What motivates me to get up every morning? After years of chasing money and prestige, I quietly figured out my purpose, and the tagline of my Peace and Quiet blog succinctly conveys it: “Making the world a better place for my children.”
My mother never wanted kids; she never wanted me. When she was 17, she had me. My Vietnamese name, Tu Nhi, means “firstborn.” I was also a girl, not a boy. I do not begrudge my mother’s honesty. She was too young to have a child; in a way, I took her youth from her. As a mother myself, I understand. I get it.
I vowed not to be like my mother, who was always too busy, too preoccupied, too tired. When I was pregnant with my firstborn child, I desperately wanted to be a good mother. I read manuals on parenting, talked to more experienced mothers, joined support groups, yet I felt insecure about becoming a mother. I have no fear of bungee jumping or speaking in front of thousands of people, but my deepest, darkest fear is that I would turn out like my mother.
Sometimes, I would sit alone in my car and cry, crippled with fear and anxiety. Afraid that my husband and children will see that I am a fraud and a failure. When they were babies, I was afraid that I would drop them, especially when bathing them in a slippery bathtub. At night, I checked on them, afraid that they may succumb to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). When they were toddlers, I was afraid that they may fall into the pool and drown. I never was able to relax when they were around water. As teenagers, I was afraid that they would hang out with the wrong crowd and end up on drugs, vaping, or doing drugs. These fears were irrational and all-consuming, but I did not want to be a ‘bad’ mother.
Nineteen years later, I am happy to say that I did not turn out like my mother. Just like my plants, I cared for and nurtured my three children — twins, Adam and Adrian, and Diana — who are now 16 and 19! They are just fine. I did not drop them. They did not drown in a body of water. They do not smoke nor vape.
Since my children are older now, I have a little more flexibility regarding my path in life. I am exploring all the possibilities. I am not sure if I want to continue with teaching or pivot in a different direction. I do know that my career pivot will involve making this world a better place for my children (and all children). Therefore, I chose Professor Howard Gardener’s quotation to represent my values. No matter what I do or my children do, it has to benefit society. I gently remind my children that their mother was a Vietnamese boat person who emigrated to the United States in 1979, after the fall of Saigon. I was given the greatest opportunity to live in the United States. With that opportunity comes great responsibility.
I am excited for the next chapter in my life.