Anyone who knows my mother would agree that she’s nothing short of a superwoman. She’s strong, independent, determined, principled and so resilient. She’s always had very firm ideas on how her children were to be brought up. While I’m grateful for everything she’s done for me and the rest of the family, I wish now that she hadn’t done SO MUCH on her own. Growing up, one of the things she used to tell me and my siblings all the time was this: “You don’t have to do anything. Just study, get good grades, be the top student. That’s all. Leave everything else to me.”

And she meant it. We never had to worry about household chores or anything unrelated to school. She did all the dishes, laundry, cleaning, cooking, everything. And to get an idea of exactly how much work this was, you’d have to understand that my mother is one of the most obsessively thorough people in the world. She’s a chronic perfectionist. Our home was always spotless, polished, organized. Not a speck of dust, not a strand of hair anywhere. Our meals were always completely homemade, balanced and perfectly nutritious. She never made anything out of a packet or resorted to takeaways. She would allow us a special trip to McDonald’s on our birthdays, so that meant a maximum of 5 times a year—and even then, we’d have to eat at home first so that we’d be too full to indulge in much junk when we got there. I remember being flabbergasted when I found out how much instant or fast food my friends were allowed to eat.

On top of that, my mother maintained what we all believed was a happy and healthy marriage. I honestly can’t recall my parents fighting at all. Or even raising their voices at each other. I remember my mother nagging at my father a fair bit, and complaining to him about us children when we were misbehaving, but that’s it. People envied them for how happy they seemed with each other. But obviously the absence of conflict doesn’t necessarily mean happiness. Big life lesson there.

It’s a cliche, but I wish I had done more for my mother when we were all together. I wish I could have tried to find out what made her truly happy, not just satisfied. I can’t imagine how much pressure must have been building up in her over the years as she fought to hold us all together even when she was stretched so thin herself. I think she tried so hard to be the perfect mother and wife, she almost convinced herself that she didn’t need to seek her own happiness.

Striving to keep yourself happy doesn’t mean being selfish or weak. It’s crazy how society tries to make it appear that way. Sometimes it makes me want to cry to realize how different our lives could have been if my mother had just been happier. If perhaps she had allowed us to share in the weight she was so burdened with for so long.

I love my mother. I wish she had loved herself too.

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