“You’re becoming your mother.”
These were the words that I dreaded hearing, and it was worse when I came into that realisation on my own. How did I get here when I spent my whole life trying to be the opposite of the person who annoyed me constantly? Or maybe your mother is your best friend, which we won’t argue about.
It all started when I moved in with my partner. I didn’t know it then, but I had grown accustomed to the house being managed and cleaned a certain way, thanks to how my mother had always done it. After a few unhappy exchanges with the way my partner did things and how I wanted it done, it dawned on me that I was exactly like my mother. Things can only do things one way, which was my way.
Once discovering that I had inherited this trait from my mother, I realised I needed to take conscious steps to unlearn what I thought was the norm. It was vital for me not to make the same mistakes my mother made, which caused unhappiness and resentment within other people in the same household.
If you’ve grown up in a household with an Asian mother, chances are you’ve experienced something similar too. Think about the times when she’s grumbled that nobody helps her with chores around the house, but when you do, it’s never done the “right way”. What about the stacks of containers around the house that could “come in handy one day”? Or her way of apologising with a platter of fruits instead of apologising? That’s a classic Asian mother trait, and here’s what I’m trying to do so I don’t become my mother:
Accept the fact that everyone has their way of doing things
I remember being infuriated every time I tried to do something, only to hear pithy comments from my mother about how I should do it a certain way. Whether it was something as menial as trying to sweep the floor or the way I walked, the only proper way to do something was her way.
I unconsciously adopted this habit on my partner, asking him why he chose to perform a particular task in a different way than I did. When I realised what I was doing, I nearly smacked myself for doing the same thing that infuriated me so much. Now I’m consciously rewiring my brain to accept that everyone has their way of doing things, and it doesn’t matter that they’re different from my way, as long as things get done.
Stop hoarding things because I “may need it one day”
News flash: that day is never coming. Most Asian mothers are hoarders. They keep odd pairs of socks, mismatched Tupperware with covers that don’t fit, all with the hopes that they could come in useful one day. We as daughters know that day has never come, even after decades. Instead, what gets left behind are hoards of items that have no actual use.
Was I guilty of this? I like to consider myself practical and a minimalist, but I too had the urge to store extra plastic containers from my food delivery excursions so that they could “come in handy one day”. Thankfully, I live in a small apartment and don’t have much space to hoard items. When they overrun my cabinets, I do an inventory check and only keep a handful of plastic containers for storage while recycling the rest.
Communicate my unhappiness constructively
One of the most significant issues an Asian mother has is her incapability to communicate her unhappiness properly. If you suddenly find yourself at the receiving end of a cold shoulder, you best be prepared to find out what you did wrong. Most times, it stems from the Asian mother thinking that you “should have known better than to do this” or her thinking, “I don’t need to ask for help — you should know that I needed help, use your common sense.”
Unfortunately, we’re not all mind readers. In my home with my partner, I realised that if I was unhappy about something, I should constructively communicate conflict instead of going the passive-aggressive route and later lashing out unexpectedly. It also makes for a healthier relationship.
While my mother isn’t a terrible person, I recognise traits as toxic if left to fester. Becoming your mother isn’t bad if the good qualities are carried on, so it’s essential to consciously take on the good and cut off the bad. May your future relationships be toxic-free.
And yes, you can survive your Asian parents’ traditional parenting methods.