Lessons on motherhood that I learnt from my mom…

May 10, 2020

Mothers’ Day is just a sleep away.. this year is especially poignant because I recently lost my own mother.  For the first half of my life, she was the adult and I the child.  We went through the usual mother-daughter tiffs during my adolescent years, and some of them were really not pretty.  Somehow things changed over the years, and by the time I had my own children, she had become my confidante.

Every time I needed someone to turn to, to lament my older son’s worsening eczema, ask for advice on the best cut of beef/fish, vent about daily frustrations, etc…. my mother was there for me.  There were so many things I wanted to learn from her, where to buy the best dried seafood, how to cook her handmade fishcakes, the best way to remove stains from white garments, etc … unfortunately I put them off and time ran out.  Regardless, I have learnt innumerable lessons that I would like to share with you today, from one mother to another.

A woman should never give up her financial independence

My mother was a child of the 50’s and grew up under a traditional Chinese chauvinistic environment.  Perhaps because of it, or in spite of it, she was incredibly progressive in her mindset.  For as far back as I can remember, long before I was out in the working world, she would preach financial independence to me.  Gone are the days of girls going straight from her father’s household to her husband’s, and one must never assume the husband will do right by her.  The confidence that comes from being financially independent will enable you to make wiser decisions with regards to your household and children.

Eat healthy, stay healthy

Growing up, my mum always made it a point to cook every meal every single day.  When I had to be in school by 7am, she would wake up at 5am to cook me breakfast.  She believed that warm foods are best because the heat gives the body energy (Chinese TCM teachings).  Though she was an excellent cook, I spent my childhood years envying other kids who were treated to McDonald’s and had fried foods at home, so I would secretly snack on seaweed and fried chicken wings in school whenever I could.  Regardless, her efforts paid off because I never developed a sweet tooth, and at 41 I think I am in fairly good health (despite being a lazy couch potato) for my age.  The early formative years have a big impact on our dietary habits and our bodies grow to adapt to what we eat, so it is really important to instil in our children the importance of regular meals, and proper foods.

It is never too early to care for your skin

We live in an increasingly superficial society where appearances matter.  For the early part of my life, my mum was strongly against making any changes to what nature had given us, so vehement that she did not allow me to get braces for my teeth.  She apparently changed her mind later on, but that is another story.  However, she was a great believer in maintaining good skin and bought me my first set of skincare from Shiseido when I was 10.  In my teenage years, it was trendier to use The Body Shop like the other cool kids in school, and I begrudged her for sticking me with an “old lady” product.  Back then The Body Shop is not as good quality as it is today.  We actually fought over it, and in the end, I hated finding out for myself that she was right all along.  I had great skin back then, and on hindsight, much of it was because of her investment in my skincare.

Don’t be penny-wise pound-foolish!

This was an old adage my mum would mutter at me from time to time, and something she embodied fully in life.  When I was going through her belongings recently, I was brought to tears to find old makeup pouches used til their edges are frayed whilst brand new ones remain carefully sealed and tucked away for safekeeping.  Pants that I had bought and discarded from my wardrobe decades ago were kept carefully pressed and in mint condition in her own wardrobe.  My mum was an extremely frugal lady, she scrimped and saved every cent she earned, carefully invested them over the years, and maintained her financial independence.  However, she was willing to spend on the best quality food and skincare for all of us.  In her dictionary, it was better to spend money on the things that are good and put them to good use, then to waste money on cheap products only to discard them.  It was always quality over quantity for her, a trait that is fast disappearing in our consumer-driven society.

Trust your children, let them go

I spent much of my adolescent years fighting with my mum, and not all of it (at least I hope not!) due to raging hormones.  We had difficulties communicating, and I always felt short of her expectations without understanding why.  If we could have a do-over, I wished we had spent those years better.  Regardless, at some point in our lives, my mum decided to let go of me (figuratively speaking of course).  She became my strongest believer and advocate, and supported every decision I made.  Our relationship improved tremendously, and she grew to become my confidante.  Her faith in me strengthened me, and I firmly believe that I would not have grown into the woman I am today without her.

Be kind to yourself

My mum was the most hardworking person I have ever known, but in her relentless pursuit for excellence, she was often unforgiving.  She harboured resentments and kept them tightly bound up in herself.  And I witnessed how much those unhappiness affected her health.  As a mother myself I am no stranger to mum-guilt; as a wife I struggle with marital issues.  But I have learnt that in order to take care of my children, I have to first take care of myself.  I let my older boy watch Youtube or play Roblox while I catch up on sleep; so that I have the energy to help him with his home-based schooling while pumping, and rock baby to sleep in the afternoon while on a conference call.  I let the nanny put the baby to sleep at night (he seems to prefer it anyway), and take the time for myself to have a proper shower and a mini-facial.  There are too many battles to take on, so be kind to yourself and choose wisely.

Above all else, the greatest lesson I have learnt this year, is never to waste a single moment that you can hug your mother and tell her how much you love her.  Do it today, tomorrow you can do it again.