NPR

Secrets Of A Mayan Super Mom: What Parenting Books Don't Tell You

Parenting doesn't have to be so stressful. Just ask a Mayan mom.
Mom in a box (wide promo). Source: Fabio Consoli

There's no other way to put it: Maria de los Angeles Tun Burgos is a supermom.

She's raising five children, does housework and chores — we're talking about fresh tortillas every day made from stone-ground corn — and she helps with the family's business in their small village about 2 1/2 hours west of Cancun on the Yucatan.

Sitting on a rainbow-colored hammock inside her home, Burgos, 41, is cool as a cucumber. It's morning, after breakfast. Her youngest daughter, 4-year-old Alexa, sits on her knee, clearly trying to get her attention by hitting a teddy bear on her mom's leg. The middle daughter, 9-year-old Gelmy, is running around with neighborhood kids — climbing trees, chasing chickens — and her oldest daughter, 12-year-old Angela, has just woken up and started doing the dishes, without being asked. The older kids aren't in school because it's spring break.

Burgos is constantly on parental duty. She often tosses off little warnings about safety: "Watch out for the fire" or "Don't play around the construction area." But her tone is calm. Her body is relaxed. There's no sense of urgency or anxiety.

In return, the children offer minimal resistance to their mother's advice. There's little whining, little crying and basically no yelling or bickering.

In general, Burgos makes the whole parenting thing look — dare, I say it — easy. So I ask her: "Do you think that being a mom is stressful?"

Burgos looks at me as if I'm from Mars. "Stressful? What do you mean by stressful?" she responds through a Mayan translator.

A five-minute conversation ensues between Burgos and the translator, trying to convey the idea of "stressful." There doesn't seem to be a straight-up Mayan term, at least not pertaining to motherhood.

But finally, after much debate, the translator seems to have found a way to explain what I mean, and Burgos answers.

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