On motherhood and parenting

My parents and their first child, my eldest sister (Gurney Drive, 1985)

This morning I woke up and made sure that my flatmate’s 3-year-old daughter did not come into my room to play. I basically ignored her and shut the door in her face. I like how as adults, you can be mean to kids and they wouldn’t even notice.

But this got me thinking about my own mother, and how I recently came to discover that she did not, in fact, enjoy raising children. My eldest sister has two girls, and my Mum had the worst time of her life babysitting them in Melbourne for about two months.

I remember talking to her on the phone and she was so stressed out with the eldest one, who kept wanting to snatch the phone and join in the conversation. My Mum actually locked herself in the room and just poured her frustrations out to me. Perhaps it was living in a foreign country with such temperamental weather. Or living under the authority of her own daughter and son-in-law, when she is so used to running the show at home.

In that sense, my Mum is very non-Asian and really likes her private space. Even though she is quite a dependent person, she would happily prioritise her Taiwanese drama over watching over her grandkids. Maybe that’s why she sent us all abroad and began her life of remote parenting.

All four of us left home at 18, which in Western standards is the rightful age of adulthood. With the exception of one sister, none of us came back. I think this is a great way of raising children, kicking them out of the house and letting them fend for themselves in the real world. This could also be why all 6 of us in the family (with the exception of that one sister) really like our private space.

Remote parenting is a great concept, because you’re not too close to the action, but you’re still checking up on your children’s lives now and again. As a parent, you now perform the role of guardian, advisor, consultant, receiving updates on a weekly or monthly basis. You relinquish your role as micro-manager, and it’s much easier to do that when they are not at home.

But this also means you have to have your own life. I love that my parents are exactly like this, free spirits in their own right, not defined by their children’s lives. I like how they come to visit me where I live, not just to see me, but to use me as their tour guide and have a good holiday – which works fine for me.

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