“When you become a mother, you only get to eat the leftover food that your kids don’t like to eat, and those food include the driest part, least juicy part of the meat, and the leftover vegetables”, a colleague of mine said.
“Come to think of it, we, as children, may mistake that our parents favourite food as what we don’t like to eat because they want the best for us and do not mind eating the leftovers.” another colleague added.
I couldn’t recall what led us to this conversation over lunch (at our favourite dining area), but this casual remark hit me hard. All this while, I thought my mum was either on a diet or simply prefers to eat more vegetables than meat and as she claims, she only eats chicken parts that have less meat and more bones.
I was born in a wealthy family in Malaysia and my dad runs a family business. As a child, I always got what I wanted, money was not an issue for us. But life isn’t always a bed of roses. When I was 10 years old, my grandpa was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer. In seek of the best medical advice, we decided to send him to Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore for cancer treatment. Back in the old days, insurance wasn’t commonly introduced, and hence, my parents wiped out all their savings to pay for grandpa’s medical fees.
After a surgery as part of grandpa’s cancer treatment, dad decided to stop working to care for my grandpa who needed 24-hour care. That’s when my mum stepped up and took over the responsibility as the sole breadwinner for the family. Back in her time, while the society was biased against women taking charge in the workforce, my mum worked extra hard every day and night to earn her promotion so she could earn more money to provide a better life for us. After years of juggling between family and career, she put herself under tremendous stress and eventually fell sick. Countless of sleepless nights, and the pressure from work had caused her to suffer from serious hair loss, migraines, and major skin problems. I’m guilty that I failed to notice my mum’s unseen struggles when I was younger. If I have known earlier, I would not have asked for a happy meal from McDonald’s every Sunday morning, neither would I have asked for beautiful dresses or all the stuff my friends had owned for my own vanity.
Today, her hard work has paid off. My mum has achieved what she strived for in her career, she has reached a higher management role in her company with a pretty decent income.
Despite being a high-income earner, my mum still maintains the same lifestyle, she still wears the t-shirt and shoes she got from the “pasar malam” (night market) at RM10. I remember asking my mum why don’t she spend some money on the clothes she wears? “I’ve never needed expensive clothes; you guys were the motivation for what I’ve achieved in my career now. To see my children growing up, doing what they love, staying happy and healthy is what matters most to me”, she said.
Since then, my mum changed my perspective and values about life and money.
“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and dealing with fears you didn’t know existed.” — Linda Wooten
The one incident that changed my life
Growing up, having the thought that my mum will always be my safety net, I pursued a career that did not pay a stable income here in Singapore many years back. One day, I received a message from my landlord reminding me that my rental was 3 weeks overdue. At that point of time, I only have less than S$50 in my bank account and all I could think of was to reach out to my mum for help.
“Ma, can I borrow $1000 from you?” I texted my mum.
Within a minute she replied, “Is $1000 enough? Don’t eat Maggie mee (instant noodles), I’ve transferred $3000 to your bank account, call me back.”
At that very instant, I broke down and cried. I felt extremely embarrassed and regretted every decision I’ve made that has resulted in me not having any savings or a stable income which worries her. That night, we both didn’t sleep.
From that day onwards, I promised myself that I will never walk down that path again. I don’t want to be the reason my mum couldn’t sleep at night. And that is how I started my journey in wealth advisory.
My mum has a great impact on what I am doing right now, and she always tells me,
“Everything you do right affects everyone. Kindness spreads, always do the right thing with a kind intention.”
I hope this article reminds us of how noble our mums are, and here’s wishing Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there!
This is an original article written by Joyce Chng, Associate Adviser at Providend, Singapore’s First Fee-Only Wealth Advisory Firm.
For more related resources, check out:
1. Story of Evelyn: From Kampung Peddler to Deputy CEO of Providend
2. On Life Transitions, Legacy and Money
3. Life Planning, Going Beyond Financial Planning
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