I wish I could feel loved and safe around my family. Unfortunately, this isn’t my reality, and will never be; even if a genie would grant me a thousand wishes. The irony of how the father’s failure led to his son’s – towards the women in their families. The amount of traumatic experiences that ran through this chauvinist family could never be compensated, no matter how many happy memories that came after.

The Son

Being the eldest son in the family, dad had most things going his way. Active in sports and a good career, things were going well just the way he envisioned it to be. 

Yet he resented his father. Though the reason was never explicitly spoken, it is assumed much was due to the way my late grandpa handled the family.

How Grandpa Treated Grandma

You see, grandpa was controlling, oppressive and emotionally abusive towards his family, especially my grandma. He would control her going out and coming in, guarding her every move. 

I remember speaking to grandma about this and she told me that she doesn’t even know how to take the bus and is afraid to step foot outside of her house as she doesn’t know the way around. Imagine her staying in the same housing area for more than 10 years, yet she is clueless of how to navigate her way around the neighbourhood.

Since his death, grandma has felt lost with a myriad of questions she constantly repeats. I feel sorry for her, well aware that these are the fragments from grandpa’s controlling behaviour upon her.

History Has a Habit of Repeating Itself

The resentment was bad enough for dad to avoid family gatherings every Chinese New Year. 

Growing up with a troubled man that neglected his family at best for a father, dad strived to provide my sister and I the best possible education and to expose us to other skills like horse riding, piano and guitar lessons and even art. He ensured we grew up reading English books and speaking only English at home. 

Little did he know, what we needed as a family wasn’t materialistic ventures but emotional support and connection from him. Both of which were painfully absent from our lives. When dad lost his source of income and had to cease operations for the small printing factory he was running, things gradually turned bitter. 

Being the quiet father that he is, he never spoke of his emotions. Yet we could tell that he was struggling. The more he tried to conceal his emotions, the worse it became. His expression of unhappiness emerged in hurtful ways.

I still remember the times when I could hear the breaking of a mug all the way from my room upstairs. Or that I would wake up to a dented tile on the kitchen counter, or a broken chair with one of its legs missing. 

Watching from the sidelines, I often wondered how my mother could endure so much pain and carry on with a smile plastered on her face the next morning.

The Pain Mothers Endure

I finally understand now. 

Like grandma, mum is physically powerless in her own home.

Like my grandma, mum chose to stay because of us – her daughters. 

I have since left home. Looking back now, it is crystal clear that through those difficult years at home, mum was the anchor for my sister and I. Though she wasn’t perfect, she tried her best to offer us comfort when we were emotionally beaten by dad. Her wise words have stayed with us till today and will continue to do so for many years to come.

Despite the fury thrown at her, she continues to choose my dad too everyday. She believes her faith in God will show her a way and this keeps her going. 

If the genie could grant me just one wish in this lifetime, I would wish for mum to be dissociated from the abuse and finally see an end to the domineering and imbalanced household roles. I wish she can finally achieve actual peace in her heart.

Rethinking Our Role in Our Own Homes…

As I reflect on the life of grandma and mum, I can’t help but wonder if it is time for women to rethink our role in our own homes. Should women really be that powerless within our own homes? Why do women tolerate physical or emotional trauma in the name of domestic harmony or the expectation of ‘a good wife’? Don’t we all live but one life, deserving better?  

I believe it is time for women to take active roles in decision making in our homes. There ought to be a shift towards balancing domestic power to mitigate dominance and abusive behaviours. 

Be a part of the TAW Community! A space for Asian women to connect, to voice out, to laugh, to share experiences and to bounce life’s question.

Click here to join!