My mom was always a workaholic, though she refuses to admit it. Since I was a young girl, she was in love with her job. She used to rush out for work with her hair still damp from the shower. Instead of breakfast, she always carried out a coffee mug in one hand and an apple in the other. She would come home from work at dinner time, face flushed after hours of lecturing. My mom would put on a happy and strong face for me but even as a kid I knew she was tired as hell. Our time together — at least during weekdays — was short and insignificant. But it was okay because I loved spending time with my grandparents, who basically raised me from birth to elementary school.
As I grew up, got my period and became a young adult, I craved my mom’s attention. In middle school, I was jealous of my friends whose mothers were stay-at-home moms. These friends complained about their lack of privacy — saying that they wanted space. But to me, they were living in luxury. I hated coming home to a dark, lifeless living room. I hated that there was nothing to eat in the refrigerator. I hated that my mom would never answer her phone when I called her because she was so busy with work. But most of all, I hated the silent loneliness. It seemed like all my friends were welcomed home by their moms after school. They would chat about their day, complain about daily incidents, and rely upon their moms for reassurance. This was not the case for me. I would sit alone in the empty house, watching television and checking the clock until it was time for my mom to come home.
In high school I started to develop animosity towards my mom. I was always mad at her for working so much and believed that she was prioritizing work over her children. I couldn’t have a single conversation with her without being interrupted by a phone call from a co-worker. Even if I did, I knew she would never understand how I was feeling — she was never there to know what I went through. I figured that I would rather avoid her than feel let down. This mindset carried on until I got pregnant with my child.
Becoming a mom made me realize so many things — the most important being my mom’s love for me. Now, I understand how heartbroken she must have been when she left her young daughter to go to work. She must have desperately wanted to spend time with me, but couldn’t due to financial obligations. She probably sat by my bed and stroked my hair for long hours when I was asleep. In middle school, I assume that my mom was aware of my loneliness and scrambled from work to back home as fast as she could, given her busy schedule. I’m sure that she went through more heartache than I did because she felt like a bad mother. When I continuously pushed her away in high school, she must have felt like the world was collapsing down around her.
Until I had my son, I wanted an apology from my mom. I wanted her to self-reflect and feel sorry for being absent and not being there when I needed her. Before experiencing motherhood, I was sure that my mom put work before her children, and work issues mattered more than mine. But now I know this is not true. Compared to my mom, I am a beginner and newbie mom. I still have a long way to go to master motherhood. But I can finally realize a portion of my mom’s love through my love towards my son.
After I had my child, my mom always tells me that she’s sorry. She says that it’s her fault that I hid my pregnancy from her for 8 months. She apologizes because she believes that her absence and lack of attention was what made me a young mother. She believes that my life would have been much smoother and more leveled if she was a stay-at-home mom. And she’s sorry for being too busy. But she shouldn’t be. I should be the one who’s sorry for realizing a mother’s love too late. Because of her love, I am the strong and confident woman that I am today. Because of her support, I am able to endure the struggles that I face. I wanted to end Mommy Issues by uncovering a mother’s love towards her child. Though it took me a while to realize this, I am thankful that I have — and I hope many people will also understand how much they are loved.
May Choi writes the Monday column on being a transfer student-parent. Contact her at [email protected] .