Growing up I had the privilege of having a close relationship with my Mum. She was my best friend and as she was the only parent I had around until I was 7 years old, I relied heavily on her teaching me right from wrong.
I looked up to my Mum, she seemed to be a leader, a person that people listened to and respected, I dreamed someday I would grow up to be just like her.
We had trouble in our relationship and for some time we didn’t understand each other so we often butted heads. Our relationship finally came back on track when I experienced my first real heartache and she surprisingly understood and had a wealth of knowledge on the subject. A typical Filipino Mum isn’t really know for being comforting or loving when it comes to matters of the heart. We got even closer when I moved away to University and I relearnt to appreciate everything she does for me and for how by simply being there for me my entire life; I am comforted by her presence.
I love my Mum so much.
But having matured over time and with my new experiences and observations, I have realized that I will never be like my Mother.
It’s common to see people write, “If I could be half the mother you are, my children will be blessed” before I would nod in agreement and see that as an absolutely beautiful compliment, but it really isn’t.
Time has granted me the opportunity to evaluate my life, childhood and experiences, my eyes have been opened up to the reality of the things I didn’t really understand as a kid.
My Mum came from a poor upbringing. Her parents didn’t have a lot of money but they were happy. My Mum being the eldest daughter of 12 – 15 kids? My grandparents had a lot of children okay! She had a lot of responsibilities including helping raise her brother and sisters. She had duties that most kids her age couldn’t even imagine having, in fact nowadays if the same sort of thing were to happen here, it would be classed as child abuse.
At the age of 4 years old my Mum was basically cooking, cleaning and caring for her younger siblings, she was basically the mother and father. This isn’t me slating my grandparents. I have unconditional love for my grandfather, but sometimes it’s difficult to retell some of my Mum’s childhood stories without feeling pangs of anger at the hardships she had to endure.
That’s the problem with third world countries, people pop out kids like it’s a contest and there’s no thought given to how you could possibly raise and support all these kids. In Geography (I think) we learnt that places like the Philippines (poor countries), have high populations because people have more children in hopes that there will be more hands to help out. But really more hands mean more mouths and a small amount of money doesn’t go a long way.
One of the stories my mother shared with me was how as a young girl she loved going to school; she was beloved by her classmates and her teachers because she was a hard worker and extremely studious, she dreamed of being a nurse. But as her family was of little means it meant that there were times when she would give up her only pair of shoes to lend it to her younger sibling so that they could go to school, this meant she wasn’t able to go in and she would often miss out on the one joy she got. My mother is selfless, almost to a fault.
I thought about my own experiences as a 4 year old, myself and my sisters had our own nannies each. We owned way too many pairs of shoes and would complain about going to school. When compared to my mother’s meager beginnings we lived a lap of luxury, and it wasn’t until I got older that I actually learnt to appreciate what I had.
Learning to understand my Mum and why she did certain things was very difficult.
You see when we made the big move from the Philippines to be with my Dad in England, our lives changed dramatically. Though we were still very privileged we were no longer living quite as luxuriously as before. My Mum had discovered this new level of guilt at living her family behind. She felt like it was an honor to be able to move abroad and it was almost like she thought it was her duty to provide for as many of her family members as possible.
My Mum’s dream was to provide her family with the opportunity to study, which would hopefully allow them the ability to have a life that she didn’t get to have. Being the oldest daughter of a family of 12, she felt it was her responsibility to give her siblings a chance in life. My Mum pushed aside her hopes and dreams to make this happen because she loves her family more than she loves herself.
That’s one of the first reasons why I’ll never be like my Mother. I absolutely adore my family, I love them with every fiber of my being, but my experience has taught me that if you don’t love yourself the most in this world, then you will suffer as a result. My Mum has always put everyone before herself, and it hasn’t always paid off, I will never let this be the case for me.
In the beginning of our life in the UK, my Mum was a homemaker, housewife, and full time Mum. She enjoyed going shopping, having her hair done and doting on her daughters and husband. She still felt a strong sense of responsibility to her family back in the Philippines, so she would send money to her family every month, but during the early days this was manageable. Whilst the daughters (my sisters and I) thought it was strange, we never felt it affected us. My Mum would remind us to be grateful that we could live a happy, healthy life with few worries now that we were in the UK, whereas her family didn’t have the same privileges and needed our help to give them a somewhat manageable life. I didn’t think much of this but later it would prove to be a major burden and has caused a lot of resentment, hurt and arguments for us.
As the years went by my Mum had increased the amount she was sending to her family. At one point she was helping at least 6 people through University. University in the Philippines isn’t quite as easy as it is here, in the sense that there isn’t really anything like a student loan. Books, tuition and everything else involved in the course would have to be paid in full. My Mum was giving our relatives (cousins and aunts and uncles), clothing, school, food, travel, accommodation allowance as well as pocket money! Can you imagine how much that can total on a monthly basis? Let alone the money she was sending to her brothers and sisters to help them pay for food and other necessities needed just to live.
I will admit I am resentful, because more than a couple of these people she was helping support had cheated her out of money, trust and faith. They lied, fought and cheated each other acting more like animals than family. Often they would make my Mum feel guilty for the life she was living in comparison to theirs. Every time one of her siblings would have a child or get married, there was this new fear that my Mum would be supporting this new situation.
I am angry because my Mum gave up her nursing dream for her family. She chose to work straight away rather than put off helping her family for a few years in order to carve out the dream career she had. That responsibility was never something she chose (though she chooses that burden now) but was basically given to her from birth. What irks me is that her family so willingly let her make all those sacrifices and no thanks were ever given, in fact if the money decreased at all, there would be more anger than understanding.
Pretty soon the amount she was sending and the sheer amount of people she was trying to support became too difficult to bear as a housewife that she got a part time job, which later became a full time job.
My Mum is contracted to work 40 hours a week and yet she averages about 80 – 90 + hours a week. Can you imagine how hard that is to do day in and day out?
I couldn’t even tell you how many people she has put through University. I’ll briefly sum up what she hoped to achieve through her support.
My Mum believes that if she can help 1 child from each family, then that child can go to University, get a degree, find a good paying job, and then they can help their next sibling and so on and so forth until those siblings can help support their parents.
Out of all the people she helped out, only 1 person has actually helped complete that dream of hers for their family. Was it her brother’s child? No. Was it her sister’s child? No. It was her Uncles son! Not even her own niece or nephew, her cousin was the only one to complete her dream and he recently celebrated his youngest sisters graduation, the last child in their family to graduate! Can you believe that? Out of a bunch of people my Mum and Dad, because we can never forget just how much time, effort and MONEY my Father has given to supporting them, only 1 person has actually done what they promised to do as thanks for my Mums support, and it wasn’t even her own sibling.
You’re probably asking what happened to the others. Well after several siblings dropped out of University to get married, to men who don’t work, and are more interested in having babies than raising them, they went on to lives that were equal if not worse to the life my grandparents had, the complete opposite of my Mum’s hopes for them. Some even went as far as conning my Mum out of money for sheer greed, others just chose to defy my Mum and were selfish once graduating, never showing any ounce of gratitude or thanks for the sacrifice their own family member made for them.
My Mum worked tirelessly and has worked every Christmas, New Year for the past 10 years. She has missed many special occasions and is often too tired to make new memories with the family who are here and want nothing more from her other than her love.
You’re probably thinking that this is one long essay to rant about my family, or rag on about my Mum, it isn’t. I just wanted to give you an example of a human being, a selfless, kind, big hearted person who is like I said…a human being. Capable of being hurt, getting tired and feeling unappreciated.
My Mum is the kindest person I know. She works so hard so that her family don’t have to suffer, and she is well and truly okay with never hearing a thank you or getting any recognition, she doesn’t like to upset anyone and will always brush aside any hurt feelings just to make sure people get along.
My Mum may have neglected us and almost put us second compared to her family back in the Philippines, but she has always made sure to make up for it, even if we have to wait for those moments where she can put us first.
She gets up every morning to cook breakfast, and if she is working a double shift will also cook a full dinner ready before we even get up in the morning.
She will spend her days off cleaning and doing house chores and her version of having some down time is singing karaoke, or playing candy crush.
Once upon a time, she was the lady with all the designer handbags, brand new clothes and expensive make up, but now almost every penny is spent trying to buy things to put into a Balikbayan box to send back to her family, it’s often filled with chocolates, clothes, food, drinks, some luxury items, she is way more excited by how excited they are than she is when anyone gives her any gifts.
Sometimes it breaks my heart to see her give so much and have her get so little in return. I once overheard her crying when she found out her friend had died…what she said broke my heart:
“Now he’s gone, there’s no one else back there that want me for anything other than money, he was my friend and now I have no friends.”
I wonder what her family would have to say for themselves if they heard how much she hurt? How hard she works to the point where she gets so sick, but is so afraid to take a day off sick because she knows those precious hours could be spent earning money for them to live. It’s soul crushing and difficult to stomach how one family can do this to a person. I wonder how they would feel if they could see what they’re doing to her.
This is the sad reality of a Filipino working and living overseas. Their families never see what goes on in their ‘luxurious life abroad’. People think abroad and automatically think you’re rich, or that you have this crazy amazing life. That’s just not true, at least not for the most part.
I hope someday My Mum can finally get the respect and love she deserves, whilst my Dad, sisters and I try to give her as much support as we can but I know that what she is really hoping for is just a simple thank you. I know my Mum hopes that her help will still give the rest of the kids the opportunity to study and have better lives, and I admire for her belief and determination.
My Mum has not lived an easy life and lets be honest, I haven’t even had the opportunity to share half of the stories I could.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to give you an autobiography on my Mum, she’s quite fascinating, her CV would be amazing in this day and age.
I will never be like my Mother because I want to learn from her mistakes. I also know that no matter what, I will never have a heart as pure, honest and generous as her.
I will never be like my Mother because she is so forgiving, and I don’t want to be so understanding just because someone is my family.
I will never be like my Mother because she gave up her dreams for others, and I know if I had to give up mine for the sake of others I would live to resent and hurt for the rest of my life.
I will never be selfless like her, I will never be kind hearted as her, I will never love as much, or care as much or even work as much as she has for everyone she loves and cares for.
Whilst for the most part, I choose not to be like my Mother, she is still my role model, my idol and my hero.
Her good qualities and her flaws are a perfect combination for wonderful. She is the most beautiful lady in my life and I am so grateful to have a Mother like her.
My Mum is superwoman and I really am blessed to have been able to be inspired and taught by her.
Even if she is not appreciated quite like she should be, she still works hard using her love for her family as motivation.
Even if she is tired, mentally, emotionally, physically, she powers through keeping optimistic and staying strong.
I’ve tried to enter her in every Mother of the year award as I can, and someday I will get her that award!!! But for now, I just want to say how proud I am of the good she is doing in this world.
You may not be directly impacted by what my Mum does everyday, but her acts of kindness will reach you one day, even if it’s not from her actions herself, she’s always taught me that good deeds have a funny way of circling, and the more good you do and more often you do it, the more people it will touch and inspire.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday, and you proud everyday!
Peace and Love,