A Different Kind of Mommy Guilt

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“A mother is a person who, seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” -Tenneva Jordan

When I was a kid, maybe about 12, I remember coming across this quote in the newspaper, probably the Globe, thinking that the mother described was just like my mom. I remember cutting it out to show her because I couldn’t believe that someone had so perfectly captured her essence in words, her approach to raising my sister and I, and the role she has assumed in our family. Selfless provider. Loving. Caring. Self-sacrificing. All without a second thought or a single complaint.

Even from a young age, I recognized that my mom is an exceptional mother. After reading the quote, however, I wondered if perhaps all mothers were as self-sacrificing as mine, but over the years, as I’ve gotten to know other people’s mothers I’m certain that not everyone is lucky enough to have the kind of mom that I have. Not even close.

I have always had a really close relationship with my mom. As an immigrant from Hong Kong, with her own family far away, she has worked so diligently and sacrificed so much to give us happy childhood memories and the types of life experiences that most people only dream of. A working mom with a demanding career, she somehow always found time to be at my soccer games, take me to piano lessons, and help me with my chemistry homework late at night.

In my 32 years, I've only ever seen my Mom lose her temper about three times, if that. As a mom myself, I understand now more than ever how incredible that is. Even when we were at our worst, and would selfishly take our frustrations out on her, she would never get angry. She used to gently remind us, "Just remember, you'll be sorry when I'm gone..." The words worked like magic. The painful realization that she might someday not be around was enough to stop us from misbehaving. That’s all she had to say, and we would behave like angels from that point on.

These days, I’ve managed to keep the fist-pounding, arm-flailing tantrums to a minimum. But even now, ashamed as I am to admit it, I do lose my temper occasionally and she bears the brunt of it.

Last weekend, at a family Chinese New Year Dinner, I yelled at my mother which in retrospect I recognize was for no good reason. I was holding baby CJ, who was fussing and flailing, on my lap while I was trying to enjoy a bite to eat along with everyone else. As I brought the food up to my mouth, the baby quickly turned his head towards it and his pudgy little face came a little too close for comfort to my fork. I pulled it away in time. But my mom, sitting next to me, gasped one of those loud, heart-stopping, alarming-to-a-baby gasps. And after a brief delay, in classic social referencing style, he started crying.


Without thinking, I snapped at her, "Can you NOT do that?" 


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