervision
  12. Put my clothes away!
  13. Stand more and strengthen my sit muscles
  14. Practice lots of self-compassion and be really good friends with myself
  15. Find a mindfulness/mediation routine that works for me
  16. Invite friends and family to my home often
  17. Travel to at least 3 new places I have never been, domestic or otherwise
  18. Have my picture taken regularly
  19. Talk kindly to my body and my brain
  20. Tell my all my people how much I love them
  21. Stay in better touch with the Brazilian side of family[Listen to Episode 6 of the Podcast to hear more about that!]
  22. Find and engage in public speaking opportunities
  23. Make my bed when I get out of it
  24. Get a lot of plants and take good care of them
  25. Remember to be grateful and write gratitude lists when I forget
  26. Buy tickets and go to a bunch of events
  27. Take my piano skills to the next level
  28. Start using a planner!
  29. Use less single use plastic (keep better track of my reusable water bottles)
  30. Put my shoes away after I take them off
  31. Have a lot of orgasms!

Do you have any tips to help me to stay committed to my intentions? Do you have any birthday traditions that keep you focused on your dreams. Talk to me in the comments!

Alé Cardinalle | LSW Candidate NYU 2019