“Why aren’t babies born with their own unique manuals?!” used to be my constant refrain during the growing-up years of Abhishek, my science-loving, planet-conscious geeky son. As infancy, toddlerhood, childhood and the pre-teens of this bursting-with-energy boy, gave way to the tumultuous teenage years, I kept marvelling at the continual learning involved in being a parent – no sooner did I master a technique, Abhishek’s next stage of growth arrived!
Parenting over long distances, when Abhi left for his four years of undergraduate engineering studies for another city, became even more challenging – the added dimensions of missing one’s child, maternal anxiety, and little ‘gaps’ in communication, made parenting seem suddenly more complex. And, as if these were not tough enough, the pandemic has added an extra dimension of complication to the simplest of interactions and decisions.
“Have things really changed greatly?” I found myself wondering recently, after finishing a 15-minute video call with my son, who is currently studying for his Masters’ degree in the Netherlands. I live in Mumbai, India. Google helpfully informs me that the distance between his city and mine is 4276 miles or 6882 kilometres. My head may not quite grasp those numbers, but my heart recognizes the challenge of every little bit of millimetre. As it remembers every day since August 24, 2020, when, mask and gloves in place, this lanky boy-man, weighed down with heavy suitcases, waved goodbye to his father and me at Mumbai airport, to leave for the next phase of his learning.
This, then, is a little “slice of life” glimpse of my parenting story, about the changing equations of long-distance parenting in the pandemic…
Me to Abhi (WhatsApp): Abhi dear, we need to discuss the schedule for payment of your fees. What’s a good time to talk for 15 minutes? I can work with either 7 pm IST or 9 pm IST. Alternatively, let me know your preferred time-slots.
Abhi: *silence for 2 days*
Me: Abhi, hope all is well. I tried reaching you but didn’t get through.
Abhi: *silence for another 3 days*
Me: (Wondering what to do) Abhi, we are beginning to get worried. Please message or call back.
Abhi: (out of nowhere, on Whatsapp) I am fine, don’t worry. The phone was on silent for long durations / I was resting when you had called / I was out when you had called / There was a group meeting when you had called…*insert sheepish and semi-apologetic emoji*
Me: (a bit annoyed – now on a call) You still need to send a message you’re doing OK. After all, there is a pandemic going on. Are you eating and exercising properly? Are you using a face-mask in crowded places in public?
Abhi: Relax Ma, I am almost 23, not 3!
Me: Can we switch to a video call? Haven’t seen you for such a long while! (Mothers, please note – your child may baulk at any expression of sentimentality. Mine does. Any statement of “I am missing you, and it’s been a year since we met” is met with a truly bewildered response of “But I am fine and we are regularly interacting on the phone and over WhatsApp!”)
Abhi: (reluctantly) O.K. if you insist
Me: (after talking for 5 minutes, suspiciously) Abhi, why aren’t you moving the phone to a more comfortable position? Why do I only see a close-up of your face?
Abhi: (grinning, tilts the phone around – the room is in happy chaos and he’s only partially clothed) I didn’t want to scare you!
Me: Abhiiii! Are you 23 or 3 years of age?! Haven’t I succeeded in teaching you anything?! (In high-context cultures like India, parents, particularly moms, are held accountable by society for their children’s quirks, tastes and anything the child does that might be even a little different from the norm. Yes, I know – it’s peculiar.)
Abhi: (laughing) I am 3, I am 3! Who said I was 23?
Me: On a more serious note, won’t it help you to organise your things? And maybe you could wear a vest or a light T-shirt even though it is hot…
Abhi: (sighing) Ma, I need my own space. Don’t worry, I’ll manage. Was there anything else you wanted to talk about?
(Undeniably strong cue for me to drop my current line of conversation – I quickly switch tacks.)
Me: No worries. How have you been enjoying your Teaching Assistant work? Are you learning interesting things?
Abhi: (in a more interested tone of voice) Yes! It’s good and I am reading up on sustainability, in order to answer the questions of other students in the online teaching forum…
As Abhi continued this conversation, I found myself quickly mentally switching from the “classical mother” role to the “friendly parent / peers exchanging updates / teacher learning from a ‘student’” mode. I’ve realised that the classical motherhood tropes that my generation grew up with in India (“Did you eat your food?” “Why are looking so thin?” “Are you studying hard and scoring good grades?”) are almost completely redundant. Our children would rather discuss an interesting video they saw, a meme they chuckled over (Abhi and I regularly swap laugh-out-loud memes on Instagram), or why they think we need to conserve our resources on a war footing. Pandemic or not, daily reminders for careful living will boomerang. And yes, we cannot presume to claim their time, only on account of being their parent – we approach them for a slice of their day with the same courtesy we have for a non-familial, professional interaction – something that amazes the grandparents of our family!
Generation-Z shrugs off the use of labels of age and hierarchy, is unapologetically individualistic, unflinching in its gaze towards the truth of the planet in which we live, and more than willing to take a collaborative stance towards solutions. But provided the older generations are willing to speak in a peer-to-peer voice. With ample space for individual quirks and choices, and mutual respect for all, irrespective of the presence or absence of maternal or filial ties.
I chuckled when my ruminations made me realise there’s just one alphabet differentiating “mother” from “smother”! So now, I simply send a “Are you healthy and happy?” message, whenever there is silence for a while. And he replies with a “Yes” and a smiley emoji. And we both try not to think about when we will meet in person.
Perhaps, the secret to successful parenting over long distances, especially in this global pandemic, is to recognize our shared as well as distinct journeys, laugh over what we don’t control, build our tomorrows on hope, and allow sweet spaces to be interwoven through our conversations and hence, our lives. We live in trust, faith and hope and the acknowledgement of a shared vulnerability. And yes, sometimes, the far-away child will be “3” and sometimes “23” 😊
This was an original post for World Mom by contributor, Piya Mukherjee(India). Photo credit to the Author.
What has your parenting experience been during the pandemic?
My 16-year-old son left for a summer study session this morning, only to message me from the train station thirty minutes later. Oops, it had been cancelled. Now a long day in the oppressing heat and humid hell of Japanese summer stretches long and lazily before us. It is not what we were expecting.
But this has been a long season of not-what-we-were-expecting. Other countries seem to have the pandemic under control. Other countries return to life as normal, but not here in Japan. Life never shut down or locked down to the extreme of other places, but we live long, drawn-out half-lives under continuous states-of-emergency while the Olympics flash on TV. It is not what we were expecting.
We didn’t expect to wake up one day to find school cancelled, and for it to stay that way for months. We didn’t expect to learn the ins and outs of indoor ventilation or the effectiveness of different kinds of masks. We didn’t expect to be separated from our friends and loved ones for so many long, long months while simultaneously being shut-in with our nuclear families while trying to work and study from home.
For me, that became a stream that burst through the cracks of my marriage until the boat was no longer seaworthy. I’d always been what I call a “solitary mom,” since my husband left all of things kids and household to me. Now the kids and the household and the mom are in another building, and all things husband are left to him. It’s not what we were expecting. I wasn’t expecting to start graduate school; that was a dream I’d given up on, but when programs that required in-person segments changed their policies I saw my chance. I’m one term in. So far, I’m doing better than I was expecting.
I didn’t expect that so many old friends and acquaintances would have such different opinions on something as simple as a mask. We’ve worn them in Asia from before. It isn’t new. It also isn’t hard. These old friends and acquaintances are not the people I was expecting them to be.
I never expected to be relieved to the point of tears when my children were able to get an appointment for a vaccination. In this country, very few children have had that chance yet. I am still nervous and worried that something will go wrong with the supply or the appointment system, and they won’t be able to get their second shots. In efficient Japan, this distrust is also not something one would expect.
The anger is new, too: anger at people’s selfishness and silliness that puts other people in danger, anger at the government for not being more decisive, anger at myself for being powerless. It is new but not really unexpected. The unfairness of the world has always made me angry.
Some days I feel hopeless. I want to see my sister again; I want to meet my niece. I want to hug my friends and go for coffee on a cool autumn evening. I want to feel the breeze on my cheeks uncovered by a mask. I want to wear lipstick. I see pictures of friends and families from countries where these things are now possible, and the deepness of the envy I feel is unexpected and takes my breath away.
Beyond all of this, though, I have discovered that I am so much stronger than I expected. I have held the disappointments and the sadness and the loneliness of two little people along with my own, all of this time. But they have so much more resilience than I expected. We are all so much stronger than we were told. We exceed all expectations.
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Melanie Oda.
If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety.
She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother.
You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.
Socially distanced but digitally connected. That pretty much sums up what happened globally when COVID-19 hit us in 2020. Who would have imagined that in order to stop the spread of the virus, we have to isolate at home, get quarantined, and go as far as having lock-downs across cities, states and countries. It was no different here in Singapore.
In April 2020, the Singapore government announced a circuit breaker, a partial nation-wide lockdown, where non-essential workplaces including schools had to close and move online. Prepared or not, eLearning became the default learning mode where students had to quickly adapt to digital learning.
But guess what, our children proved how adaptable they are as they rose to be digital natives like fish to water. I saw my daughter navigating video platforms like Zoom, and Teams with ease and I even had to take a lesson or two from her.
To cope with social distancing, she took to playing games online and chatting with friends on WhatsApp and Google hangout. Entertainment choices were at her fingertips ranging from streaming channels, YouTube, Spotify and the list goes on.
While I saw how technology was a saviour to keep us entertained and socially connected to the world outside, it could have potentially been a curse if there were no ground rules with a free for all pass. It is one thing to read news and articles about how technology can draw us and suck us into our devices, making us oblivious to the ones next to us, and it was another to see it unfolding in my family.
I was particularly disturbed that it drew us apart as a family because we were so caught up about being connected with everyone else online. What an irony.
So even though I saw many benefits from a digital lifestyle, enough was enough and we decided to dump our devices and head outdoors instead. We picked up cycling as a family and explored places on our wheels. We cycled on familiar routes in the city and got more adventurous with longer routes along the coast. It was refreshing for body, mind and soul and became a new family activity that we looked forward to on the weekends.
Being in a lock-down made us appreciate nature so much more and it was a much needed respite with all the negative news on escalating COVID cases here in Singapore and around the world. Our weekend cycling adventures gave us something to look forward to and it bonded us tighter as a family of three.
It made me realise that even though our children may appear to choose their devices over us, it’s up to us as parents to draw the boundaries and offer them an alternative. An alternative which the whole family can be involved in while building deeper connections. An alternative that is healthy, wholesome and it never hurts if it’s lots of fun too!
Parents, let’s win the war to win the hearts of our children to strengthen and protect our parent-child relationship instead of leaving them to their own devices, literally. In a world where things have thrown us off balance, we can be the stabilising force in our kids’ lives to give security and hope as we look forward to the day when we stamp out COVID.
What activities did you start with your family during COVID-19?
Susan is from Singapore. As a full-time working mom, she's still learning to perfect the art of juggling between career and family while leading a happy and fulfilled life. She can't get by a day without coffee and swears she's no bimbo even though she likes pink and Hello Kitty. She's loves to travel and blogs passionately about parenting, marriage and relationship and leading a healthy life at A Juggling Mom.
Truth is, if you had told me a few months ago that I would be writing a health and wellness story right now, I would have answered you with a great big “Srsly? Well, here I am, seriously writing that health and wellness story.
I spent most of 2020 quarantined at home with my family in the Philippines, working from home while trying to keep up with all the cooking, dishwashing and laundry that needed to be done. Everyone at home helped out, sure, but we all know that doesn’t make any of this any less tiring, right? But a mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do, and so I did.
It was only towards the end of the year that I began to realize just how stressed out I had become. I was constantly hyper-acidic, my hair was falling out like crazy, and my eczema decided to join in the fun, too. I was also starting to become cranky, short-tempered, and really unpleasant at times. And it dawned on me – I was trying so hard to take care of everything else, that I had failed to take care of myself. Don’t get me wrong, I was (and still am) getting a lot of love and care from the people at home, but it’s different when you actually take the time to take care of yourself, too. Self-care is something that only you can give yourself, and it really does matter. I understand this now.
Enter 2021. I started the year determined to make some sort of change, though back then I had no idea what it would be. I started by upgrading my fitness tracker so I could start logging my steps, and monitoring my heart rate and stress levels. I began taking walks, too. Every once in a while I would go online to try and find some form of exercise routine that I could do (and not hate) at home.
Now, you need to know that I do not have the greatest relationship with exercise. I’ve never found it to be fun, and it’s one of those things that I have always tried to avoid. So of course I was rejecting every potential home workout I saw online. Until one day, I chanced upon the post of a friend on Instagram, and she was doing this poi-like, dance-y flow routine with a rope. It actually looked like fun. So I did some research, checked out our local rope flow community online, went ahead and got myself the cheapest flow rope I could find, and set out to learn the basics.
At first, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to learn. I have some dance background, so my coordination is not that bad. And I played a lot of jumprope as a kid. Well, I was wrong. Rope flow challenged everything from my concentration to my coordination to the flexibility of my entire body. My non-existent stamina was put to the test, and I literally felt muscles in my back and shoulders that I never knew were there.
After weeks of huffing and puffing, and buckets of sweat, I could finally pull off three basic moves, not at all gracefully. There’s video proof on my Instagram in case you’re interested! I put in so much work, and progress was slow. But surprisingly, I was having fun.
Rope flow hour became my me-time. It was a chance for me to step away from the computer, get some fresh air and sunshine, and just de-stress, while spending time with myself. I got to dance along to music that I loved, and just be carefree for a few minutes each day. It felt fantastic. And my body was feeling fantastic, too – Less sluggish, more energetic, more focused even. A friend said soon I’ll be skinnier, too, but that, for me, would just be icing on the cake. I had already gained so much from rope flow, and that was more than enough.
Now, for the first time in my life, I have an exercise routine that I don’t want to quit! I’ve even gone as far as to share my progress on Facebook. And that’s when our founder, Jen, saw me rolling my rope, and asked me to write this post. As of this past June, I am 3 months into my rope flow journey. I now can do all of six moves, but am learning more each day. I’ve started joining spin classes, too, but that’s another story for another post.
I may not be the best person to talk about health and wellness because I’m not the most active, and I eat what I want, when I want to. But then again, maybe that does make me a good fit for this topic. Because if I can do it, anyone can. If I managed to take that first step, everyone can, too! Health matters so much right now, especially when we have our families to care for. As moms, we need to remember that we can’t take care of our family unless we take care of ourselves first. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to them, and we deserve to be healthy and well.
What activities are you doing to maintain your health and well-being?
This is an original post by Patricia Cuyugan of the Philippines.
Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker from Manila, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching a K-drama series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs.
The first time I traveled out of my country was in 2013. Jennifer Burden, Founder of World Moms Network, celebrated. She couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. I went to Chicago to collect the BlogHer International Activist Award on behalf of World Moms Network (at that time we were still World Moms Blog). That trip was life-changing.
Less than a year later, I went to Brazil on a reporting project, also representing World Moms Network [WMN]. It was my third time out of India. Jen sent me a card that said, “Report your heart out.” The words have stayed with me ever since and every trip after that continued to be life-changing.
Now the world has changed and travel is restricted.
As I write this from India, we cannot travel to the next block or even the supermarket. So what of travels on planes or cars or trains, or even trucks?
From an early age, my father used to take me on trips all over India, a few times every year. We used to attend a lot of the Heartfulness events, which happened all over India. I enjoyed not just the pleasure of a trip but also connecting heartfully with new people. Being part of events and celebrations, and networking with people for a purpose, for altruism, for serving humanity has always been part of my life. Perhaps being part of the World Moms Network, is a naturally joyful process because of that lifelong experience of trying newness, initiated by my father.
So, traveling to the USA, or the UK or Brazil, and other countries was an extension of my childhood. The evolution of learning; the journey of growing as a person; the joy of seemingly tiny moments, continued.
Traveling is a privilege not a necessity.
Let me make a few things clear before I continue. First, I was not born into privilege but to a middle-class family. We saved money for our travels across India. That felt important to my father and as an extension to us. Second, now that we travel outside of India, we still save money, because that continues to be important to us as a family.
Also, I would like to point out, if you make intelligent financial decisions while planning travel, you can make it more affordable.
Also, for those who have challenging financial situations, I am not saying it is imperative for you to travel to find meaning in life. I would never say that. That would be thoughtless. I am not one to judge anyone. I am merely sharing my heart, my experiences, and my joys.
Traveling has made my heart softer.
Though not born into privilege, I lived in a very privileged atmosphere within my family, with all my needs fulfilled as well as some wants, and even a few luxuries. Though we were just a normal middle-class family, we were also content, satisfied, and always joyful – my father made sure of that. So, I have never had a need go unmet.
These days, every time I come across a mother in the slums, I am constantly reminded of Adrianna from Brazil, whom I met during one of the reporting trips. I wonder if all her 11 children are fed and receive an education. I wonder if she has a good job. I wonder if she is happy. I wonder if she had any more children. It makes me think of not only her but also about many other people Around the world.
I also think of Karma, the guide I met in Bhutan. He told us that, at the juncture of every Buddhist shrine, he is going to pray to Buddha so that he gets admitted to a university in Paris for his postgraduate degree in tourism. I wonder if he got in, and if he did, what is he doing now? And what happened to him when the world went into lockdown, with the tourist industry being the worst affected of all.
Just before lockdown, my family and I traveled to Egypt. In Luxor, we met Abdul, our guide. He had just had a baby and was always impatiently (and endearingly) waiting for us to wrap up our day, so he could rush home to his wife and baby. Where are they now? How are they managing their livelihood?
Traveling makes us think.
It expands our horizon; it helps create empathy; it has made me care more. I care for Abdul’s family. I care for Karma’s aspirations. I care for Adrianna and her babies. But I also know that my caring for them alone is not going to help them. A larger force is necessary for the world to get back to normal, to defeat that tiny microscopic invisible virus, now mutating into other variants.
Traveling instills joy.
And now, not being able to travel, has made life very different. I look for joy in other things. I have discovered the joy of long walks. During the beginning of lockdown, there was just a ban on international and domestic travel but we could still move freely within the city and state. I used to go walking here in Chennai by the banks of the River Adyar. I spent nearly 2 hours every evening, walking beside the river. The narrow dirt road, the setting sun, the buffaloes bathing in the river, cranes and a few exotic seasonal birds hopping by to say hello, and me listening to my favorite Laurie Santos podcast. Now, even these are nostalgic these days.
Finding joy in other ways
On Thursdays, I would take my weekly WMN Editors’ call as I walked. Sometimes I would have just returned from my walk, with a fresh mind and joy in my heart, I would bond with my WMN girlfriends over a cup of hot ginger chai. On other days, I used to walk my feet off, and it felt good. Walking was my substitute to travel, it felt like trekking or hiking. But now, with my state entering complete lockdown, I miss my walks too. I miss the goats and buffaloes walking towards me and meeting occasional friends on the walking trail.
One thing I have learned through all the travels, through all the walks, through all the lockdowns—which India is now so famous for—is to be in the HERE and NOW. To be present. The planning of the relaunch of the World Moms Network was the highest point in my life. I say the highest because I was at my lowest possible and it was these wonderful women from WMN who perked me up EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. That gift was the most important for me then. The relaunch? Yes, of course, now that Is also a gift but the invaluable presence of the planning phase was when I felt the greatest joy.
Have you ever experienced the joy of a trek? I have. When we rowed the Phewa lake in Nepal and then trekked over a hilltop. We took breaks in between to drink chai from the village chai shops. When we finally reached the top of Peace Pagoda, it was like deja vu. I am sure you understand that. The joy of the journey of the NOW was the greatest. The sights and sounds and smells of the NOW were more precious than any future sightings of a heritage site.
Traveling has made me appreciate the power of the now.
But what of the NOW we are all going through? I will not be surprised if I feel nostalgic someday about the NOW of the pandemic. I already missed my girls last Thursday, when we did not meet (because of conflicts) for our editorial meeting.
What else will I miss? Surely having my son around all the time. He is having a great time with two monitors attached to his laptop—one with online chess and the other with online school—as I holler in the background to close the chess window and focus on the school. I am sure I will feel lonely when he is back to full-time school and away from home for 8 hours.
It is best to stay here and enjoy and be grateful for all that I have now.
Yes, I do miss traveling but I think I enjoy drinking chai every evening with my neighborhood girlfriends on the terrace of my house. And no trip can replace the soul-stirring conversation we have every day.
Travelling gives me joy, zest, but this lockdown has given me so much rest too. It makes me take leaps of faith into the unknown. Lockdown has restored my faith in humanity too when I witness so many random acts of kindness between strangers. Travelling has made me realize that I know so little of this whole world and that there is so much more to know and experience and eat and see and do.
But this lockdown has also made me realize that I know so little of myself, of my family, of what we can do together when cooped up in a house for such a long time, of all the loves and joys we derive in each other’s company.
So, as I wait patiently, to start traveling again and to start walking beside the river again, I take a few deep breaths and let go…of myself, so I can enjoy the present and experience the joy of the NOW.
Purnima Ramakrishnan is an UNCA award winning journalist and the recipient of the fellowship in Journalism by International Reporting Project, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Her International reports from Brazil are found here .
She is also the recipient of the BlogHer '13 International Activist Scholarship Award .
She is a Senior Editor at World Moms Blog who writes passionately about social and other causes in India. Her parental journey is documented both here at World Moms Blog and also at her personal Blog, The Alchemist's Blog. She can be reached through this page .
She also contributes to Huffington Post .
Purnima was once a tech-savvy gal who lived in the corporate world of sleek vehicles and their electronics. She has a Master's degree in Electronics Engineering, but after working for 6 years as a Design Engineer, she decided to quit it all to become a Stay-At-Home-Mom to be with her son!
This smart mom was born and raised in India, and she has moved to live in coastal India with her husband, who is a physician, and her son who is in primary grade school.
She is a practitioner and trainer of Heartfulness Meditation.
When you walk down the street, can you tell what nationality I am? Can you tell from the color of my skin that I’m American, besides being Asian? Or even more so, an Asian Jew?
These questions may not enter one’s mind in passing, but don’t we all have preconceived ideas about anyone we see on the street? This week’s shooting resulted in 8 deaths, six of whom were Asian women. A 21-year old white man in Atlanta, GA was the perpetrator. Racial issues have become much more pronounced and how could they not? Almost daily, we hear of shootings and other killings, whether here in the US or abroad. Terrorist-driven or not, the issue of race has been the common denominator for it.
I may not look American (what does it even mean?), but I came to this country as an immigrant and received my citizenship when I was 15 years old. My parents left a dictatorial regime to live in a country where freedom was embraced. Their bravery to escape the ideals they couldn’t accept and leave behind their families gave us the opportunity to dream and exert the freedom that wasn’t readily available to them.
Was it an easy transition? I naively thought it would be. Since I was educated in English, I didn’t think I would be noticed, and for a while I wasn’t. My high school and college years were pretty uneventful. I had friends and was socially active in an environment that was culturally diverse. My friends were Irish, African-American, Italian, Indian, White, and Filipino. While we all came from different races, we never considered ourselves as different; that was one of the reasons I never thought I would be singled out or stereotyped, but two incidents would change how I saw myself and how others saw me.
My first encounter was while I was searching for an apartment after moving out of my parents’ home. As a young adult who had just landed her first real job, I thought it was time to be on my own. Looking for an apartment was far from easy and I was willing to commute. My apartment search took me to New York City but the rent was not affordable for me at the time so I ventured to search in Brooklyn. It was while I was walking around my prospective neighborhood where I encountered my initial brush with racism.
As I was being shown around the neighborhood by my prospective housemate, I noticed two young women coming towards us. Not thinking anything of it, I kept walking on the sidewalk until I was almost face to face with these women, then it happened. As they were about to pass me, the one closest to me pushed me onto the street with oncoming traffic. Had I not caught myself from falling, I might have been hit by a car. I was shocked and taken aback because I had no clue why I was pushed, other than the fact that this young woman didn’t like the way I looked.
The second encounter happened as I was waiting for my husband to come out of a meeting. As I stood there, one of the men who had just come out of the same meeting started a conversation with me by asking what my nationality was. When he found out that I was Filipina, he asked if I was a mail-order bride because he was waiting for his bride to arrive in the US within a few weeks. After the initial shock of being classified as a mail-order bride without knowing who I was, I became angry. I informed him that I had been a New Yorker for most of my life as a US citizen and I was not a mail-order bride. My anger dissipated after a few minutes because I realized that this was just another stereotype that’s been projected via presumption of someone coming from a low income country. It’s an unfair assumption that Filipinas who come to the States are here to get a husband and become a citizen. In addition, the perception of Asian women to be fetishized by men like the murderer in Atlanta is demeaning and misogynistic.
While it’s true that there are women from the Philippines who come here to make a future for themselves or their family, making that a reality is through education and finding a job, not procuring a husband. Yes, there are women from the Philippines and other countries whose goal is to find a husband in order to provide for their families back home, but that’s not every woman. The women who were murdered in Atlanta were targeted by this man as a result of his own warped perceptions of Asian women.
Attacks on Asians have never been as visible or prevalent until the pandemic, and these recent attacks have become deadly. According to a New York Times article this past week, “In December, slurs about Asians and the term “Kung Flu” rose by 65 percent on websites and apps like Telegram, 4chan and The Donald, compared with the monthly average mentions from the previous 11 months on the same platforms, according to the Network Contagion Research Institute. The activity remained high in January and last month.” Pointing the fingers at Asians for the existence of COVID-19 combined with forced locked down for a year has made it convenient for so many to spew hatred on them. Even more disturbing is that according to NBC Asia America,”The research released by reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate on Tuesday revealed nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over the course of roughly a year during the pandemic”, 68% of which were reported by women.
As a woman whose daughter is Filipina and White, I have encountered some other stereotypes that nowadays, just make me shake my head. Questions like “oh are you her Mom?” when at a cash register paying for something or the look from me to her, wondering whether I’m some relative, makes me want to scream, “can’t you just keep your thoughts to yourself?”, but alas, there is always someone who makes unsolicited comments.
The shooting in Atlanta has made me realize how far we still have to go. Targeting races that are viewed as Other or Non-White is not new, given the history of slavery in this country. There are still inequalities in jobs and pay experienced by those who are not considered “white enough” or are a woman. Not everyone I meet will know my nationality right away, and it shouldn’t matter, but given the violence perpetrated by this past week, I’m not so sure.
My daughter has never experienced being stereotyped as a result of her race. I pray she never does, but in these uncertain times, who knows who will be targeted next? For people like my parents and so many others who came here looking for freedom and a chance to have a better life, the events this past week are a reminder that one’s race shouldn’t be the litmus test of who deserves to live in this country. Just like my parents and so many immigrants who defied all odds to come to this country, I will not be defined by my race because I am more than what you first see. I’m a human being…and Asian, shouldn’t that be enough?
Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. PinayPerspective.com is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for BlogHer.com and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.