Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – Review & Personal Reflection

The author, Amy Chua, and I have a lot in common. We are both Chinese-American women with respectable careers, married to American men, and born to parents who immigrated from China to America. Now that I am a parent, I am also able to relate that aspect of her life on a more personal level. Although I didn’t have tiger parents myself and don’t intend on strictly using the “Chinese” method of parenting for my children, I appreciate the way Amy Chua depicted the contrasting belief systems about parenting between Asian and Western cultures. This book depicts her parenting approach but also reveals how she was unexpectedly humbled by her daughters in the process.

Amy Chua with her husband, Jed, and her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, and their two samoyeds, Coco and Pushkin

When Amy described her parents’ experience of coming to America for the first time, I was also reminded of my parents’ story.

“With only their student scholarships to live on, they couldn’t afford heat their first two winters, and wore blankets around to keep warm. My father got his Ph.D. in less than two years and became an assistant professor at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.”

I stayed with my grandparents in China for two years while my parents got settled, before my dad came back to bring me to America. My dad told me recently that is one of his biggest regrets, and he still wonders if leaving me impacted me and made me feel abandoned on a subconscious level. My mom had to waitress without a work permit in order to make ends meet, and my dad completely switched majors in order to get a better paying job for our family. Even though we were poor for a long time, my parents made sure I never went without, and I had no idea.

“We started off as outsiders together, and we discovered America together, becoming Americans in the process.”

I acclimated to living in the United States much faster than my parents did, due to my young age. But I still felt like an outsider along with my family for a very long time. We looked different, ate different foods, and spoke a different language at home. At times, I resented my family for not being more American, eating pizza once a week or having a family beach house instead of traveling to China to visit relatives. I was embarrassed that my parents had an accent and often made grammar mistakes when speaking English. What I didn’t realize was that their accent, and all the accents of first generation immigrants, symbolizes the adversity they had to endure, and the obstacles they overcame through sheer determination and hard work to get to where they are now.

“Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery. Those are people who crossed an ocean to come to this country.”

Only now, as an adult, have I come to realize how unique and precious my childhood was and how hard my parents worked to give me everything I could ever want.

When it comes to marriage, I had always assumed I would marry another Chinese man, mostly because my friends were predominantly Chinese. However, my husband appeared suddenly in my life at precisely the right moment, and we both knew right away that our fates were sealed. Amy Chua expounds on her feelings toward marrying a non-Chinese person below.

“A tiny part of me regrets that I didn’t marry another Chinese person and worries that I am letting down four thousand years of civilization. But most of me feels tremendous gratitude for the freedom and creative opportunity that America has given me. My daughters don’t feel like outsiders in America. I sometimes still do. But for me, that is less a burden than a privilege.”

I have to say that I have similar sentiments as Amy. Even though I have no regrets about marrying my husband, the fact that he is from a different culture and doesn’t speak Mandarin creates more of a challenge to preserve my Chinese culture in our family and with our children. However, he brings an equally diverse background to our little family, and we are able to incorporate the best parts of both of our cultures into our lives. He is also working diligently to learn Mandarin since we are planning for our children to be bilingual.

Although the book details many of Amy’s seemingly harsh methods for parenting her daughters, it also includes a great deal of humor. She is quick to poke fun at and point out the absurdity of some of her own ideas when it comes to her children.

“I wanted her [Sophie] to be well rounded and to have hobbies and activities. Not just any activity, like “crafts,’ which can lead nowhere—or even worse, playing the drums, which leads to drugs—but rather a hobby that was meaningful and highly difficult with the potential for depth and virtuosity.”

Despite the fact that Western and Chinese parenting contrast in many ways, it is indisputable that in both cases, parents love their children more than anything and strive to give their children the best life possible. Even though the journey may be different, the end goal is the same.

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

 

My husband and I on our wedding day, along with my dad, mom, and brother

 

 

✿ Katie ✿

How to Be Successful at Online Dating

I am by no means an expert at online dating. But considering that I met my husband on a dating website, I must have done something right.

An NPR article published a few years ago reveals that Asian women and Caucasian men are the most favored demographics when it comes to online dating. In that regard, my husband and I did have an advantage in the online dating sphere. However, the number of people who are using dating websites to meet new people is now higher than ever. It gives you an opportunity to interact with people you may never have met otherwise in a safe environment.

Obviously, I cannot guarantee that you will find a lifelong partner on an online dating website, but these tips will help you to utilize this tool in the most effective way possible.

    1. Spend time on your profile

      Your profile is the only way other people can learn about who you are, so use it to express yourself! If you only spend 5 minutes on it, no one will be able to get a clear picture of what you’re about, and it will seem like you’re not serious about meeting anyone new. Talk about your likes and dislikes, your childhood, your occupation – whatever you feel like represents the person that you are. Try to incorporate your sense of humor into the answers as well because that can be an important compatibility factor.

    2. Answer as many questions as possible

      On websites where compatibility is determined through the answers you give to questions (OkCupid, eHarmony, etc.), take the time to answer as many questions as possible. Although it’s not imperative that a couple has everything in common, it certainly provides a starting point, especially for things that are not negotiable. Which leads us to…

    3. Spell out any non-negotiables clearly

      Either in your profile or in the first few conversations that you have with a new person, make sure they understand what types of things you are not willing to negotiate on. These things may include religion, drug use, or anything else that you may feel strongly about. Have these things out in the open early on so that if an incompatibility does exist, no more time is spent on getting to know the wrong person.

    4. Post multiple photos of how you currently look

      We all want to put our best face forward when it comes to posting pictures, but using an outdated photo that does not accurately reflect how you look will only create problems down the road (unless you intend on having a purely online relationship). Use pictures with good lighting and taken from flattering angles, but don’t use a photo that is ten years old or 40 pounds off from what you actually weigh. Posting more pictures will give other people a better idea of what to expect if/when they meet you in person and whether or not they are attracted to you.

    5. Send meaningful messages (quality over quantity)

      When you find someone that you think you may be interested in, don’t be afraid to send them a message. The worst thing they can say is no (or don’t respond). The first impression message is a pretty big deal. As they say, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. The first message should NOT be “Hey, what’s up?” or “I like your pics.”

      First, let the other person know that you took the time to read their profile. Talk about the things you liked reading about them and why you think the two of you would be a good fit. Keep it lighthearted, add some humor, and don’t ramble on for too long. At the end of the message, ask some easy follow up questions, such as “I see you like to run. Have you participated in any races?” This will make it easier for them to have something to write in their response and will also show them you are interested in learning more. Keep asking questions in subsequent messages to keep the conversation flowing as easily as possible. You can suggest moving the conversation to text or another mode, if you feel comfortable.

    6. Don’t get ahead of yourself, be realistic

      Don’t get your heart set on a specific person prematurely. Just because you may think you’ve met your soul mate after reading their profile does not mean this is necessarily the reality. Try not to get overly attached to the idea of a person that you may have conjured up in your head before actually getting to know the person. Be open to the idea that this person may not be exactly what you are expecting and to take things one step at a time.

    7. Arrange to meet as soon as you feel comfortable

      It’s definitely a good idea to keep interactions online-based in the beginning, for safety reasons. Be sure to look out for red flags that they’re not being honest and don’t proceed if you have any doubts. However, once you feel comfortable enough, arrange a meeting in a public place. The longer that you talk to a person via messaging or even on the phone without meeting them, the more likely you are to form an unrealistic idea of them in your mind – one that they couldn’t possibly live up to. In a lot of cases, you will have a much better idea of whether or not the relationship could progress after the very first meeting. If you realize after the meeting that they are not what you are looking for…

    8. Be honest if you aren’t interested, don’t lead them on

      Don’t string someone along just because you are scared to hurt their feelings or reject them. Making them think something may happen when you already know it won’t will be much harder to deal with in the long run. Be nice but direct and tell them that you have enjoyed getting to know them but don’t think the two of you are compatible. Don’t feel guilty about being honest about your true feelings.

    9. Be patient

      It can be easy to feel frustrated after not finding anyone that you click with after a few months of trying. Don’t give up. These things can take time, and you never know when you might meet the person you spend the rest of your life with.

    10. Don’t be ashamed to tell people you are dating online

      Using an online dating website does NOT mean you are desperate, unattractive, or unlovable. Thankfully, the stigmas surrounding online dating are beginning to disappear, but some people are still hesitant to reveal that they are online dating or that they did not meet their spouse the “natural” way. With technology advancing at lightning speed, meeting online is becoming the new normal. When I was contemplating trying online dating, the question that I kept asking myself was, “If I were to meet my spouse on a website, would I be upset that this was the way that we met?” My answer was always a resounding NO. Given the choice between meeting my spouse through online dating or not meeting him at all, I think most people will agree with my perspective.

Good luck with all of your online dating endeavors. Have fun and stay safe!

 

✿ Katie ✿

5 Tips for Having the Best Pregnancy Experience

The fact that we, as women, have bodies capable of growing a whole person inside of us is a miraculous thing. There’s nothing quite like seeing that line appear on the first pregnancy test, and then taking ten more tests just to be sure.

As amazing as our bodies are, the nine month process of making a baby doesn’t always feel amazing. Here are some ways to make the pregnancy as enjoyable as possible.

  1. Get comfortable!

    Carrying around 30 lbs of extra weight is not my idea of a good time. It’s hard on the joints, the back, and it can really affect sleep. Rest is so important, especially in the final few months, when fatigue really hits and relief can be so hard to find. A body pillow, like the Leachco Snoogle, can be a lifesaver to provide support for an aching, pregnant body. I even brought mine on vacation at 37 weeks pregnant! This pillow isn’t cheap, but it can also be used as a nursing pillow. And dogs seem to love it, so there is that.

    As clothes start to feel tighter, it can be hard to justify buying maternity clothes. After all, who wants to buy clothes that can only be worn for a few months and are not cheap at all? If possible, look for second hand maternity clothes on local buy/sell sites. They are often in good condition and priced very reasonably.

    Regardless of price, I would absolutely recommend investing in a wire free bra and a pair of full panel jeans/shorts. The underwire in your bra will start digging into your growing belly, and having a comfortable, wire free bra will make the biggest difference. Be sure to account for your growing breasts and size up if needed. For pants, I highly recommend the full panel style to fully support your growing belly. I tried using a belly band to extend the wear of my pre-pregnancy pants, but every time I bent over, my pants were on the verge of falling down, and that was not very attractive or convenient.

    My favorite stores for maternity clothes are Motherhood Maternity, Old Navy, Target, and H&M. Wait for a sale to stock up on some cute pieces!

  2. Be prepared, but not too prepared.

    I am a researcher by nature. If I am traveling to a new city, trying out a new restaurant, or gearing up to have a new experience (i.e. having a baby), I like to be as prepared as possible. Everyone has probably heard about the book, What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It can be a very helpful resource for a new mom and provides a breakdown for every month of pregnancy. However, it is extremely dense, and not a very easy read, since much of the information won’t be relevant. It serves a better purpose as a textbook to reference when faced with a specific question, rather than a book to read cover to cover. Some of the dangers mentioned in the book can be overwhelming, so take in the scary-sounding information with a grain of salt and be sure to use other resources as well.

    A book I found much more useful was Expecting Better by Emily Oster. Rather than accepting the rules at face value (no sushi, no alcohol, no caffeine), she delves into the research as to why pregnant women are told these seemingly random rules and the risks involved if these rules are not followed. Many of these guidelines are outdated and have no scientific basis.

    For dads who feel unprepared, The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash, is a great option. The book answers a lot of questions that fathers-to-be may have on how to be a supportive partner during pregnancy and a father figure to the baby, without all of the specifics of physical changes that are included in books geared towards women.

  3. Try not to worry.

    The moment you become pregnant, the worrying begins. And, I hate to tell you, it doesn’t ever go away. Starting with the first trimester, I constantly worried about having a miscarriage. I visited this website on a daily basis to see as the probability of having miscarriage decreased slowly as the weeks passed. I celebrated viability day at 24 weeks of pregnancy, where the baby has at least a 50% of survival from then on.

    After I began to feel the baby move, I monitored the baby’s movement and did kick counts as if I had the sole responsibility for detecting if something may be wrong. On top of that, there’s the fear that I may fall and hurt the baby or get into a car accident.

    There is SO MUCH pressure on the mother!

    It’s more or less impossible to not worry about the little person inside of our bellies, but try not to be consumed with these thoughts, especially when so many things are out of our control. Instead, focus on the positives, such as getting the nursery ready, washing and putting away baby clothes, and taking full advantage of all the free time you still have. This is the perfect time to go on fun dates with your partner and to catch up with old friends.

  4. Don’t let guilt get the best of you.

    As I slowly stepped onto the scale at my monthly OB appointments, I found myself holding my breath, hoping that the weight that appeared had not jumped up too much from the previous time. The doctors and midwives had mentioned to me that the rate of my weight gain was above the ideal trajectory. To decrease the likelihood of having an oversized baby, they suggested increasing my level of physical activity, as well as avoiding the consumption of: white breads & pastas & potatoes, fats, sweets, sugary drinks, artificial sweeteners, and even fruits that are high in sugar!

    I nodded in agreement but in reality, I wanted to say, “I didn’t avoid these things before I got pregnant. What makes you think I can avoid them now?”

    It’s okay if you can’t always muster up the energy to exercise your tired, swollen body. It’s okay to use food as comfort when you’re having an especially bad day. It’s okay if these habits are causing you to gain more weight than you should. Growing a person is hard work, and you deserve a break every now and then!

  5. Find a community

    Going through pregnancy for the first time can be confusing and lonely. I had so many questions that I couldn’t always find answers to by Googling but that didn’t seem important enough to ask my doctor. Luckily, I was able to find an amazing community that I am still a part of, four months postpartum.

    I joined the subreddit r/BabyBumps on Reddit, which is an awesome place for pregnant women to ask questions (What does an epidural feel like? What should I put on my registry?) or to share about their pregnancy excitement (first positive test, ultrasound pictures, nursery decor).

    There are also offshoot subreddits based on the month and year of your due date. I joined the r/JuneBumpers2017 group, and I got connected to hundreds of women around the world who were going through the same thing at the same time. It was incredibly helpful to have so many people to turn to and commiserate with. At one point, one of the members of JuneBumpers2017 created a Facebook group, which was a lot more accessible and easier to navigate. The group is still extremely active, and we are continuing to figure out this motherhood thing together.

    If you have friends who are also pregnant or have kids, connecting with them is a great way to form a community. But for those of us who don’t have that kind of support in our “real lives,” I would highly recommend seeking out one online.

 

 

✿ Katie ✿

Hot & Sour

This blog came about when I asked myself the question, “What am I passionate about?” I have a lot of roles that I play in my life (wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend), and I work a full time job as a scientist in a pharmaceutical company, but what are the things that make me come alive?

I made a list of the things that define me and that I enjoy doing, including my love of writing, and I realized that starting a blog would be the perfect creative outlet for these passions of mine. The purpose of writing down my ideas and experiences would not be to make money or gain a certain number of followers, but rather to create a space where community would develop naturally.

As I’ve gotten older and have more responsibilities, community is something that often gets pushed to the back burner, but it is an element of my life that I so sorely miss.

My hope for this blog is to provide content that is interesting and relevant, with a focus on my unique family, while encouraging conversation personal exchanges within this community. The word 家 in Chinese means family, both my own and the family I hope to create with this blog.

The name of this blog symbolizes a Chinese dish that has its roots and beginnings in China, featuring authentically Chinese ingredients, but it has evolved into a widely accept American dish, kind of like me.

✿ Katie ✿