The roles we women MUST take up, translated…
After the family gathering, my mother-in-law started doing the dishes in the sink, “Mom, just leave it for May to clean!”, my husband’s older sister called out to her.
During the New Year’s, my eldest daughter helped out with the dishes, my mother-in-law told her, “Don’t do it, leave it for your mother to clean!”
My husband’s eldest brother’s daughter dropped off a huge cart of tomatoes, my husband’s older sister called, “Go tell auntie, to divide it up.”
After the holidays had ended, I’d dropped my son off at the train stations, “Mom, take good care of dad!”, that, was the words of my son.
In the conversations, May, mom, and aunt are all the same person, a woman who didn’t know barley from wheat, who couldn’t tell the differences between a leek and a chive, the youngest daughter who has absolutely NO clue of where her family field was—me!
And still, I’d married into a strictly patriarchal agricultural family, and, I didn’t know their house rules yet, I’d interjected into my husband and my father-in-law’s conversations, and, I saw my father-in-law, lifting up his head, turned his head away from me.
When I was pregnant with my firstborn, on the way home, I’d gotten into an argument with my husband, I’d rode out on my motorcycle, I didn’t see my husband search for me, because he must hurry into the kitchen, as my in-laws are about to return from working in the fields.
The fifty day after I got out of the hospital from having my firstborn, my mother-in-law told me to cook whatever I wanted for myself. And, every weekend, the entire family would head out into the fields, leaving me and an infant, at home, preparing the foods, at which time, I had to carry my son on my back, as I busied about in the kitchen, and at the same time, I’d also had to put on hot water for bath. My husband who’d returned home from the fields, saw how ashen my face looked, couldn’t get a handle on the tasks, laughed and called me “Cinderella”.
And, New Year’s were even WORSE a nightmare, my husband’s married aunt and sisters returned home, along with the relatives that came by to visit, it’d kept me kitchen-bound from New Year’s Eve, until the fifth day after the lunar calendar New Year, was I able, to make my way back to my own home again. Had my friends known about how I’d spent my New Years, they would’ve called me “grandma”.
I don’t know, that in this family, if I am being counted on, being used up, or being belittled? I just recalled, how one time as I busied myself about in the kitchens, and my father-in-law came in from the fields, and called me by my first name, I was so moved that I’d started crying.
It’s been over twenty years now, and, during this time, I’d complained, hated, despised, cried out loud, and, what did it change? Nothing. Changing others’ behaviors is basically impossible, all I could do, was to keep changing myself, keep suppressing myself, and keep telling myself: that there must be a woman who knows her place, working at home, without any word of complaints. The Chinese character for “Security” is just like so, isn’t it? And I am, that woman, that sits underneath that great big roof!
And so, all this woman wanted, was a little extra appreciation, a little MORE kindness from her husband and his side of the family, but, did she get it? HECK NO! They’d still treated her like a maid, and, because she’s raised by the traditional Asian ways, she could only SUCK it all up, well, it might be that way for the older generations, but, NOT for us, this newer “breed” of women who are