When was the last time you felt your parents are the most wonderful people in your life? When I was still in diapers, I thought my parents were the greatest people in my life; I wanted their attention and make them proud of me. They were the celebrities whom I adored.Of course I adored my dad more since my mom has failed in her role as a mother. My maternal surrogate has always been the maids hired to do the tasks of a homemaker while my mom’s always out to have fun or harass my dad’s company. I’d be lying if I said I did not hate my mother for all the things she did and did not do. Even till now at 22, although I don’t hate her anymore, I do not want to see her even if I have the choice. (Probably on her deathbed if she requests)
After the divorce, I went through adolescence without a mother figure. I thought: “Heck, who needs a mother? I know what I need to know. The school taught me what to do if I have a period or if I get pregnant. Cooking, housework, there’s the maid to do all that. “What did I need? I didn’t know. I was only glad that woman’s out of our lives because her abusive behavior could endanger our lives if it gets worse. She had tried to chop my dad in front of me and the police had to be called. I was only 11.
Adolescence is the most turbulent time in any person’s life. I have no idea how it began but my dad became more human [not humane, haha], he could not understand me, I no longer think he’s that great a person. Whatever that is happening in my life, I don’t see a point to let him in. He won’t understand anyway and may impose his beliefs on mine.
When I think back on how I behaved, if I were in his shoes, I’d have slapped my daughter or just kill myself behind her back. This is silly but as I’m typing now, tears are rolling down my face. (Thank god for the modified term, the library is empty)
When I think of what he went through everyday, I cannot imagine how anyone could have endured so much and not take to drink or abusing others. He never laid a hand on me. The last and only time was when he pinched my cheek and scolded me after he discovered I vandalized the class tables in primary school. (thereafter the schoolteacher caned me.Cheebye.)
I only began to understand the strength I thought I had in me is false and hollow after I suffered from panic attacks just after I graduated from JC. My pride did not allow me to admit my weaknesses until I’m hit in the face with this disabling mental condition did I finally give in. ‘To feel sorry for oneself and others is a sign of weakness’, I lived with this belief for more than a decade until the illness shattered it. I learnt to feel sorry and cry, every tear wearing the hardened crust of a heart down. I’ve carried so many emotional baggages for so long I thought I’d cry forever.
I wasn’t crying for myself alone, I cried for my father and my brother.
The agoraphobia and anxiety attack revealed how much my dad cares for me, his worry was obvious. He sought help and brought me to see a psychiatrist. A traditional Chinese man of his age would not dream of admitting that he’s got a mental case in his family. The overwhelming fear and fainting spells made me irrational and I wanted to commit suicide to end the suffering. After I had a relapse 2 years later, my maid was there to listen to my rubbish and was always close by my side in case I faint or start hyperventilating.
Imagine how she felt when I told her I nearly wanted to jump onto the MRT tracks. Anyone’s blood would run cold but she held me and told me not to do it, reassuring me that things will get better even though the illness came back. If I were to write all the things she did for me during the difficult times, I’d be writing a novel. (don’t get me started on my dad’s part, it’ll be an omnibus)
Now I think of her as an example of what a mother should be. A mother in the family is the pillar of strength that keeps the family structure up. A source of social capital which we expend without thought nor gratitude, which we think we could just exchange with money instead of kind words or gestures.
Time, respect and appreciation are the currency to trade for this social capital not money or gifts. And the exchange has to be carried out consistently because you trade like with like. One-off social capital investments result in one-off gains.
An example is my relationship with my biological mother. She hardly hugged me or showed she care. What mattered to her was my exam results. She invested very little and usually it is one-off, like the rare times she let me rest my head on her lap. Otherwise, most of the time it’s the cane and pain. What did she gain? Nothing. The only one-off gains I give her is gifts while in my heart I wish I was adopted.
I asked 1wRong’s mother whether it is common for housewives to fall into depression and she said yes, even she herself. My paternal aunt had suffered from depression and anxiety when my cousins were still schooling. Her sons grew to become a successful doctor and a manager of an MNC and both are extremely filial to her. However, the suffering she went through took a toll on her health and she is still popping pills to ease her insomnia and asthma.
When was the last time you got to know your mother(or father) as someone who used to be at your age right now?
She’s the person who has been working silently everyday, worrying what to cook so that it’ll suit your tastes and is nutritious at the same time or constantly watching the clock, wondering when you’ll come home. There’s all the laundry to do and clothes to be ironed, the floor to be swept and mopped. Monday to Sunday, every week, facing the same old stuff and the routine never ends. No colleagues by your side to talk to or to come to your aid immediately. No performance goals to meet so you can derive that delicious sense of achievement. And when the other family members return home, they don’t ask how’s your day been or even what you’ve been slaving in the kitchen for. You have to beg them to go to the dinner table to eat up the meals you cooked. No one asks about how you prepared it or how much time you took to plan the shopping list so costs are kept the lowest possible. Then there’s the leftovers to keep or dispose. Imagine that.
And that’s only in a day’s job as a homemaker. Project that to a lifetime.
Yes, shudder, but it’s happening to someone close to you. Isn’t it time to say or do something?
Come to think of it, it’s amazing how a small thank you or praise everyday could turn my maid’s cooking world-class.
The woman who gave birth to me is the mother of my body. It took me 20 years before I found the mother of my soul ( And ironically, she can’t give birth to children).
Others may think of it as pathetic to find a surrogate in a maid but when I think of my life and the life of others, I say shove it, it’s the life I want to live right now and I’m finally tasting what life is, be it sweet, bitter or green bean. =)