Happy (Tiger) Mother’s Day

Mother's Day Flowers, Credit: ralph and jenny / flickr


Mother’s Day is just around the corner, which means it’s the time of year for flower bouquets, tea parties, and spa dates. But for Asian and Hapa families, cultural expectations make this celebration… well, a little more complicated.

Earlier this week on Twitter, Calvin Ho posed the question:


As Calvin expands on his blog, The Plaid Bag Connection, many of the conventional Mother’s Day treats seem a little ludicrous for your typical Asian immigrant mom.

Even the simple, at-home things these blogs suggest aren’t going to work. For example, I’ve always wondered how my mother would react to the very Western idea of breakfast in bed. Breakfast in bed would completely violate the sanctity and cleanliness of the Chinese sleeping space.

My suggestion? Really, all any self-respecting Chinese (or Taiwanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.) matron could really want is your undying gratitude. That, and maybe a nice spouse and 2.5 kids and a career in the medical field.

Luckily, other tweeters had some more *ahem* attainable suggestions, such as gourmet coffee or a UV blocking visor, which Calvin rounds up here.

In all seriousness, as I’ve had children of my own (and butted heads mightily with my own mother in raising them) and watched them grow, I think I have a better idea of the heart of a mother. Not just a mommy of little kids, but a mother of individuals who have their own minds and opinions that might not be anything like what you hoped they would be.

What every Asian mother wants, I think, is to be understood and appreciated. Their advice may not be endorsed by Doctors Spock, Brazelton or Sears, but there are some nuggets of wisdom mixed in with their sometimes comical advice, of which Audrey Magazine has a great series.

After buying into the new-mommy hype of Mother’s Day (it’s almost as important as the day you gave birth! or your wedding!), I’ve decided I prefer a low-key celebration: a drive through the country and a picnic in a scenic location, or just brunch — okay, and dinner — out with the family. Oh yeah, and if my boys could actually be dressed in clean, matching clothes without any logos, that would be wonderful, too. Maybe we could even take our picture together.

If you are looking for ideas for your Tiger Mother, here’s what I suggest:

Skip the Hallmark store and spend some time with your mother. Drive her to the Chinatown or Asian mall that’s too far for her to get to on surface streets. Ask her how she’s doing and listen to what she has to say, and don’t argue with her non-PC remarks. Actually wear the crazy shirt she brought from her last trip to Taiwan, or go with her to the Coach outlet and earnestly help her decide whether the bag with the big-C’s or little C’s is better.

I’m pretty sure that would make any Asian mother happy.




  1. says

    LOL on the SPF visor b/c an immigrant mom would love that…and a sun umbrella :D. I think “understood and appreciated” is for every mom, but especially for immigrants with US-raised kids. Thanks for sharing!

  2. says

    Great advice. But even for my argumentative, opinionated mother, she appreciates us saying: Thank you … whenever she does something for us…as a mother even though some of us are in our 40’s, 50’s.

    Yes, always a mother.


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