How My Immigrant Mother Raised Five College Graduates

As of today, my mom has raised five college graduates at different levels.

Dating back to the early 1980s, my mom married a man she had never met and had two kids by the age of 25. With two kids clutched in her arms, she escaped the violence, war, and devastation that was brought on by the Vietnam War and then the Cambodian Genocide. Years passed and she would eventually make her way to the United States and bring three more lives into the world.

Here she stood, less than 5 feet tall (unless you count her heels), with five mouths to feed, a few dollars in her pocket, and the chasm of knowledge of this new country she was in.

So how did she do it? How did this young mom with five kids guide them all to be the successful graduates they are today?

Example. Humor. Selflessness.

Led By Example

To say my mom was hard-working would be an understatement. She would put C-Suite executives to shame with her work ethic. One of my first memories of my mom and me together was me sitting on her lap. I remember sitting there, resting my sweaty head on her chest while her arms slid back and forth and her legs bouncing up and down. I didn’t realize what was going on at the time but I later found out that my mom would sew clothes with me on her lap. The gentle touch that I’ve come to adore as a love language was originally passed on to me from my mom because the only way she could make time for her young child and provide for the rest of her family was to do it simultaneously.

As I got older, her work ethic never wavered. She would wake up early to get to the gym at 5 AM and get back in time to go to work as a mechanic shop manager. My mom, a manager at our family business, did this every single day except Sunday up until I was in high school. After work, she made sure we had a hot dinner and that we were all fed, even if it meant she didn’t eat. My siblings and I did what we could around the house; typical chores like sweeping, mopping, and washing dishes. I even helped around the shop and worked as the “runner” who would get parts from our storage for the different jobs each mechanic would do. There I was, a young kid that didn’t even know how to do my multiplication tables, running around an oily, cramped, and noisy mechanic shop to do what I could to help my family.

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