My mother came to England from Vietnam when she was about 20 years old. As the youngest in her family, she was left behind when all of her older siblings managed to get visas to live in the US but they couldn’t afford to sponsor her too. She ended up being adopted into her uncle’s family, and moved to England with them in search for a better life.
They had nothing when they arrived, and being an adult she missed the chance to have any British schooling, which meant that she would have to learn English by herself from scratch. She met my father who came from a similar background about six years later, they married, and moved into a small two bedroom flat in a run down part of London. My father worked long hard hours to earn money from his job sewing clothes in a factory while my mother saved every penny they could while struggling to raise three children. We never had any luxuries, but we were as happy as you could be as young kids who didn’t know anything different.
One weekend when I was about ten, my father drove us to the seaside in Kent. My parents had decided to take a huge risk and put all of their life savings into buying a new house for us to live, with enough rooms in it so that they could run a small guest house business. So my life was uprooted and we moved to what was a better neighbourhood but felt like the middle of nowhere to us. We’d hardly been outside of our tiny bubble in London before. My parents did their best to run the guest house as well as they could having hardly ever stayed in a hotel before themselves. When local tourism died down within a few years because of the rising popularity of cheap flights, they also started a restaurant business.
On top of all this, my father even continued to do sewing work for extra money, while my mother saved what she could on labour by doing all of the cleaning for all of the rooms and restaurant by herself. With regret, I can’t say we were too much help during those years. The only job I had was to look after my recently born baby brother. As kids, you don’t know what your parents do for you. We attended predominantly white schools, so we were more occupied with our own teenage insecurities and drama that felt so important at the time but are completely forgotten about now. Maybe it’s because they were busy, or maybe it’s because they wanted to give us a better life, but they never forced us to help them that much with the businesses, nor did they pressure us to get perfect grades in school, unlike other Asian parents.
It turned out to be the right thing to do for us, because we ended up doing very well anyway. We all graduated from good universities, and now have well-paying jobs. My youngest brother, who never knew much of the hardships, is also doing well. The frugal mindset that I inherited from my parents lead to the creation of this blog, and to me being able to save up basically everything I earned for 10+ years through working second jobs, my scholarships, and my career that lead to me starting my business, and several investments we made over the last few years have worked out well for us.
Nowadays, although my siblings and I still work hard, my parents can take it a bit easier and enjoy life more. We’ve made a special effort over the last few years to take them travelling so that they can enjoy themselves, try new things that they never got the chance to, and make fun memories of their own.
Only with the perspective of being an adult looking back almost 30 years, can I now see the huge sacrifices they made for us, and how much I owe them for everything I have and will have. Thank you Mum, thank you Dad, for everything. I love you.
Check out my personal thoughts/stories about this topic in my post ‘On Parents’ via Minimalist Meditations