Back to You


My mom is a very simple woman. She doesn’t dress fancy, doesn’t even shop, doesn’t have hobbies. The thing is, I don’t think she was always like this. In fact, I know she wasn’t. Every couple years at a wedding or something, I’ll hear snippets of stories from her college roommates/friends about when she wore miniskirts and when she’d like to go dancing. Somewhere along the way, it faded, most definitely caused by her responsibility to her family and the family she was creating with my dad… me and my sister. But I know the vibrant, talkative, bright-eyed woman is still there.

In recent years I’ve had an ongoing issue with my mom.

My mom has dedicated so much of her life to raising me and my sister. When she had me, her brain and her heart were re-wired to always think of us, save for us, spend for us, provide for us first and foremost. But I am no longer the infant, the 9-yr old, the college student needing everything in the world from her. I’m always telling her, she has nothing to provide for me anymore. I haven’t needed her money for awhile. I live far away, on my own.. It’s time for her to return her life to her life. Whenever I bring this up, she seems so confused, almost lost, like she doesn’t know what she could do. I tell her to spend money on herself, explore what she wants, and that she no longer needs to consider me anymore. She dedicated a great portion of her life to me, and I want her to go back to what it was like before I took over. But this is so difficult for her to change, and I realized, this isn’t her being stubborn, but actually, this is just how much she loves me. As a mother, it is now hard-wired in her to provide for her son and family. There is no other life, and even if there was, she doesn’t want it back. She lives a completely selfless life now. She finds purpose in giving to me, and my telling her it’s no longer necessary is actually sad to her, not liberating.

This is something I feel is probably very common in my parent’s generation. They grew up in a time when they weren’t allowed to think of their own dreams, their dream was just to start a family and create a better life for their offspring. It was a selfless time because there weren’t the luxuries and freedoms that I and our generation grew up with (and somewhat takes for granted). Think about how “lost” and “troubled” we are in our teens and twenties. Our parents went through the same thoughts and emotions, on top of the world and cultural issues of the time, immigrating, starting a new life. We can’t even come close to comprehending what they endured.

So perhaps it’s not that she doesn’t want to return to a past life and mentality… it’s just that she doesn’t even know how to. It was too long ago, too different, literally another life. How do you return to something that essentially doesn’t exist anymore.

So I’ve eased up on pushing her. Now it’s not about returning to the old, but starting something new. I buy her new shoes and clothes since she won’t get it for herself, I encourage her to try new things, and do things for herself, but in the meantime… yes I’d love to have some fruit cut for me, yes I’m keeping warm when I sleep, yes I’ll take this $50 bill. I love you mom and everything you’ve done for me, starting even before I was alive.


Whenever I visit home, my mom tries to give me as much space as I continue to do work out of my bedroom. Every few hours she knocks and walks in w/ some type of cut fruit, this is all she can really contribute now, and I love it.


46 thoughts on “Back to You

  1. Being 22 Years old in my Chinese household, my mom still constantly calls me on the phone to remind me that sometimes it’s okay to not be the top. And although that’s all she can do for me because I’m living in the dorms, it’s enough to get me by, and I don’t mind her continuing to do so. Thanks for sharing this post, Phillip. Made me think of the ongoing issue I had with my mom when I tried pushing her away awhile back. Happy mother’s day, to her and all the wonderful moms.

  2. I still need my mom too much. She always says that she’s happy if we are happy. She has done so many things for me… and still does. 🙂

    Your posts are always so touching. Thank You 🙂

  3. I couldn’t help but smile when I read this. My smile grew bigger when I saw the plate of cut fruit. My mom is similar. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

  4. so nicely written… she did a great job with you then!
    it’s the same with my mom, different country and background though. I was wondering – what about the dads from the story? my dad has plenty of hobbies and I picked some of his… while my mom didn’t seem to really have time for that or didn’t want to(?) She even told me the exact day when she realized she has no hobby, no true passion for an activity… Life changing moment indeed. Happy day!

  5. Phil, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears while reading your post. I don’t always get along with my mom but deep down I know that everything she does is for me and my siblings.

    This part is so true: “They grew up in a time when they weren’t allowed to think of their own dreams, their dream was just to start a family and create a better life for their offspring. It was a selfless time because there weren’t the luxuries and freedoms that I and our generation grew up with (and somewhat takes for granted).”

    My mom (and dad) are both so selfless. And I feel selfish and guilty sometimes because I have my own dreams and they don’t seem to understand why I have these dreams. It’s a work in progress to convince them to think about themselves, and not always about us.

  6. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Phil definitely put it better than I could!

    Though I’ve already thanked my mother (and my father) multiple times today and throughout the years, I think this piece is something that other people might appreciate and identify with as well.

    Happy Mother’s Day all ❤

  7. That’s so sweet Phil. Now that I’m reaching an age where I will start supporting myself, I don’t know what my parents will do now! I know how you feel–I want my parents to experience more of life for themselves after having nothing else to do but take care of their children. Bless you and your family. ❤

  8. i know exactly what you mean about the “not shopping for clothes” etc and basically losing interest in life 😦
    you go phil

  9. I’ve freshly moved away from home bc of my studies and I’m dealing with the same thoughts right now. I know that my mom was very sad about me moving away especially bc I just got back from my year abroad.
    My mom has never told me this in person but I know that she misses me a lot. Now I want to make sure that we have the quality time she deserves whenever I can come home and I’d like to show her more that I care about her.

  10. Lol… I found out recently that Chinese people used to crank out as many children as possible because it was their retirement policy. My great grandmother had 13 children. Only 3 of them survived childhood, but that’s a whole different story. I guess that doesn’t really stop my mother from loving me and I’ve been struggling through the “distancing” phase for years. She definitely realizes that her children took away any other life she would have had and she makes it known! And now, given the chance to start anew, I guess you’re right when you say she has no idea where to start or how to do it. I recently got her a smart phone… something she has repeatedly rejected when asked (probably for fear of having to paying for one so I didn’t ask this time) and it seems like she’s enjoying it a lot since she has a few friends to send recipes to. I’m happy she’s using it and annoyed when she tries to show me everything on it but it’s ok.

    Anyhow, I just went on a rant up there. All I wanted to say was Happy Mother’s Day and I could use some tips from her on how to cut fruit so evenly.

  11. This made me tear up reading it because I know exactly what you’re saying. I’m in the exact situation, though I haven’t done as great of a job showing my appreciation. Your story reminds me to always appreciate how much both my parents have done for me, even through all the arguments and tough times. Great post Phil!

  12. I’m leaving for university next year, and your post really reflects how I’ve been feeling about my mom. She got married and had me pretty early in her life, and in a way I feel slightly guilty for stealing her away from her friends and life before me. This translates to constant frustration at her for not re-adopting all those connections now that I’m old enough to fend for myself. Your post made me realize that this isn’t always possible… thank you.

  13. Totally relate to your story! Enjoy while you have her, she won’t be around forever. Learn to be patient and understanding. I miss my mum and realized how much she did and sacrificed for all of her children. Wish I could show her more how much I appreciate it when she was alive.

  14. Phil,

    She sounds like my mom and many other dedicated moms. This is what I did for my mom. I suggest you do the same for you mom. First, I see her as often as I can. I pay close attention to her; I listen to her words and observe her actions. I take my mom out to restaurants weekly to places she likes. I talk/chat with her. Second, I take her to malls and shopping plazas. Even thought she would never spend money to buy things for herself, I do see how she looks at certain purses or shoes. I would purchase those same items that she admire the next day, and give her the gifts WITHOUT receipts so she can NOT return the gifts. Third, each year I would do some home remodeling for her. All moms like new, clean kitchen. Casually, I asked her if she can do one thing to her kitchen, what she would like to have done. I do that for each room. Over the years, when my parents go on vacation, I plan my remodeling weeks ahead. They always come back with a surprise. It may be as simple as have someone steam clean the carpet or change the outdated drapery. It can be as grand as remodel the entire kitchen. I look for things that I think would make her life better. The most recent remodel was a walk-in tub so she can take relaxing showers and baths while sitting comfortably.

    If there one thing you do for your mom, it’s simply spending time with her. Now, I have a family of my own, I still see my parents weekly, sometimes twice a week. I make sure I bring my kids with me to see her.


  15. This struck a cord, because my mum was exactly the same, but she died too young. She died just on that cusp of me working for the first time and starting to be able to spoil her in a way she would never ever do for herself. She gave too much of herself to me and my siblings. She left us without having gained any of herself back. For that I have a lot of regret and sadness at her “soullessness”, because I knew there was more to her then meets the eye.
    For those who still have their mums, treasure all the moments and spoil them – Phil is right, that generation is so selfless to a fault, time to show them a good time.

  16. Phil! The best thing you can do for your mom now is just spend time with her! Take her out shopping, to eat, for fun, etc!

  17. what a lucky mom 🙂 you are so lucky to have such nice mom. I know my mom feel the same way, but we are having misunderstandings and a lot of arguing these past few days. I know I’m a cruel daughter and because of this I think I don’t love her anymore. It troubles me because after all she’s my mom and I should love her because she loves me. now, i’m making her a mother’s day card and a birthday card.

  18. It’s cathartic and kinda funny at the same time how similar your thoughts are to mine. I just gave my mom a tight hug.

  19. I love this post, and I love my mom just as much as you do your’s. [Though I’m tempted to say ‘more than’ but well.]

    What you say about your mom applies to mine as well.
    My mom, she does have hobbies, she loved sewing, she loved decorating, when I asked her what she would have dreamed of being if she didn’t have to stop work to look after us when she was younger, she said an Interior Designer. We heard about her younger days where she was courted by national swimmers and soccer players. Where she wore mini skirts and hung out with a big group of kids. But now, my mom doesnt socialize. She doesnt like talking about her private life. After my dad left, she lived her whole life for us. She taught herself to use Microsoft Office so she could get administrative work. She worked not just to put 3 kids through school, but to provide us to the best she could. it was tough raising 3 school going kids who were 5 years apart from each other.

    When we all graduated and finally went out into the workforce and she started to relax a bit more and find a little more time for herself, she was hit by cancer. I had just started my first job, and I regret to being there 100% of the time for her. She recovered, and is now cancer free, but my guilt is still stuck with me. I organize Mother’s day and whole day celebrations for her Birthday every year as a way to show her how much I love her, but as Asians, we don’t actually say that.
    I realised that my mom has recently started saying that to us, when we leave for work, “love you!” she says. But I cant bring myself to give her a response which I know I’ll regret one day.

    Well.. I’m turning a comment on your post into my own blog post now with all the words I’ve typed out. So I’ll just end off and say that yeah, my mom gives me my space as well when I’m in my room, whether I’m gaming or doing my own work. And she occasionally knocks on my door and brings a plate of cut fruits in for me. Mothers are truly the best. 🙂

  20. i argue with my mom about this type of behavior because it hurts me to see her care so much about me. i feel like i am holding her back from possibilities. there’s this conflict in me every time i see her because i appreciate everything she does for me but she just can’t do everything for me anymore. and when i look into her eyes, sadness overcomes me… because i can see that she worries about what will happen when she’s gone and it’s just… me.

  21. phil you are so sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet~~~ yeah, at early years, i kind of took it for granted. then i grew up and realize what they have done for me. in my childhood, in my teen years, and my college years and now. seeing them happy and healthy are the most rewarding things, as i still can not do a lot for them:(( some communication patterns from the last over 20 years are hard to change, but we are both trying to get closer to each other, and it is really nice~ phil~ you easily make one wants to fall in love with you~~ at least i do :))) hahahhahaa

  22. Because of your dad, your sister and you – your mum changed. Character evolution is natural and a process of life, so I bet there is nothing more in her life that would make her more happy to see you guys, her family, the much important ones in her life, to grow, live and be happy too.
    Nothing in the world would she not do to ensure everything is the best she could do for her family (try not to forgot to love her every single day of your life). This is who she is now so no matter how much you persuade her to spend, explore and find out about the ‘outside’ world she wouldn’t be too interested because she already has what she needs and wants.
    She would rather spend 7749 nights at a 1 star motel with you than 1 day with the Queen in the Hamptons. All she needs and wants is to hear, even better see, even even better know you more. This women has spent her life to hear, see and try to know your needs and wants -now spend more time with her to spend, explore and find out more about this crazy world together to find hers.

    Maybe she just desires so diced fruit salad or a home cooked soup bowl brought to her room for once.

    It’s your turn 😉

  23. Thanks for the awesome post Phil. Tugged at my heart strings. I love my mum alot for many of the many things you touched on. It’s time to tell her I love her more often and take care of her as she has been taking care of me my whole life.

  24. Just doing a marathon here of your blog, Phil… not sure if you’re still reading all comments especially on old posts but going to comment anyway. Anyway, I’m currently going through the same thing, which is why half the people comment, right? The thing is, I went even further to preserve her youth? When my mom first came to Canada after jumping off a boat and becoming a refugee etc etc like everyone else’s parents – she was welcomed in a small town near Toronto by the nicest people, the kindest people she ever had the fortune to meet, and as a young lady she had her best years there. So very recently, I planned a family trip up there hoping to bring those nice memories back, make her happy in seeing that place again. And you know what? After 30 years the whole place had changed, the people she went to school with and worked parttime with all had moved, and the house she used to live in and place she used to work in were all replaced by new places. I did my research beforehand, I promise, but it was hard. It was a lovely trip nonethless…

    And there was my mistake – I had no empathy and no understanding of what my mom’s life was and has been like at all. Once your life takes a turn like getting married/having children, your goals change entirely, and neither you or I will understand that til we have our own children. And there’s another thing too – us millennials are obsessed with traveling, and when I think of how much traveling I do I feel guilty about my mom never having seen anywhere. I’ve seen half the world… and now that I’m trying to get her to go places with me, she’s like… not that into it? When we were younger we said we’d travel the world if we won the lottery, etc… and now I’ve got an amazing job, we have time, and I want to bring her everywhere, but she’s not that hyped about it. Why?

    I’ve spoken to peers about this, older people about this, and they’ve all told me the same thing: it’s all about perspective. She’s just not in the mindset to go. I don’t know whether to feel sad about it, because what’s there to be sad about when my mom’s just accepting it as part of life? She has no large yearning to go, but I really really want her to see things and travel… there will always be this divide in mentality, this new generation that’s so incredibly different from the previous one. Especially in Chinese/Asian families.

    And you’re right, trying new things and starting new things is the way to go. Introducing things slowly, because disrupting their lifestyles can be destructive and uncomfortable for them.

    Though, about the travel thing, my mom wants me to go places. And I feel guilty. But my friend told me something a couple weeks ago that gave me a lot of peace: if you had kids and they were growing up, learning about the world, what would you want for them? You would’ve sacrificed so much effort for them by then, but still, you’d want them to see the world, even if it were without you.

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