When I heard about the premise of Loira Limbal’s documentary, I knew we needed to get her on the show. Through the Night is a documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider – whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center. NeighborSchools is constantly trying to highlight the selfless incredibly hard work of child care providers, and we were so excited to hear about Loira’s documentary that will be released in May 2021 on PBS. But not only is Loira the director of this incredibly important film, she is the mom of 2, and has so many wise words about being a working mom.
Watch + Listen to the whole conversation:
Growing up, Loira was the oldest of four and she spent a lot of time translating for her mom and helping out with her younger siblings. Like so many women, her mom had to work to provide for the family, but also needed child care in order to work. Today, Loira’s financial situation is different than her mother’s was, but as she raises her two children, she still doubts herself – My mom made it work on so much less, how dare you complain or struggle given your circumstances? What do I have to complain about? In answering that question, she’s embraced a new mindset and worked to channel her mother’s strength – If my mom can do it, I can do it too. And Loira has done it all- from directing documentaries while working a full time job, and continuing her passion as a DJ and being a single mother to 2 kids.
I was so thrilled to learn a little bit about your most recent project Through the Night. Can you tell us more about it?
Through the Night is an intimate portrait of a 24-hour daycare center in New Rochelle, New York. We follow two working mothers, Shanona who is a Pediatric ER nurse and works the night shift Marisol who is a mother of two and works three part-time jobs and then Nunu and her husband, Patrick who care for their children and the children of many other working parents at at a home-based 24-hour daycare center. The film is is a portrait of their lives, their relationships, their challenges and the ways that they come together to provide support for each other as a community.
Where did you get the idea for the film?
I read an article one day that was shared on a mothers group that I’m a part of online. The article was looking at the fact that many people in the US now have to work more than one job to make ends meet or that those jobs often require non-standard hours. So I started really looking at the state of Labor in the US and the fact that women are already over forty percent of the workforce. And so then the question quickly became- Well then who takes care of people’s kids, especially when many people are working nights and weekends.
And when I read the article the stories, it reminded me of my mother and my own childhood. My mother raised us on her own. I am the oldest of four and I grew up in New York City. She is a single mother and she was a home health aide. So she worked the night shift too from 8 p.m. To 8 a.m. And as the oldest child, I was her right hand in many ways and I ended up taking care of my siblings a lot when babysitters would cancel or family would flake. She didn’t work the kind of job where she could just call out last minute. Too often she was put in a position where she had to decide to leave me to take care of my siblings at the time. I was nine and I was left alone at home alone with my infant sister to care for her. When I say it out loud I know it sounds shocking.
My mother was a great mother. She was super devoted, hard-working and loving she just didn’t have many options and therefore had to make impossible decisions to figure out how to Keep us alive and provide for us and walk that very fine line. Sadly the same is true today and things have not changed. They certainly have not changed in working-class Black and Latinx communities. We still force mother’s hands, and I fin particularly single mothers to make impossible decisions on a daily basis. The irony of it is that we now know that these are exactly the people that are essential workers. These are people whose labor we literally cannot do without and we treat them so cruelly.
The desire to tell this story came from a very personal place. My mother is in her sixties and had never seen a film that was really about her lived experience. These stories don’t get told. And yet, this is the reality for so many working-class women of color. And so I made it, with my mother, my neighbors and the people I grew up with in mind.
I’m curious to hear how becoming a mom yourself may have caused you to to think about your childhood?
So much of my identity growing up as a child was tied to being useful and helpful because my mother needed my help. Our family is from the Dominican Republic. My mother to this day is still not fluent in English. And so I was the front for the family. I was the one that was having the conversations with all the different agencies or places or institutions that we had to interface with because I spoke English and she didn’t. So I think I took on this role as my mother’s protector to some degree even though I was a child. I understood that this world didn’t quite see my mother the way that I saw her and you know disrespected her. So I became the front and the buffer. That became such a key part of my identity growing up.
I’m a single working parent myself. The challenge for me has been understanding that even though my circumstances and my financial situation is different than my mother’s was when she was raising us, that it is still okay for things to be difficult. It is still okay for me to feel challenged. It’s okay for me to feel like I’m failing and that I need help. Learning to ask for help has been the most critical thing in becoming a parent and it’s shifted my idea of who I am. I saw myself as the rock for my family, and now I feel like I’m the one that needs help. My sense of self has been completely broken down and I’ve had to rebuild myself with another story about who I am. Rewriting that narrative has been hard. And when things come up with my children now, I think I’m still evolving. I’m coming to a place where I’m not using the fact that I have more privilege and access than my mother did to shut myself down. I think what it’s becoming for me is that If my my mother did it, I can do it too.
What advice do you have for your pre-mom self?
You are enough. You are enough for the children that you have or will have. You are enough for whatever it is that you set out to do. I feel like I have learned in this process that I am indeed enough for my children. I’m actually exactly what my children need- flaws and warts and all and that as long as I believe that firmly and hold onto that firmly I can move from that place and we can face whatever life throws at us.
Co-founder & COO
Bridget is mom to two little boys, Hudson and Brooks, and a champion of working moms everywhere. NeighborSchools itself was borne out of Bridget’s challenge to find high-quality yet affordable child care, and the realization that so many parents struggle with these same issues every day.