Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mothers as Individuals

Beijing, China

It never occurred to me when I was a child that mothers have different roles in life. My mother, especially, for she was a stay-home-mom. It never occurred to me that my mother is also a daughter, a sister, a friend, or even an individual. I had always seen her as an attachment of me, or the other way around. I am confident to say that I have been an obedient daughter. I was going to use the word “great” but I thought “obedient” seems more accurate. I’ve always been obedient; it is one of the most important Chinese virtues in filial piety. This gives you the premises that my family is a traditional one: my father is the breadwinner, mom the caretaker, and I was the over-achiever daughter who pursued the path my parents carefully paved out for me. For my mother, that was enough, and she truly enjoyed the fact that every member is perfecting his and her own position. I thought that was enough too.

As I age, however, I’ve realized that it consists a lot more (or less) than obedience to be a good daughter. This is especially true when I am now less present in my parents’ life – I've left home for university, then graduate school, and now living on my own. I believe it was fulfilling enough for my mother when I was at home, to attend to me, to educate me, and to see me overcoming each stage and reaching each goal. But I can’t imagine the hollowness she felt when the biggest/only project of her life was considered done; when the routine was over. This must have been an extremely difficult change to adapt to, and I believe she is still adjusting to it, irrespective of the fact that the others have moved on. It then hit me that, to be a good daughter, is to understand this change and adjustment.

We never really appreciate the contributions and sacrifices our mothers have made until we are much older. My mom, like many women, prioritizes her family over her career, ambition, and dreams. She is an intelligent and educated woman with great career potentials. She was a university graduate –uncommon, especially for women, during her era in China. She then landed a job, right after graduation, writing as an editor for a local magazine. My mother loved writing. It was her career and passion, a career she has long lost and a passion long forgotten. Ever since she resigned to become a full time housewife, her individuality started to vanish bit by bit, and eventually, she has fully transformed into the Mother. Although there is no role in life more essential and more eternal than that of motherhood, I have begun wishing to see more in her.

I hope as I have grown independently, my mom can also learn to re-discover herself. As getting employment now seems unnecessary and difficult, she could explore new interests and re-visit her passion. To assist filling up the abyss we left behind, I need to see her more than a mother. I have started to treat her more like a friend, see her as a wife and woman, and encourage her as an individual. I've found out that my mother loved to dance, and she was a performer. She loves music, even to this date. She loves friends, and had a lot of them. I've also learned that her being calm came with age as she was a lot more carefree and less cautious before me. Through this learning process, my mother has become less perfect. But it’s not a bad thing, because I can now see and forgive her mistakes as a normal human being. I no longer expect her to do this and that just because she’s a mother. I can now tease her shortcomings and support her build a fuller life. It’s finally a time when my mother and I meet in the middle to grow together, and I appreciate this opportunity more than anything.

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