I’m always amazed how being a parent makes us face our childhoods in such a searing and crystal clear way. Through my kids, I’m repeatedly reminded of myself and how I viewed the world at their age. Memories from my youth routinely hit me out of nowhere, triggered by random moments in my kids’ lives.
Life is like a long therapy session. And parenting is one big diary entry. It’s the culmination of our childhoods. Raising kids is an opportunity to instill all the lessons and dreams we want for the little versions of us.
While many women lose themselves during this time, marriage and kids helped me find myself.
Having flashbacks of myself at an early age and how I felt in the situations my kids are going through helps me recognize how my experiences shaped my insecurities. With reflection, I can better make sense of the reasons why I was affected and work to make adjustments.
As an Asian immigrant who came to the states at the age of 6, English was not my first language. I remember sitting in ESL (English as a second language) class, thinking I was funny by writing my name in Korean characters to see if the teacher would know it was me. I was proud of my heritage and resisted switching to this new language called English.
My parents weren’t around when I grew up so I missed out on family conversations where I could learn new vocabulary, have English conversation or learn about current events unless I was at school or a friends house. The lack of family time limited me in learning the language at the pace I wanted.
Just a few years ago I was in the redwood forest with my husband, and we were standing in front of a plaque for a colonel the tree was named after. To another couple, my husband said something about the colonel. I blushed, and as we walked away, I whispered, “David it’s Col-o-nel. Not “kernel.” He looked at me, blank-faced, not knowing how to break it to me that I didn’t know elementary school grammar.
Focus on your strengths, is what we’re told time and time again. But I want to teach my kids we can improve on our weaknesses.
When I was little, I focused on my quantitative skills. I was good with numbers. Years later, after obtaining a summa cum laude business degree from a university, I worked as a public accountant and then in corporate finance restructuring for Fortune 500 companies. I attended a top-ranked business school for my MBA, driven by the need to be financially successful. I was on a mission to rewrite my mom’s co-dependence story of being broken and unable to parent her three kids after her husband died.
Quickly I realized while on this career path, it was not the road I wanted.
I started a lifestyle blog and began writing. Occasionally I would write posts that revealed myself on a deeper level which felt good. And it helped people. But a writer? “No, I’m not a writer,” I said.
When you don’t believe in yourself, you start to suffocate. How can I tell my kids, “You can be anything you set your mind to” if I can’t live by example?
But self-doubt can paralyze us.
“You write wonderful stories, Jen.” I would reply, “Thanks, but it doesn’t happen unless I’m feeling it.”
“Your piece on your work in Kenya was so moving.” I would reply, “That’s because it’s so easy to capture their raw circumstances.”
“The way you write about your childhood is inspiring.” I’d say, “You’d be able to write about yours too if it was as sad as mine!”
I was so conditioned to believing my writing skills weren’t good; I dismissed any identification with it. We do this when we feel inadequate. We try to deflect attention.
I have stories to tell. And my kids are the ones bringing them to the surface. Through them, I see myself, and I’ve realized I want to be seen.
I’ve been an abandoned young girl who grew up on my own with no parental supervision. I’m a businesswoman, CPA, and an entrepreneur who set up and managed my husband’s surgery business. I can analyze your cash flows and give you a turnaround business plan if your company is suffering.
And today, I am a mother of two boys in the most confusing time of their lives: their early teens. I am a wife to my soul mate and best friend. I am an activist who believes that every child should be educated, have clean water and not go hungry. I am a friend, daughter, and sister. I am an influencer.
And I am a writer.