Rise of the Female Breadwinners: Rachel Gonzales-Mata 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY SARAH BROOKE LYONS
  • Photo by Sarah Brooke Lyons

Rachel Gonzales-Mata

34; married
Children: sons, 16, 5, daughter, 14
Job title: Licensed Vocational Nurse/Nurse Care Technician; $50,000-$75,000;
Education: Licensed LVN and X-ray technician, attended San Antonio College and Our Lady of the Lake University

Where did you grow up?

Mostly on the South Side, Palo Alto College area. We moved to the West Side [during] my high school years. [I] stayed there ever since then.

How did you become the primary breadwinner?

My husband works for three non-profit organizations and he’s fully dedicated to that. Of course with non-profits, it doesn’t make that much money at all. So I felt like I needed to do something different.

Describe your job:

I was at the Nix Accepting Emergency Room for eight years and now I’m working with ante-partum, which is high-risk pregnancies, at St. Luke’s. Lots of bed rests but sometimes it can go bad pretty quickly, so you have to react pretty fast.

Is your job now the career you’d always thought you’d have?

In a way, yes, because I love humanity and taking care of people.

What’s your dream job?

Probably managing in the health industry … running either a unit or some type of medical clinic.

At what age do you expect to retire?

Probably until I can’t work no more. [laughs]

What’s your biggest financial worry?

My daughter, because she suffers from mental illness; supporting her as far as her medications, her copays, her doctors’ visits. Other than that, supporting my family, if I have to go back to school and learn more, then that’s what I’ll do.

Are you able to save money on your current salary?

We’re able to save money. It’ll fluctuate depending on the situation. If my daughter has a relapse, then a lot will go into that, of course. But we’re doing pretty good compared to what we used to way back when.

Has your career altered your personal life?

I believe it has, in a way … I guess because I’m mostly working all the time … Me and my husband, we fluctuate our schedules around the kids and also around us. He’ll work during the day and I’ll work at nighttime, so we’ll alternate the kid-sitting … I’ll see him in the morning, briefly, and then ‘OK, gotta go.’ … We’ll have our good days when we’re out with family, when we’re mutually off [of work]…. We mostly talk business or the kids, that’s our relationship. We usually work well with each other—we compromise—that’s what makes our relationship work. … Not every relationship’s perfect, but as far as us, we work it out.

Did your mother work when you were growing up?

I was raised by my father, a single parent—my mother wasn’t in my life—he raised three daughters. My father was military so he taught me to always be the backbone of the family if I have to.

Are you planning to always be the primary breadwinner?

I think so, yeah. My husband’s too dedicated to helping others in the community and non-profits. That’s his calling. I think, more than likely, it’ll probably be me.

Is it ever hard to be supportive when he’s spending so much time doing non-profit work?

Sometimes it is; it puts a toll on your family when you could use that energy to help support your family. But then you see the outcome of it. It helps not just one family, it helps multiple families, who are probably in a worse situation than what we are. So, to help them, it makes your heart warm, it’s for a good cause.

How do you think society views female breadwinners?

I think nowadays you see a lot of women doing it. I guess because we’re thrivers. If we see something we want to do, we’ll thrive at it, if it’s our goal. I think men have come to accept that they’re at home and they’re the children’s caretakers. You see it more often. I guess that’s what makes it work. Sometimes you have to switch that roll.

Do you have parenting and childcare support from your family and friends?

Most of the time we do it ourselves because not a lot of people know how to handle my daughter. So, that kind of puts a little burden on us. We do get some support, not as much as we would like. But we do get some, either his parents or my dad. Usually it’s just us because we know how to deal with our daughter in certain ways.

Has having kids has altered your career path?

Yeah, I believe so. They motivate me: A cause, a reason, why I do what I do. I want my family to be comfortable. I want them to be happy. I want them to have someone to look up to. I want them to have good values, good morals, good aspects of life … You don’t have to be deprived. Just because you live in a bad place doesn’t mean you can’t move up in the world … Just because things are hard, you can’t stay down. You gotta move up. Look at things better. That’s what motivates me.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of raising your kids?

Just seeing them happy. Knowing there’s love, there’s comfort, there’s emotional support there. We’re there as parents. Me and Jason were raised by single parents so just to know that they have both their parents and we’re trying to teach them the best.

What’s the most challenging aspect of raising your kids?

The most challenging is probably the financial status. And the time.

What can employers do to make being a working mom easier?

I guess being more accepting about family emergencies. I mean there’s that FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] but still you have to go through these things … Childcare, if it were a little bit more reasonable for working mothers, then they wouldn’t have to work extra, extra, extra hours just to pay that childcare, you know? Funding for childcare, not just for those who are minimal [low-income], at least try to help us who are trying to get up in the world. We’re like stuck in the middle. The harder we work the more it puts us back into that [low] financial status because the more you work, the more childcare you have to pay for. They want us to work, work, work, they enforce that, but yet … they don’t really realize the more you work the more you gotta pay, and the more you pay, how you gonna see your children? How can you raise your children if you’re out there working all the time? … OK, you meet the economic demands that the world expects of you, but they don’t see how hard it is, or the impact that it has on a child. Because now that child’s missing out on that parental guidance, love and support that no one else can give. They market [working fulltime] like it’s well better, but when you’re in the middle … it puts a burden on the family.

When you have free time, what do you like to do?

I like to spend time with my kids, try to go shopping. My daughter, she goes into these modes, so it’s kind of hard, emotionally, because you want to be able to bond more with your only daughter but you really can’t because of her mental illness. But I love being there for them, watching movies. Even just ‘hey, we’re all home, finally!’

Do you have anything you want to add about being a working mom?

That I sympathize with those who do what they have to do. I can relate to them as far as: we do what we have to do for our families. That’s something good. If it weren’t for our husbands, having that childcare or that support system, we wouldn’t be where we’re at now. It puts a burden on your family, it does, but the goal of it and the outcome is well worth it.

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