Perhaps because I get along pretty well with my mom and talk about all kinds of things with her (may I add here that there is nothing more soul-destroying than sitting with your mom and her friends while one of her friends talks about DIY dildos, GOOD LORD), I’ve never really thought too deeply about motherhood. When you can take your mom’s love for granted, you don’t have to, I guess.
When I had my kid, you could say that my life changed in a significant way because I ended up leaving Hong Kong (which turned out to be for the best!), and I changed jobs and all of that. But it didn’t really feel significant to me because I’ve moved around a lot so it seemed like just another thing I’d do. So really, despite being a single parent, I don’t think I was particularly affected by having a kid. I mostly brought him around with me everywhere I went, including work whenever I could, and I just went on with my daily life.
I’m awed by parents whose lives seemed to have become completely overturned by having kids, especially the ones who go through social and psychological upheavals, and yet still keep chugging along. You guys are incredible. In contrast, I’ve had it extremely easy. The cultural support around children means that I’ve never felt isolated or penalized for having a child and continuing with my life. My friends are wonderful and even though almost all of them are childfree, our friendships are still solid, and it doesn’t feel like much has changed aside from us getting older and spending more time with our parents.
I’m writing all of this not to brag but to explain that all of this luck and privilege I have sometimes means that it’s easy to forget how difficult capitalism-driven modern society has made parenting for many people. And being able to spend so much time with my kid every day–and the luck of having a good-natured kid–makes it easy to minimize the responsibility that comes with parenting.
My mom recently found a masseuse who comes to the house fairly regularly–originally for my mom but now for my dad who has a physical disability–and like most of my mom’s projects, we’ve become deeply involved with the masseuse–I’ll call her Joanna–and her problems.
Joanna is in her mid-fifties and she has five kids, the youngest being thirteen and the eldest being in her early thirties. Joanna, her husband (a violent alcoholic), their kids, and their eldest kids’ kids, live in a nearby slum without running water or electricity, and Joanna is the only breadwinner. Joanna’s husband was hospitalized for liver problems (surprise surprise) and then one of her sons got jailed for theft. My mom lent Joanna money for her son’s bail but Joanna used it instead for her husband so that he could get out of the hospital. He proceeded to set their house on fire in a drunken rage, so they’ve been sleeping in a construction site recently.
At this point, my mom decided that the youngest–I’ll call him Joseph–should come live with us part-time so that he could have regular meals and a safe and clean place to stay. Because of this, Joanna takes her grandkids to eat at our home as well. After getting to know the grandchildren, my mom found her eldest granddaughter a job as a helper at my mom’s friend’s house.
The girl had only been working there for a week when my mom’s friend called to complain that Joanna and her daughter (the granddaughter’s mom) were calling her house day and night to ask to borrow money (two months’ wages worth). When my mom confronted Joanna, she said that she needed the money to throw a birthday party for her latest grandchild.
There’s a lot I want to say here about poverty mentality and how difficult it is to make any real changes to the lives of poor people without structural and institutional support, but that’s not the real point of this post. After my mom scolded Joanna for jeopardizing her granddaughter’s job for something unimportant, Joanna stood outside our house smoking a cigarette and texting on her phone. Joseph heard that his mom was there, and he went to embrace her while she looked at her phone and smoked. They stayed like that for a while, and then she left, ostensibly to borrow money for her other son’s bail.
And this is all I know to write about motherhood.