Bachelor Alum Bekah Martinez on Motherhood: 'Forget Trying to Be Cool'
The social media star and mom of two is tackling the ups, downs, and oops of parenting the same way she does everything else—with unfiltered honesty.
Play "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" and, like any card-carrying Latina, Bekah Martinez can't help but dance. Even her daughter, Ruth, 2, gets into the music. "She thinks it's hilarious when I do my shimmies and shakes," says the former The Bachelor contestant, whose obsession with Selena runs deep. "Did you know that she didn't actually learn to speak Spanish until she was well into her career?" Martinez says. "I always found that inspiring."
The discomfort of "not feeling Mexican enough" has been a lifelong source of insecurity for Martinez, who knows that it's not obvious to her 737K (and counting!) Instagram fans. While her mom, Allison, is of primarily Lithuanian and Polish ancestry, her dad, Joe, was the son of Mexican immigrants. Some of her fondest childhood memories are of her abuela (grandma) cooking tortillas as she and her cousins played lotería at family gatherings. "It wasn't until later that I realized that not everyone has holidays with 50 or more people," she says.
Still, she can't help but struggle with "imposter syndrome" when someone comments, "'Oh, you don't look Mexican,' or 'I wouldn't have guessed you were Mexican,'" she says. "We live in Long Beach, California. There's a big Latino population here, and when people try to talk to me in Spanish, I feel a twinge of pain, like 'Uh, I don't really speak it.' But regardless of whether others think I fit the profile or not, I am very proud of my Mexican heritage."
Martinez's habit of speaking openly and honestly about her vulnerabilities is one of the main reasons she has developed such a devoted following. It was just three years ago when the rock-climbing enthusiast and college dropout became an instant fan favorite on The Bachelor for her youth (at 22, she was the youngest woman in her group), her hilarious Twitter posts, and her signature pixie cut. By the time Martinez's episodes aired in the spring of 2018, her heartbreak over bachelor Arie was history and she was dating fellow climber Grayston Leonard; three months into their relationship, they found out that they were expecting a baby. Fast-forward to 2021, and Martinez is a mom of two (Ruth's brother, Franklin, will be 1 in June) and an influencer, known for her crunchy-chic approach to motherhood. She cohosts the podcast Chatty Broads With Bekah & Jess, and this spring she's flexing her entrepreneurial muscles with the launch of The Good Alma, a line of ethically produced organic cotton loungewear named to honor her Latino roots.
All along the way, she has shared the unvarnished highs and lows of motherhood, fearlessly wading into controversy and unfailingly standing up to the mom-shamers. She has posted pictures of herself breastfeeding (including both kids at the same time), defended her right to flaunt ungroomed armpits, and opened up about her struggles with depression. Unlike a lot of social media stars, her currency is attainable, happy imperfection, and she's not inclined to hide much of anything. Motherhood, Martinez explains, is "complicated, funny, dirty, embarrassing, painful, motivating, and joyous." We asked her to elaborate.
I had a very conservative, religious upbringing in central California, where it was not at all uncommon for the people I knew to get married and have children at age 19 or 20. But when I got pregnant at 23, I was living in Los Angeles, where suddenly I was considered young to be having a baby and everyone treated me like I was a teen mom. "Irresponsible" was a comment I got from a lot of people because both my pregnancies were a surprise and Grayston and I were not—and still are not—married. Parenthood takes many forms. There's really no one way to do it.
Now that Ruth is 2, she's doing the whole copycat thing. The other day, Grayston dropped something all over the floor, and his immediate reaction was to drop an F-bomb. But then, of course, Ruth immediately started saying, "F--k! F--k! F--k!" It's pretty hilarious to see how your kids are little mirrors of yourself, both the good and the bad!
I once posted a picture of Ruth in a wet mess of an exploded diaper, and it got nearly 5,000 comments on Instagram. I had originally debated whether or not to post it because it was just so disgusting. But those are the moments of being a parent that literally everyone goes through, and I think it's comforting to be reminded that someone else is dealing with the same thing. Sometimes you just have to enter into the diaper-blowout zone and deal with it. And after a while, you find that you're not as easily grossed out as you thought you'd be—it's kind of like exposure therapy! And in some ways, it helps connect me with the people who came before me. I'm using cloth diapers now, and there are times when I'm scraping out the poop and thinking, "Wait, why am I doing this?" But then I'll remember my abuela, grandma, and great grandmothers, who took care of their babies without any of the help or modern technology that I have. And I feel connected to this matriarchal line of women who managed to get it done.
I think the parts that make it so are actually the result of the pressures we put on ourselves. We have so many standards for being the perfect mom. I try to be aware of that and then force myself to confront those expectations.
There's been a lot of talk about my leg and arm hair, for example. When I was growing up, I was very self-conscious about my body hair, which is dark and thick and shows up on my paler skin. But when I was pregnant with Ruth, I made a conscious decision not to care as much and stopped shaving regularly. I wanted to put an end to that cycle of shame.
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As a kid, I had a lot of undiagnosed anxiety and obsessive-compulsive issues, but I grew up in a household that stigmatized mental illness. I thought that admitting I needed help showed weakness. But I learned from experience that becoming a mom can definitely take a toll on your well-being, especially during the postpartum period. In my case, I started having dark thoughts, obsessing about the dangers of the world and the vulnerability of my own children. All this was compounded by the severe sleep deprivation from having two babies just 16 months apart. It was excruciating and got better only once I became open to therapy.
I am so proud to say that this spring, after an eight-year journey, I will finally get my undergraduate degree in art at the University of California, Irvine! I enrolled there right after high school with the intention of becoming a teacher but eventually dropped out to move back home. It was during my first pregnancy in 2018 that I re-enrolled. Knowing that I was going to be a mother gave me a huge burst of encouragement. Now I'm in my final semester, taking my last two classes remotely. Since I've become a mom, I appreciate school so much more, because it's time just for me. It has been so nourishing to do something for myself.
When you're a parent, you'll go to the ends of the earth to make your kids smile. Grayston will gladly sing "Let It Go," from Frozen. I love the song "Shiny," from Moana. I always do a whole performance as a crab and get really into character. Forget trying to be cool—nothing makes you happier than seeing your children happy.
This article originally appeared in Parents Latina's April/May 2021 issue as "Refreshingly Bekah."