Parenting · Wellness

Remember What Your Mother Said: 10 Life Lessons From my Asian Mother

My Inay, just like most Asian mothers, is the matriarch of our family. At the age of 78, she is tough as ever,  having survived cancer, a difficult childhood, several financial hardships, and the death of her husband.

Inay at Itay, their wedding photo

Inay is very entrepreneurial and money smart. I can not remember her not having a “side hustle” since we were kids. Maybe Inay invented the term “side hustle” or “raket” as we call it in the Philippines. 

She was a lowly paid government employee who sent her children to private schools, by breeding dogs, buying and selling PX goods from commissary stores at the US Naval base, growing decorative plants, and the list goes on. 

When she retired, she did not take the typical Filipino path to retirement. Instead of enjoying her pension and laid back life, Inay reinvented herself into a full-time realtor. That’s when she made most of her money. 

Inay with my sons

Her example taught me creativity, resilience, and grit. 

This time is a good reminder that the skills and wisdom we need to survive this pandemic, we already heard from our mothers. 

Evergreen wisdom- lessons from our mothers

1. Don’t be selfish. We learned that being selfish, like hoarding all alcohol from the shelves, means more people risk getting infected. So, to save some for others means to save ourselves.

Inay lighting her candles at Mission San Juan Capistrano

2. To be safe – wash your hands and stay at home. 

3. Don’t be wasteful. In the bigger scheme of things, only food, shelter, and medicine are essential. We can do away with a weekly manicure, hair cuts, and sports channels. Without much effort, we immediately cut some line items from our budgets. (Oops, I forgot toilet paper for my American friends.)

4. Clean with lots of water. Speaking of toilet paper, my American husband learned how to use a bidet spray, a common item in most Asian homes. 

5. Learn how to cook well. Cooking is a good life skill. I have friends who use to think that with the convenience of restaurant take out food, who needs to learn how to cook? With limited ingredients available due to shopping constraints, those who know their way around the kitchen have a great advantage. 

6. Be self-sufficient. It gives us a feeling of confidence. When you know how to bake pan de sal from scratch or grow togue sprouts from beans, some things- no matter how little, are within control. 

7. Build margins in our life. Always have cash in your wallet. Have several streams of income. Always stock food in the pantry. 

8. Be organized. It is good to always have staples, flour, baking soda, baking powder, rice, beans, a few canned goods, a bottle of olive oil, and pasta.  

9. Be money smart. Cash is king. When you have money, you have choices. You can choose not to work without the fear of where the next grocery or rent money will come from. 

10. Be humble. We learned that the brightest minds and the most powerful nations can be helpless, too. And that sometimes, major decisions are just based on yesterday’s information– these days, yesterday’s death count. 

Learn how to share, don’t be arrogant, be organized, be economical, self-sufficiency, cleanliness, home management skills- these are things my mother taught me. Timeless wisdom that I can use no matter what life brings. This wisdom is evergreen.

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