Mom has always been actively involved in her career throughout my childhood. When I was little and people asked me what my mother did, I told them that her company made this music equipment that you can sing with. It would later on be named karaoke. But in the 70’s, no body knew what I was talking about because her company was still developing the circuit boards and parts for it. I grew up spending much time with her personal assistants and my grandmothers. As I grew older, I opted to be dropped off at our local book store with some lunch money and I was good to go for an entire day, free to explore shelves upon shelves of books and the surrounding multi-cultural street food stands.
Once, my mother packed me lunch. I still remember it was roasted bone-in chicken thigh with rice and sauteed garlic spinach. In her inexperienced hands, she forgot to pack any utensil. I was too touched by her gesture to find any flaw, so I picked up the chicken and ate that first. I used the bone from the thigh — which is shaped like a shell really — as a spoon to eat the rest of my lunch. I did not tell my mother about that slight neglect and focused on how much I enjoyed my lunch. Because of the demand of her career as a CEO of a large audio equipment manufacture company and a co-CEO of a family-owned furniture manufacture company, she never did pack me lunch again after that.
Which was all the more astounding to me when I was pregnant with Plum, that Mom volunteered to come help during my “Sitting Month“. Mom cooked me five delicious meals a day, each with its medicinal healing value. She helped clean our increasingly neglected apartment; and took care of our newborn Plumster whenever I needed a nap, a walk, or a private dinner with just MK and me. She demonstrated her never before seen domestic prowess that left me flabbergasted. Later I found the books that she’s been studying in preparation for my Sitting Month. In them, I found pages of pages of highlighted paragraphs; scribbled notes on the side; colorful side tags.
With the birth of my daughter, I found the Mother that I did not grow up with. I found out that my globe-trotting, multi-linguistic mother who was always busy at business meetings dealing with clients, engineers and business partners, was actually really good at cooking and other household chores that I often saw her delegating to her personal assistants. In her retirement, she has happily taken up hobbies that she otherwise was too busy to indulge in. These days she has regular photography exhibits throughout the NY metropolitan area and teaches Chinese silk knotting in local community colleges and several museums. I got to hang out with her for a week after my surgery a few weeks ago. She taught me a couple of dishes, and I relished every moment we spent together.
I found the above picture of us in my old PC. She was in her early thirties, already running a company of her own. I see this strong, beautiful, independent woman who has shaped me in more ways than I knew. These days, with the Anne Marie Slaughter team and the Sheryl Sandberg team voicing opinions about balancing career and family, it is suffice to say that women in demanding career paths are still negotiating and carving out creative ways to juggle our many hats. My mother worked 80+ hours weeks. She was prone to take me to short-noticed business meetings, and I adapted a fondness to work on art works or read quietly at a young age. She also used helps, lots of them: most of her junior personal assistants had the additional tasks of making me dinner and watching me on weekday nights because of late work schedules. Perhaps Mom used that as a measuring stick to test their patience and perseverance before graduating them to senior positions I would never know for sure. Grandma ran the said family owned furniture manufacture business before handing it over to parents, then owned and ran a hotel after her “retirement”. I was often dropped off at grandma’s hotel on weekends or school holidays, free to roam around the property. Because of this kind of environment, I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by not just one, but many, strong, intelligent, career-driven women. They have each inspired me and taught me in their own ways and I am forever grateful for having them in my life.
WHO WERE THE WOMEN THAT INSPIRE YOU GROWING UP?