Besides working part-time in a Puerto Rico legislator’s office and serving as a city council member in her town, she gets support from and volunteers with the National Guard’s Family Readiness Program, which helps families through various transitions when their loved ones are sent to war and when they return. She recently called more than 342 wives and invited them to a free Family Readiness seminar. Only about 35 wives showed up, she says, but many grandparents who are caring for their grandchildren attended.
Alba says grandparents have to set boundaries with their children when caregiving becomes part of the mix. “Not all of [the returning vets] are conscious of what this takes,” she says of the hard work. “I told [my son] it was too much for me. I’ll cook, clean, and wash the clothes, but he has to take care of the kids.”
On her son’s part, the parenting lessons have been tough. “I didn’t know taking care of the kids was so terrible. When they fight, they really fight.”
Alba and her husband, a police officer, want the best for their son and grandkids, but they miss what life might be like without the added responsibilities. “We should be having good times, going out,” she says, “but we’re not going to tell him he has to leave with the kids. He has no place to go.”
The Family Readiness Program also reaches out to the kids, planning various activities for them, she says, and that’s important too.
Carlos, who still hasn’t found a job, is focused on his children. “I’ve learned to value family a lot more,” he says. “During these two missions I’ve learned that it hurts to be separated from family. And now I know that children need their parents and that I need them, too.” Because his parents raised his oldest children, he’s just now learning who they are and how to spend time with them, he says.
“He’s learning to be a father and mother at the same time,” Alba says. And she, “the rock,” is ever ready to offer her support.