I would do anything for my daughter. Even if it hurt me, I’d still do it to make sure she has every chance in the world to become what she wants to be.
I had my girl when I was five months shy of my 22nd birthday, and I was but a girl myself. She and I grew up together, and we couldn’t be separated. Well, we could, but my baby would dissolve into sobs, and then cries within ten seconds. I once had my mother baby-sit her while I went on an overnight trip to Macau with a girlfriend, when I felt I deserved a little break from being a young, clueless, stay-at-home mum. My girl would have none of it, and cried eight hours straight until I got back to my family home to relieve my mother of her. Imagine, a granddaughter who wouldn’t let her own grandma take care of her! After that, I never left her again.
But what all parents should anticipate, and what I knew in my heart all along, is that one day it is your children who leave you.
When my daughter was ten, I sent her to live and study in Sydney. I worked three jobs simultaneously, and pulled her out of her international primary school for a semester, just so I’d save enough for that one-way ticket and her tuition. Thank goodness I was still young and could stand the pace. For I never had a husband to shoulder the burden with me. I’d lived my life as a single mum since my daughter was six.
Many criticised my decision, and the rest declared me cold-hearted and unfit to be a mother. What parent could bear putting their child on an eight-and-a-half hour flight alone, to live and grow in another country? If, in the time I had before Australian schools began their year’s second semester, I had been able to save enough for an adult return ticket; I would have gone with her. I couldn’t though. So instead, I worried and cried those eight-and-a-half hours while my baby was in the air, scared of what might happen.
In the months that followed, while she adjusted to a foreign environment, and I adjusted to life without my life’s fuel being around, I had to be stronger than ever before. In those months, when my daughter was too young to understand the need for her to be there, my heart broke everyday as I listened to her sob, cry, and bawl on the phone.
“I want to come home, mummy, I want to come home. Please let me come home.”
My heart shattered.
With no other choice, I had to console and reassure her, saying I’ll see her again soon. Saying she had to be brave, because when she’s older, she’ll value this hardship as what prepares her for her future.
I had to be strong for the both of us; she could never see my sadness, my weakness, or my tears. And when we hung up, and my daughter is still some 4000 miles away, I would cry myself into a deep, dreamless slumber.
With time, my girl grew accustomed to her new surroundings. As she got used to life without mum, I struggled every second of the day with how much I missed her still. Slowly, my daughter grew into her own person, a separate individual from the one who gave birth to her.
People tell me ten-years-old is far too young to send your flesh and blood away, as if it didn’t hurt me to do so.
It hurt me most. I sacrificed being with her for almost a decade of her life, and gave up my chance to see her grow from child to young woman, for the opportunities I hope are available to her now.
It hurt me most. I could not be weak to her, so she could be weak to me.
It hurt me most. I have to watch her live her own life now, when the last 26 years of mine was lived for her.
I am my daughter’s mother, and you may judge me if you wish. But she will never have to work three jobs, and run herself to the ground with 20-hour work days, just so my grandbabies can go to school. I’ve made certain of that. If nothing else, that alone tells me my choices and decisions, however much it hurt us both at the time, were not mistakes.
(When I was little, I felt it was unfair I had to move to Australia, and thought it was too hard for a person my age. Little did I know it was even harder for my mum, who had to deal with others’ judgement for sending me away, to secure a better future for me. She never felt it was necessary to justify herself to these people, and she’s right. I just feel she deserves to have her story told.)