My mom is so whiny.

She’s a housewife but she complains about having to do housework. She complains that she is worse off than a maid, because at least they get paid for their domestic work. So my dad bought a washing machine to ease her workload and he also started to chip in with the household chores.

But the complaints continue. She complains when I don’t come home for dinner. She complains when I do, because then she has to cook.

One day, she went back to work. Now she complains about her job scope. She complains about her pay. She complains about the people she comes across in her work.

I don’t know what my mom exactly wants. It’s like nothing pleases her.

我有一段时间在工作,总是三更半夜才回家。一回到家里第一件事总是要到房间看你和妹妹才放心。 那时你们都睡着了,不知道。

(Translation: There was a period of time when I had to come home late from work. But when I get home, the first thing I have to do is to go to you and your sister’s bedroom and make sure you’re okay. You don’t know I do that because you’re asleep.) 

My mom is extremely needy.

Once, my parents fought and for a few weeks my dad decided to sleep on the couch. My mom didn’t take the “separation” well. During that period of time, she became very easily annoyed. She transmitted all her anger onto me and my sister, and we got yelled at for every single thing.

I never understood why she was so affected. Just let my dad sleep on the couch lah, what’s the big deal? I thought to myself.

Eventually I spoke to my dad and he moved back into the room. The war was over. But I still couldn’t understand why my mom was so affected.

我只好自己找节目可是当我看到别人都是夫妇一起参加而我有老公却中暑独自一个人, 心里就很难过。虽然有时你们也会陪我但是我认为你们应该去寻找自己的伴侣而不是一直待在父母的身边。

(Translation: I tried to ward off loneliness by filling my time with events, activities. But I felt so sad when all I saw at those events were couples, while I was always alone even though I am married. Although you and your sister sometimes accompany me, I think you should be searching for your own love, rather than staying by my side.)

You know how there’s always one in every family who seem to be perpetually on an emotional rollercoaster? In my family, it’s my mom.

I never really understood her, or took the time to. I usually brush her outbursts aside, dismiss it as one of her “episodes”, plug in my earphones and ignore her screams while rolling my eyes. My dad is also a man of few words and of fewer emotions. His solution to every explosion is to leave my mom alone and let her simmer. My sister tries to stay out of it altogether.

Just bear with it for a moment, it’ll be over soon, we tell ourselves.

One day, she couldn’t take it anymore and decided to pen me a letter detailing how unhappy she felt. She described the times she sneaked into our rooms to watch me and my sister in our sleep, because she couldn’t see us during the day. She told me she tried to fill her time by joining activities – only to feel even more lonely when she realised everyone else around her came as couples, while she was there alone.

She said that she felt lonely, despite having a husband and two kids.


(Translation: Solitude is when there is no one in your heart. Loneliness is when there is someone in your heart. But they’re both the same – they both mean you have no one by your side.)

It struck me that home must feel a lot bigger for my mom because me and my sister are hardly around anymore. In our absence, the emptiness is magnified. But what is worse than our physical absence is our emotional indifference.

To be honest, there are a lot of things my mom does that I still don’t understand why. It’s easy to overlook things that we don’t understand or ignore things that we find annoying.

But I am starting to see that her complaints, her small outbursts of anger, her passive-aggressive remarks are all desperate cries to us to pay her some attention.

Mommy, sorry for the times we failed to understand you.

And thank you. Thank you for loving us still.

I love you, too.