My brother told me, “I think you are in your doña era,” as I placed my new snake plant on my mantle and talked about checking my home warranty paperwork in my “señora” binders that live under my counter. A doña or a senõra is defined as a “lady or a gentlewoman.” It is used in place of Ms. or Mrs., and is a sign of respect and used regularly with our elders. In a more nuanced way, we use it to show respect to women, who are the matriarchs of their family. In essence, my brother was telling me that I am in my assertive, self-care era and enjoy taking care of my home and family, but in a Latina way.
Signs that you may also be in your doña era include you are always cold, you wear a nightgown to sleep, never forget to do your skin care routine, and you have your favorite cleaning products. Moving into your “doña” era means you have unapologetically began putting yourself first, allowing you to flourish and present your most authentic and peaceful self to and for the people and things that matter to you.
Self-care is often thrown around loosely these days and often associated simply with bubble baths and pedicures. I want to venture out to say that self-care and living your best “señora” life is actually living a life you enjoy and thrive in, and maybe bubble baths is part of that, but only a small part of it.
First and foremost, it is crucial to understand your values and how you wish to engage with the world. You can ask yourself questions such as, “What holds significance for me?” or “What activities make me feel truly alive?” If it’s hard to answer these questions, look at the people in your life and observe how they live out their values.
After you discover and explore this concept, the next step is to figure out how to implement these things into your life consistently (notice the word here is consistently and not the word perfectly). Ask yourself, “How can I live out these values in my day-to-day existence?”
Let me walk you through an example. I value being able to take care of my home. As a result, I created my “señora” binders to keep all my important documents like my home warranty, car insurance, and appliance manuals. I also have a few favorite house products in multiple places in my home to make cleaning easy. Another example is I love entertaining and welcoming people into my home. As a result, I collect white serving dishes, ensuring an intentional and beautiful presentation, and have enough place settings for both my and my husband’s families when we opt for real dishware instead of disposable.
My doña era also encompasses routines and rhythms that promote a positive sense of well-being, such as a simple skincare routine, slow Sunday mornings with my husband, and cute matching pajama sets. Importantly, it is not any one individual element that defines my self-care routine, but rather the combination of these elements that allows me to aggressively and unapologetically enjoy my life and serve those around me without resentment or bitterness.
These practices also help me feel more connected to my culture, my family and my ancestors. I am reminded of the “doñas” in my own life, who were never shy to make that cafecito in the middle of the day, danced as they cleaned on Saturday mornings, and cook for everyone who needed a warm meal. I also think of the “dons” in my life like my sweet dad who wakes up early every morning to make coffee for my mom and who always carried a “hanky” in his pocket. I also think of those who didn’t embrace their doña era, and the things they lacked as a result.
As Latinas, our “doña” era is not just about our present and future but about our past. It is the interweaving of our story with the generation of women who came before us, who showed up for themselves and their community. It is the passing down of stories and life through rhythms and routines and acts of self-care and boundaries. It will be part of what we pass down to our daughters and nieces and mentees. It is teaching them that they are worth the nice pajamas, setting boundaries with those who don’t treat them well, and their partner should have a hanky for them in case of tears or a runny nose.
Living in my doña era means authentically embracing and nurturing myself, understanding that self-care encompasses various aspects of my life and finding joy in the process. Through this journey, I aim to cultivate a fulfilling and balanced existence that aligns with my values and brings joy to both myself and those around me. I don’t always get it right, but I consistently strive to make self-care a priority, knowing that some seasons will be easier than others.
I invite you to explore how you can also embrace your doña era. Maybe you don’t feel old enough or like you have it all figured out yet, and that’s okay. Begin by reflecting on the doñas in your life and one little thing you admire that they do to take care of themselves.
By observing and adopting even a small aspect of their self-care practices, you can begin your own journey into your doña era. It’s not about getting it right, but discovering how you can cultivate a life of joy, fulfillment and peace. As you begin this process, think about the person you dream of being and allow the person to begin to show up in your life As you embark on this path, be patient with yourself and allow the process to unfold naturally. Embrace your doña era with open arms, and let it guide you towards a life that radiates self-care and authenticity.