Asian Girl Problem #132: Undermothered

This is probably not a surprise, but I quit my corporate 9-6 job about a month ago. What started as a great environment with coworkers I enjoyed turned sour when each of my peers got fired/quit, leaving upper management and interns (who also eventually left) to hire a whole new office. In the new culture (kind of felt like an all-white sorority), I wasn’t comfortable and didn’t respect most of the work. But I stuck it out for another 5 months because I really wanted to put in a year.

The unhealthy coping habits I developed–as I always to do when chained in a desk–reached a boiling point. Too much coffee and sugar, few meaningful interactions, minimal creative outlet and zero motivation drove me to hedonistic evenings and weekends. It also, thankfully, caused me to escape into books again. I spent mornings reading and started going into the city early before work so I could feel human before joining the machine. Reading x yoga x weed is a good temporary antidote for modern life.

But then a few hiccups in my personal life caused a breakdown where I thought I seriously lost a shred of sanity that I’d never get back, and would become my mother. So I gave my two weeks, and found a new job–it’s everything I want at the moment. It involves food/drink/literature/writing/community events, is close to home, run by good people, and lets me work an ideal schedule. In short, it meets all of my ridiculously picky standards. Too picky for someone my age. If you’re thinking “This bitch is spoiled,” I wouldn’t argue.

That’s a quick update on life events which I’ll come back to in detail another day, but what compelled me to blog again is a post that caught my eye on Facebook today. Specifically, the word “unmothered”. Everyone has their triggers and this concept of being unmothered is the strongest of mine.

Ya’ll know the broad strokes–my mom has suffered from severe depression/anxiety since before I was born, and I caused her postpartum depression. She has the resilience of a toddler, could never hold down a job, dislikes most people, and has suffered from mental disorders across the spectrum.

But she was always in the home–so I was not unmothered, as such. She picked me up from school, cooked, cleaned, and participated in family outings. She was also there to spy on me in class, rifle through my things, and teach me how to have an eating disorder (I didn’t follow through). When she was angry, she was there to throw shade and tell me I ruined her body and that I shouldn’t ever have children. When she was sad, she was there to disappear into her room for days, refusing to speak to my dad so I’d have to be sole caretaker and intermediary.

I cursed her dead so many times, wishing I was unmothered. And I think about the very traditional aka melancholy Chinese song she always sang when I was young.

In short, “Mom is the best in the world. Kids who have moms are like treasure…Kids who don’t are like a lone blade of grass…”

When I was four years old, my mom was pretty and young which was all that mattered. I was in love with her femininity. In the summer when she wore cotton dresses, I was moved to request this song over and over again while we sat on our apartment stoop. I snuggled deeper into her skirt and pitied the poor saps without moms in the song. We were inseparable until I turned five, and then our wavelengths crashed. My mother was sad and too wrapped up in her naivete to give the emotional support a super sensitive kid like me needed. She couldn’t understand how I could be unfulfilled when I had food to eat and clothes to wear–I was so demanding. And I knew she would misunderstand or ignore my feelings, so I stopped sharing them.

And here we (and my secrets) are today. A lot of us, especially those who clash culturally with our family, are underparented. It’s not all bad–I’ve been afforded hefty silver linings by having an absent mother. I learned how to support myself emotionally and have also been mothered by other sources, like my dad, girlfriends, pop culture (bleh).

None of it follows the the pomp and circumstance of a Mother, though–the Mother who wants to hear about for your first bra/period/boyfriend, soothes you through breakups and sickness, and just shows you through example how to be a good person in the world.

But not having all that is perfectly fine, and probably applies to the majority of us. Mothering or fathering has nothing to do with sperm to egg contact. I’d like to be a better mother and father to myself and especially other people. Amidst all the interactions, friendships, relationships whatever, that’s the spirit that could make us all feel less lost and more found


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