A few weeks ago, during our nightly call, my mother and I started discussing a topic that we’ve debated before and can never agree on.
“It’s the right thing to do,” I said firmly. “The boys need me!”
“They already have you,” she pleaded. “They don’t need you every minute of every day. You have a great career where you’re respected and valued. Don’t give that up.” Then she said with a sigh, “I would have loved to do something with my life.”
My parents left their country in the middle of a revolution and came here to give their children a better life. Raising me and my two brothers in a foreign land wasn’t always easy for my mother but she never let it show. While my father went to work during the day, she stayed home to take care of us. A home that was a million miles away from everything and everyone she knew. But that didn’t stop her from putting her heart and soul into creating a loving home for us.
Every day after school, I would sit at the kitchen table and tell her my tales of junior high hardship. And I had a lot of them, being the new foreign kid in school. She would listen to me while she was preparing dinner or folding the laundry and comfort me in the best way she knew how. She would tell me how lucky I was to have a good family and remind me that I should be thankful for that, instead of seeking the approval of my classmates.
Or course, at the time, I didn’t see it that way. All I saw was that my mother didn’t understand me. I wanted desperately to fit in with the other kids. “Why can’t I go?” I would say with pre-teen angst, “everyone goes to sleepovers here, it’s NO BIG DEAL!” But she was adamant. “No sleepovers,” she would say in her heavily accented English. No boys calling the house. No TV in my room. No make-up.
I was angry a lot during those early teenage years but every day after school I would still tell her my tales and she would still listen.
I had no idea that while I was going through my life-is-so-unfair mini dramas, my mother was dealing with her own obstacles: learning a new culture, a new language, and a new way of life. Despite these hurdles, she powered through -- raising three healthy well-adjusted children.
Through those first few tough years of transition, she kept the family together, the house clean, the cloths pressed, our lives organized and had an amazing meal on the table every day. I never thought about how all that got done or if it was hard for her. I didn’t understand what it took to be a stay-at-home mom. That is until I had my own children.
To her, I’m doing it all, working and taking care of my family. But I have it so easy compared to her. She doesn’t know how much I admire her strength and the way she made it look so easy. The way she sacrificed for us every single day. They way she loved us even when we didn’t deserve that love. And the way she was there whenever we needed her. How could I express in words how much that really meant?
“You’re wrong mom,” I finally said “you did do something. You did something amazing. You were there for me and that meant everything.”