When My Mom Was My Age

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.


Filed under Life, People

8 responses to “When My Mom Was My Age

  1. Es Dubyu

    I asked my mother the same questions and it sounds like I shat on her dreams as I entered the world… =X It was no longer about her or what she wanted out of life; but rather, it became all about me (and subsequently my siblings) and what *we* wanted. And in a sick twist, that was what made her happy, just like how thinking about you and R. was what made your mother smile, to the point where people at work, oh so obliviously, referred to her as the Happymaker. Sigh.

  2. Es Dubyu

    Ohhhh shieeett… where did that picture/icon thing come from!!?? ::horrified::

  3. I’m sitting here CRYING over this blog post.

    OF all the strange things, I was casting around the web looking for information on chemicals in Doritos…thanks to a fight on my cousin’s Facebook page…I felt snarky and decided to find out the truth and take a side, lol.

    I went back to college TODAY. First day. I’m 34. I have 3 kids. My life is a chaotic round of husband with sprained ankle, broken washing machine, late mortgage payment and unemployment… I’ve put off returning to school for 10 years, after giving it up when the kids were little. And Today Was borderline “Being chemical dependent can’t be that bad, perhaps a lovely doc will prescribe me some Xanax….perhaps this is a mistake and I should ACCEPT (see how I didn’t say settle) for my low pay job options TODAY….”

    And I liked your Dorito blog. So I hit HOME. And here I am, thanking your mom for telling the truth, and you for posting it. Thanks. I really needed this today.


  4. I just want to add….that the REASON I’m going back to school, a huge part of it, is because I want to help my kids go through school, and on the 30K incomes I’m able to generate as a degreeless Administrative Assistant, Office Manager, Assistant to the Director…won’t let me do that. By fulfilling my dream, I can actually hopefully help them obtain theirs someday. I have a full scholarship…so if I DO this, I will only accrue debt for my Masters and Doctorate…if I go for the Doc.

    This IS for me…though I’d be happy with a job that was recently offered me, I think…. but it’s for them too. It’s also so they’ll be proud of their mama too.

    Thanks AGAIN!

    • @Es: It just makes me realize how much sacrifice my mom made so that my life would be better than hers (and it is). But of course, I just REALLY wish her life had BEEN better!

      @Rebecca: you are amazing! My mom would feel SO FABULOUS to know that her life has not only touched mine, but now yours as well (does this mean I should tell my mom that I PUBLISHED her interview?)! Yes–you are being an awesome example for your kids, and I promise you that they will REMEMBER your drive and your decision to make good on your dreams. All of my friends whose mothers went “back to school” sometime during their childhood remember it as an extremely positive moment…and they are ALL proud of their mothers for doing so. You are making your life, and those of everyone around you, better. Go for it. You are inspiring me, too.

  5. Nate

    JP, your mom reminds me of this guy where I used to work. Everyone called him “Happy Sam” and he was the happiest damn dude I’ve ever met, you couldn’t even say “hi” to him without walking away feeling like $1 million. Turns out he was the lone survivor in a really bad helicopter crash, he barely survived. Everyday was truly a gift to him and he shared it with others. God bless the Happymakers.

    @Rebecca: HURRY! My mother went back to school later in life, got an MA, and got a good job that she loves. Unfortunately, she took the job when I was a Frosh in college, meaning that we had virtually nothing saved for college from our lifetime of getting by and then, to add insult to injury, my older sister and I lost our grant $ my Soph year because my parents made too much money! ~:-(

    • @Nate: Smiling on the outside, cryin’ on the inside!

      • Nate

        @JP: It’s like the old song “The Pretender” or Thoreau’s “quiet desperation” right? The majority of us live lives alien to our true selves, though few literally wear a costume, complete with eyewear (though there is prob something there as far as jobs requiring uniforms fostering psychic detachment!) No matter how she feels about it now, it sounds like she was just trying to keep the peace in your home (happymaking again?) Your mom is a real hero.

        Mother’s Day is coming up, maybe the Park clan can scrape together some tuition $ for mom?(Sorry if you’ve already tried that, I really like the idea of making The Happymaker happy!)

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