My mum is the strongest woman I know.

I can’t remember how old I was – probably 7 or 8, but I remember what happened one afternoon in the days before we moved out from my dad. I walked into the bedroom we shared and saw her sitting at the corner of the bed, crying. So I climbed into her lap and tried to comfort her. She wrapped her hands around me, and told me with a broken voice:

“If mummy is no longer here, you must know that I have some money & jewelry for you, okay?”

I started to cry, and I asked her why she said that as I shook my head in disbelief.

“Just listen to me, Shei Li. Know that, okay? Then if anything happens, you must take some money for a taxi to Ah Ma’s house. Promise me, girl.”

Oh gosh. That was too much for a young girl to comprehend. But I nodded anyways, and we both cried together as she held onto me tightly.

“Know that mummy will always love you…”

———————–

I’m sorry, I keep doing this, but hey I have warned that my blog is going to be an emotional roller coaster ride!

By now you should already know about the day my parents separated; I’ve also told you a little about my dad’s other “good” side; so now it’s time to talk about the main heroine of my life story – my mum. And I think it’s rather apt seeing that Mother’s Day is tomorrow!

There is no word that can properly describe the feeling of awe and respect I have for my mum. Mind you, she’s definitely not perfect – no, far from it; we have our moments of banters and disagreements. But every time I don’t see eye to eye with what my mum has to say or do (which, oddly, gets more and more frequent now in the days leading up to my wedding… I’m not sure why), I always think of what she has gone through in the past … and I just can’t afford to be mad at her for too long. The things she has worked on or sacrificed for her to be who she is today: a self sustaining, successful sales woman able to fund for herself and her kids, from who she was before: a helpless victim of domestic abuse who left her husband – penniless – with a young girl to care for and no place to call her own… I ought to give her every ounce of respect in the world.

Being the youngest and only daughter in the family, I had my parents all to myself. My brothers are 13 and 11 years older than I, and so I was privileged to be in the constant limelight of my parents. Growing up, my mum has always loved me well. She never ceases to remind me of the fact that she had always wanted a daughter after her two boys. She had a miscarriage before me, but thankfully I came not long after. She absolutely LOVED dressing me up. I was her little Barbie doll. She would buy nice frilly dresses for me, hair bands and accessories, and cute girly shoes and bags. I too enjoyed the process of being dressed up. I liked that I looked good for her so that she can proudly show me off to her friends.

I loved our morning walks down to the wet market in the early childhood years. I loved sitting on a high stool to watch her cook in the kitchen. I was her “Mini Me”. I used to cry – okay, wail – like mad when she left after dropping me off at kindergarten. It was so bad that it was the start of her teaching career, if you get what I mean. Yep, my mum became a school teacher at the same school just so I would stop crying and attend kindergarten.

But she was disciplined with me when she needed to. She wouldn’t refrain from using the cane or the clothes hanger (typical Asian mum style) when I misbehaved. I would run behind my dad to hide from her punishments. And then she would get scolded by my dad for wanting to discipline me… I was too young to comprehend the implications. I was a young, selfish brat.

Our relationship has been one that’s more sisterly than mother-daughterly. I shared the same bed for as long as I could remember, till about 5 years ago when I “moved out” into my own room (she was quite upset for a few days following that). We would go shopping together – she is my trusted fashion adviser. I would talk to her about boys.

Fun fact: my mum actually played cupid between my first boyfriend & I  😂  YES, it’s true!

I was 18 and I just started college. I remember telling her about this guy in my circle of friends at college who I had a crush on, and one day she asked me to invite him to join us for dinner at the One Utama mall. My mum used to work at One Utama, so I used to wait around for her to finish work and then follow her back home (my pre-car days). At the end of that dinner at Dragon-i, she told him this:I’m giving you my daughter to look after ya; you better look after her well!” 

Internally, I was like … “Great, very subtle, Mi …” *face palm* 

But anyways, my mum & I have gone through thick and thin together. She had a tough time in the years after moving out for good from my dad, trying to rebuild a life for both of us. Her income as a primary school teacher was barely enough to feed the two of us, so she took up a second job as a part-time sales person at a hotel chain selling those timeshare deals which were all the rage in the early 2000s. She found her niche there – she turned out to be REALLY good at sales. Her commissions were good. Even though she had to work from 8.30am to 3.45pm on weekdays at the school, then again in the evening from 6.30pm to 10.30pm, and full days on weekends, she was happy she could find something which gave her her independence. For once, she was financially able to support herself. She was able to have savings and to pay off debts which she owed. Most importantly, she was free from my dad’s demands for money as he had no right over this money which she earned on her own. It was not his money, it was HERS.

Everything I do today, I do it for my mum. I want to strive on to be successful because I want to be able to provide for her a luxurious lifestyle because I know she deserves it. After all that she’s been through… she deserves that at the very least. Sometimes I break down when I think about it, about how I am not able to fully support her just yet. There’s no denying that she’s the reason why I keep pushing on, sometimes somewhat aggressively. I don’t want to have a big house and travel the world for myself – but I want to be able to give these things to her. It’s the least I can do.

So tomorrow, being Mother’s Day, is a day when mothers around the world will be pampered by her beloved husband and children … the one day that they are treated like a queen. But to be honest, I think mothers should be treated like a queen every day regardless of the occasion. We don’t need a special day to bring her out for a nice meal or to shower her with gifts. Every day should be “Mother’s Day”. (I can hear a chorus of mothers going “Yeahhh, that’s right!”) 🙂

I love my mum for the person she is, imperfections and all. I hope that all of us take this day to truly reflect on what our own mum has done for us. You may think that your relationship with your mum is broken – hey, mine isn’t all a bed of roses either. Or, your mum may be abusive… but fact of the matter is – we only have one mum. We should forgive them for what they’ve done and accept them as they are. Easier said than done, yes, but look at how I’ve forgiven my dad. It can be done, but you need to firstly come to terms with it (acceptance) and only then forgiveness will be possible.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there!

“Honour your father and mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12


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