It has been a month since I started working. Yes, I finally found a job. I am now a banquet coordinator. And my first assignment? Children’s birthday parties! After years of planning and organizing M’s birthday parties, I am most qualified to handle these important events! Not only am I able to offer young mothers advice on what to serve, I can suggest means and ways of keeping the little host and guests occupied.


Motherhood as a career

Twenty-two years ago, I decided to stop working and be a stay-at-home mom. It was the best career move of my life, but somehow, family and friends made me feel like I was making the wrong decision, and wasting my talents by staying home, by concentrating on being a mom. After all, I belonged to that generation of women who had gained the right and the freedom to work, and be a mom as well.

For a while, I was ashamed of saying I was a stay-at-home mom, and whenever I met my friends who were working moms, I felt like I was not good as everybody else. In time, I learned to come to terms with my decision, and when asked what I did, I called myself a Jack of all trades for being a mother was being able to do a little bit of everything.

For me, parenting was learning as well. In my quest to be the right parent for Maia, I acquired various skills that would no doubt make me a more productive person in the workplace. Sadly, being a stay-at-home mom is not a career that I can include in my resume. My best career move has to be downplayed, if not disguised with professional-sounding volunteer activities.

Thus far, it has been difficult for me to return to earning a regular paycheck. Difficult, but not impossible, I believe, because of the resilience I
learned while being a parent.

Stay tuned. And in the meantime, check out my East Meets West Parenting column in the Washington Times.


Respecting M’s privacy

I recently wrote about vowing to respect M’s privacy in my Washington Times column, and teenage privacy must be a hot topic. I made it to the top ten list of most read articles!

Evolving with M

It has been three months since we all moved back to Tokyo, and as always we landed on both feet, running full speed ahead.

Summer has always been hot and humid in Tokyo, and this year, staying indoors offered very little respite from the heat and the humidity. Without the nuclear reactor in Fukushima, there was the very real danger of power disruption, and to prevent that, everyone was urged to conserve electricity.

Air conditioning everywhere was either turned off, or turned down. When I walked the streets of Tokyo during the day, it was blazing hot, and when I went into buildings, it was steaming hot. The days of being greeted by blasts of cold air were gone.

Room temperatures went up, and lights were dimmed, and millions of office workers found themselves peering at their work. In train stations, escalators were shut down, forcing passengers to use the stairs, and exercise.

And yet, no one complained. Call it resilience a la Japonais.

M is now working, and like most Japanese young women with parents living in Tokyo, M lives at home with her parents.

I am back to being a full-time mother to M, and again, I find myself learning to be the right mother for her.

For more essays on my life with M, visit my Washington Times column.


A Chapter Ends

M has graduated from college. Four years of hard work has earned her honours and awards, and while I rejoice in her academic achievements, I feel great relief in knowing that her success is also a result of lessons learned from failures and disappointments.

On her own, far away from me, M battled the frightening depths of depression, and the bewildering sense of being lost and without direction. And there was not much that I could do but watch, and hope that as her mother, I have equipped her well enough to find strength within her to fight her own battles.

And M not only survived. She built upon her fears, and thrived, and discovered she had enough to help herself, and to lend a hand to others.

On graduation day, I celebrated the triumphant ending of another phase of her life. I know though that what will define her as a person lies ahead…in her decisions on how to give back to society…in her recognition of giving back as a responsibility and not an option…

And what will define me as a parent is the unconditional love and support that she will always have.

In the meantime, it is wonderful to have M back home…to spoil rotten… : )


Continuing The Story

I first heard of Amy Chua from my daughter M. She was home for the holidays, and we were in the kitchen making her favourite tart tatin. She claims that my version is better than what we had at Le Perigord, a French restaurant in midtown Manhattan. I agree. : )

M’s friends at college were fuming at Chua for claiming that Chinese mothers are superior, and she started reading to me the Wall Street Journal excerpt of Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. I thought it was a satire until I was told that it was how a Yale law professor raised her daughters.

I could not believe it! I had very traditional Chinese parents, and I could not believe anyone raised the way I was would choose the same parenting methods! And someone with a Harvard and Yale education, too!

I wanted to tell Chua that if admission to an Ivy League college was the ultimate goal, I managed to raise a daughter who was accepted by Harvard, Yale and Princeton without threats and hysterics.

And that is why I started this blog. I uploaded all the essays I wrote as a present to M when she graduated from high school four years ago.

It has been a little less than two months since I began calling myself the good chinese mother. This blog has had more than 40,000 visitors, and I am still finding it hard to believe that what I have written is actually being read and enjoyed by strangers.

I find it even harder to believe that this blog has led to a column in the Washington Times.

I continue to tell the story of being mother to M, and you are warmly invited to listen.


Challenging Chua

Dear Ms. Chua,

Like you, I am Chinese. I was born in Manila, with parents like yours, raised like you…

But unlike you, I vowed to be a very different parent from my parents.

I never said, “I am right and you will obey me because I am your mother”.

I taught myself to say, “Mother does not know,” and “I am sorry. Mother is wrong.”

I encouraged my daughter to enjoy all the things my parents would not allow, sleepovers, school plays, and yes, dating.

She missed school to watch the Oscars. Super Mario was bonding time

I wanted her to be a drummer, but to my disappointment, she wanted to play the piano. No, not classical music. “Close To You” by The Carpenters! Do you know how difficult it is to find a piano teacher who will teach pop music to a toddler?

She can barely read music notes, and will never play Chopin at Carnegie Hall, but even now, she will play the piano just to relax.

And yes, she turned out all right. She scored 2340 on the SAT, 60 points off perfect, and got accepted by Harvard, Princeton and Yale. Am I proud of her? Absolutely! But what really matters to me is that she grew up to be warm and kind, with an easygoing, unassuming demeanor.

I did not push. I encouraged. And I loved unconditionally.

Good Chinese Mother

P.S. You do not have to be Ms. Chua to leave a comment. : )

1) If you want to make your children practice piano, read “Reluctant Role Models”. In fact, read it if you want them to do what you want.
2) If you want to stop arguing about bed time, and bath time, read “Do I Have To Take A Bath” and “Why Do I Have To Go To Bed Now”.
3) If you want to deal with a bully in school, read “The Prince From Senegal” but do not do what I did. You can get in serious trouble.
4) If you need to explain Santa Claus, read “Letter From Santa Claus”. Just make sure you can make up stories as you go.
5) If you like museums, and your children do not, read “Treasure Hunt”. The museum shops will love you.
6) When being the best is not good enough, go to “The Six O’Clock News”. Unlike Chua, I think watching television can be educational!
7) If you have an inquisitive child, check out “Why Is The Sky Blue?”
8) If your child asks you for the moon and the stars, do not read “Unforseen Dividends”. You will be tempted to give them.
9) If you are a bilingual family, “Relax, Mom” is for you.
10) If you do not like what your daughter is wearing, “Making Of A Fashion Icon” will make you feel better.
11) If you are battling bureaucracy, copy my tactics in “There Is Always A First Time”.
12)If you want to know why I will never regret being a stay-at-home mom, find out in “Just Like Mommy”. Be sure the tissue box is within reach.
13) Is your child the new kid on the block? See how we managed in “Tears On The Agenda”.
14) Need help with making decisions? Take your cue from “The Step Forward”.
15) Life not going as planned? “Pile Of Horse Droppings” is for you.

Good Chinese Mother’s mantra: educate, encourage, enforce, evaluate

Educate – give precise instructions, show by example
Encourage – praise when done right
Enforce – make sure it is done right
Evaluate – if the child fails, ask yourself what YOU DID WRONG

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