My mum is a typical housewife of her generation, but definitely a very hardworking and virtuous wife and mother, by our society's standards. My memory of her is full of how she would wake at 5am and worked non-stop at home cleaning, washing, cooking and caring for us kids. With a household of 4 small kids, we kept her really busy and she often had to stay up till 1am to finish up laundry which she hand washed in those days. We were too poor to even afford a washing machine.
I remember nights when mum would iron our school uniforms though dad told her not to bother as we were kids and wouldn't care whether we had neatly pressed clothes or not. I guessed he was partially right as I would have cared since I was already self-conscious at very young age, but my 3 siblings probably wouldn't. Mum wouldn't listen and just pressed on with the ironing though she was tired. She often said how she couldn't understand why some mothers would let their kids go to school with wrinkled clothes or white uniforms that were full of stains. She would painstakingly scrubbed our white uniforms every other day till they looked as good as new. So I grew up with neatly pressed clothes though we were poor. To mum, how a child is dressed and looked after, reflects a lot on the parents. By that, she never meant expensive clothes, but never shabby either. So by October every year, she would have taken us shopping at the neighbourhood shops for new dresses, shoes and bags for the Lunar New Year. We ended up admiring our new clothes for a full 4 months before we could wear them.
Few weeks ago when I was ironing the kids' clothes late one night, I recalled an incident when I was small in our tiny rented AMK flat, sitting on the floor watching mum ironing our clothes. That nostalgic feeling almost choked me and when I quickly recovered, I felt a sense of warmth and realised how my mum had shaped me in this way and many others into the mother that I am today. Though I was tired physically from caring for the boys, there are some things which I won't compromise. I know E will probably say the same as my dad did, that the kids won't care and I know it is true. But like my mum, it matters to me that my boys are appropriately attired and would never let my boys out of the house wearing their pajamas, or stained clothes. Definitely no wrinkled clothes (of course, emergencies are exceptions)!
I also have this thing about clean floors. I realised today that it must be my dad's influence. I shudder when I think of the dust and germs on dirty floors and always make sure that my kids are playing on clean floors, even when at home. So I uncomplainingly clean the floors daily in a very self-motivated manner. It is silly to some, I know, but I care about it and that is it. Dad used to go nuts over how my siblings and I were shabby in our efforts to mop the floor and insisted that we cleaned the floors daily. Mum used to say that a clean house must have clean floors, so of course a dusty house with not-so-clean floors reflect poorly on the wife/mother in the house, that she must be lazy and/or unhygienic or just not bothered enough.
There are many other influences which I won't go into tonight. But unknowingly, because of Ma and Pa, I ended up being quite particular about many aspects of the housekeeping and upbringing of my kids (and hence giving myself more work, especially now). If I were not, I guess I could just let things go and have a messier house, dirtier kids (someone told me recently that kids don't need baths everyday or change their clothes everyday, yikes!) and piles of dirty laundry and dishes etc and still feel good about myself.
I am definitely no Stepford wife material. I can't clean the house and bake muffins for neighbours and still wear my pearls and always appear in dresses and pencil skirt (think Bree in Desperate Housewives). But I am house-proud and take pride in being a good mother and hopefully, also a good spouse.
I can't helped but wonder what of my qualities will I impart onto my sons and how they would end up being influenced by my idiosyncrasies. I hope they will be grateful like I am.