There is an interview series called When My Mom Was My Age. I’ve wanted to participate, if only as an excuse to ask my mom some questions about her life at my age (37).
My hopes were that I would learn something from her, and gain some insight into my mother. I was going to post the interview up at my irl eponymous blog…but after hearing my mother’s answers, I balked. I didn’t even know if I wanted the answers up at all, because her answers felt so dark and filled with regret. It was, in sum, depressing to me to hear that my mother wasn’t happy at all at the age of 37, and was living, psychologically, day to day.
She regrets the many decisions made then–and coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, one of my life mottoes is, “Do not have regrets.” Listening to her, as I sit in the housekeeping years of middle age, I felt a deeper resolve to keep my life a happy adventure. I also noticed her child-centric answers, as I navigate my 30s unable to have a child and without child. Was it her children who held her back? Or her children who saved her? At the current age of 67, she still feels trapped by the decisions she made (or rather, didn’t make) in her middle age.
Which makes me feel awful. And yet enlightened. And awful. And yet enlightened. Who wants their own mother to feel their life is a cautionary tale?
And yet–I learned, even as my heart broke. And so, I’m posting the interview here on WUP.
I did decide to post a picture of my mom, when she was in her late 20s (I may remove it, later). She’s wearing her nursing uniform, back when nurses were required to wear hats on the job. She’s wearing eyeglasses–but she didn’t need them; she wore them because my dad wanted to obscure her youth and beauty. Or, as my mom put it once, “Daddy wanted me to look ugly, because sooo many doctors around me.” She’s smiling–and after you read the interview, you might think as I do, “What does that smile belie?”
Otherwise, there are no pictures of me and my mother, posted here on this anonymous blog. The interview is pretty much unadorned. She doesn’t go into details at points, and I know the dark context. It’s stark. Kind of like how I felt as I listened to her words, her voice creased and weary with time.
Where did you live?
I lived in Arcadia, California. I worked at Garfield Hospital.
What was a typical day like?
In the morning I woke up, I went to the hospital to go to work. I worked fulltime that time I was fulltime, working in the ICU, then coming home. Grandma was sitting on the sofa, and I had to cook, spend some time with you and your brother. Make dinner. Sleep. Then go to work again.
What did you worry about the most?
That time–ahhh, it was a tough time. Everyday, people picked on me, and give me a hard time. Grandma everyday was tough on me. Everything was a headache.
I only liked you and R. Everybody a work asked why I was smiling all the time; every time I don’t feel good, I just think about my kids, then smile. I was most happy face in the hospital. You two make my face so bright. I was the one, they called me the Happymaker because even though I have a lot of headache at home, my kids made me smile.
What did you think the future held for you?
My future. No. Just my children. Good school, and hoping when they grow up, they become doctors. Actually I wanted you to be a doctor and go to a good college. At that time, I was just thinking about your future, all the time. I didn’t think about my future at the time. Just my 2 kids.
How do you look back on that age?
If I had to do it again, I would have studied. Even if I fight with Daddy about school, I can study and make my life better at that time.
Do you have advice for anyone else at that age?
Advice. Just think of yourself for the future. Of course, children are there, but concentrate, do what you can do for your kids. If you’re hungry, don’t make your kids hungry. Do your best. Also, if Mommy goes to school, there are good effects to the children, because they can see Mommy study so hard, working so hard, making a good example for kids.