A Letter to my Part-Time Mom

I remember a day we spent together, not a particularly special or memorable one. I was back from college for winter break and the two of us were home alone. We were watching TV together, my legs comfortably planted on your lap, my elbow hoisting me up. I was on my phone, paying a minimal amount of attention to the show playing at your favorite volume: high. A phrase uttered on the program caught my attention: full-time mom. A woman on the show had given herself that label. I didn’t think anything of it in that moment.

Later that day, you were making dinner for us. You always made what I wanted when I came home from school, no matter how extravagant. You were making my favorite stew, sporting your shower cap to avoid the inevitable scent of onions and herbs. I had a thought and shared it with you. “Mom, if a stay-at-home mom is a full-time mom, does that make you a part-time mom?” I was half joking, half serious. You laughed, shrugging it off at first. Minutes later, you brought it up again. “I never thought about it that way. I guess that’s how some people view me or other moms who work.” You were quiet the rest of the day, thinking about the notion of part-time motherhood. You and I both knew there were people in our family and community who feigned their support for your choices. Every comment, passive or aggressive, every eyebrow raise, every judgment flooded your mind.

The next day, you brought it up again, this time with questions. You asked me if I had any resentment towards how I was raised. You asked if I had ever felt neglected. You and I were always close but I suppose this was a topic we never addressed head on. I told you I never harbored any resentment towards your choices. In fact, I told you I was proud to have a mom who dared to at least attempt do it all. “I don’t know if I showed you that it’s doable,” you admitted with apprehension. “That doesn’t matter. You showed me that it’s possible.”

I told you I always jumped at the opportunity to defend you. When your mother-in-law called the house once to ask if my sister and I were hungry, I told her that you had prepared a wonderful, home-cooked meal. I knew grandma would back off when she heard “home-cooked.” What I didn’t tell her was that you had put chicken nuggets in the oven that night because it had been a long day at work. You never knew this story, I had never thought to share it with you. But I shared it with you now. You got emotional, explaining how hard it was sometimes. But you were not apologetic nor should you have been. You have nothing to apologize for. I have everything to thank you for.

Thank you for taking me to Disneyland every other weekend when you could have been doing 3,000 other more relaxing or fun things. Thank you for staying up late on Fridays to cut orange slices and make snack packs for my soccer games on Saturday mornings. Thank you for volunteering at my school when we both know you had neither the time nor the energy to do so. Thank you for putting little notes in my lunches, sometimes going so far as to kiss the paper with your lipstick. Thank you for waking up earlier to take me to school when you easily could have signed me up for the bus. And thank you for always standing by at the top of the hill at the drop-off zone to wait for me to turn around and wave goodbye.

You did my sister and I a favor by making the choices you made. We now know that it is a possible path, albeit exhausting. You compromised, we both know this. You earned your Master’s degree nearly 20 years later than you initially planned. You left the engineering world for academia, knowing it meant more time with us. You put us first, without hesitation. So any time you begin to ask yourself if you made the right decision, remember this: I don’t think about the times you weren’t there, but cherish the times you were.

Happy Mother’s Day.