Valerie Cisneros knows about the blending and the balance of being a mom and having a career all too well.
Cisneros, a 1987 Taos High graduate, attended Pima Medical Institute in Albuquerque. She worked as a physical therapy technician at Ron Holmes' Taos Physical Therapy facility.
Then, in 2003, she decided on a career change and studied barbering at Northern New Mexico College's El Rito campus. Cisneros completed the master barbering class in 2005.
"As a barber, I work mainly on the hair needs of male clients, but at times, complete tasks such as a simple hair trim for a female. I don't do things that salons offer, such as perms or colors," the barber said.
She credits Susie Apodaca, a barber, with giving her the inspiration to enter this career. Apodaca worked at Gil's Barber Shop and Johnny's Barber Shop but has since moved to Israel with her husband.
Valerie Cisneros worked at Johnny's Barber Shop after Johnny Tafoya retired and sold the business to Ruben Graham. Graham was a former employee who worked at Johnny's shop following the 1986 Molycorp mine closing.
Cisneros decided to open her own shop in El Prado at the former location of the late Juma Archuleta's shop and the current space of Jason Montaño. Cisneros ran the business for five years until 2014.
She decided to close the business to care for her youngest child, Lilliana. Once her little girl reached the age to attend kindergarten, then Cisneros decided to return to her barbering career.
After a five-year time off from work, she opened Valerie's Barber Shop this past August at 208 Cañon East between Appliance Plus and Potter's House. Cisneros is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4 p.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. The shop is closed Sundays.
"One of the things that set me apart from other shops is that I'm open on Mondays. I take an hour off during the day, so I can pick up my daughter from school," said Cisneros. "In addition to haircutting, I work on beard trims and shampoos. I keep the premises comfortable and warm, and it's not cluttered. There's a separate waiting room to keep the customers more at ease. No one has to worry about the person receiving a haircut remaining on display because the haircut occurs in a private space."
She added that the majority of her clients do not make appointments. She estimates 95 percent of her customers are walk-ins.
Cisneros said that she never pictured herself as a barber, but when she left the medical field, she took an interest in the field after watching her father.
"My dad clued me in on barbering," she explained. "I remember seeing him barber on my grandma's porch. He'd work on his sons, nephews, neighbors and friends.
One day, he told me, 'You should consider barbering. Look at Susie (referring to Susan Apodaca). She does rather well. You wouldn't be the first female barber in the area."
"I took his words to heart. I knew I had to choose, so I sat at a table with my dad and had a conversation. I'm happy with a career as a barber because I'm lucky to have such nice clients," added Cisneros.
Part of her schooling included the use of a model for her final exam. She asked her dad, Elizardo Gurule, to do so, and he agreed. But he passed away in April, and the test was scheduled for June. Cisneros' husband graciously stood in and served as her model.
Valerie is married to Lorin Cisneros of Questa. He works as an electrician at the Questa Water Treatment Plant. The couple and five-year-old Lilliana reside in Questa.
Valerie and her daughter commute to and from Taos nearly every day. Valerie's two older grown children are Adria Gurule, 28, of Albuquerque and Evan Gurule, 27, of Taos. Most of Cisneros' spare time she spends with family - her daughter Lilliana, two grandchildren who reside in Albuquerque and an expected grandchild. Cisneros looks forward to the occasion of the baby's birth.
At home, the family raises cows, chickens and horses. While Lorin mainly completes ranch work, Valerie occasionally assists with livestock. She enjoys cooking, and prepares a variety of foods, not only one particular style of meal. Her baking and dessert preparation include biscochitos and fudge, especially for Christmas.
As Cisneros contemplated the joys of her childhood, she cited her wonderful parents, the late Elizardo and Mary Gurule. She was their only daughter and the middle child of three. Siblings include older brother Lawrence Gurule of Taos and younger brother Galen Gurule of Santa Fe. The family also consists of two nieces and two nephews.
"I was raised in Pilar," stated Cisneros. "I spent a lot of time with my grandma Amalia Gurule, especially on weekends and holidays. My dad took me to school, but sometimes, I rode the bus to Taos," she added.
Cisneros realizes that life is good. She has a career she enjoys, good clients, fond memories, a schedule conducive to her role as a mother and an enjoyable family life.