Marriage is more than romance, flowers and sex. Responsibilities, short and long term, come with it. When a marriage breaks down, both parties have to overcome the emotional problems associated with the break-up and start taking care of the children's welfare.
In cases when the husband has left the wife for another woman, the husband may want a minimal role in the responsibilities of child-rearing as he is more interested in paying attention to his new partner and subsequently, his new family. The wife takes the custody of the children and bears all or most of the responsibilities of child-rearing. She is most often the primary caregiver of the children and she has to bring them up as best as she can despite the hurt she has to overcome.
Teenage twin girls, whose mother single-handedly brought them up with sheer determination, speak of the valuable lessons they learnt from her.
"Mum has been and will always be a big part of our life because of what she has been through with dad and what she is willing to do for us, her four children. She has given us loads of mental and emotional strength as our mother and father. She has become more matured, stronger because of her dual responsibilities. We love her for everything she is to us! Seeing her playing mum and dad at the same time has given us the inspiration to be as strong as her.
"Our hearts go out for her whenever we watch her rushing from handling household affairs to her full-time job that pays rent, food and our expenses. Despite these, she still has to handle us, her stubborn children, with all her tender love and patience. It's heartbreaking to see mum tired all the time and we feel really guilty especially when we quarrel with each other, causing mum tons of sadness.
"It has been hard on her taking care of us all by herself. Although we try to be good most of the time, we are often at each other's throat and become uncooperative to mum. Even when she is very tired after work, she still finds the patience to listen to our teenage problems and guide us in solving them. She is still going through loads of difficulties with us...it's hard for any parents to get in touch with teenagers' feelings. Even so, my mum tells everyone that she is proud of us as we do household chores without her pestering us and we have become very independent.
"When our friends complain about stress and fatigue from studying hard, we're tempted to do the same thing. But, mum's tired face immediately comes to our minds and suddenly we are not tired anymore! It does us good to work hard without complaining.
"Mum is a wonderful friend. She makes an effort to have "gossip nights" with us. They are nights when we have heart to heart talks. Mum has thought us so much about life, it's made us matured and changed the way we look at life. One of mum's greatest lessons to us is teaching us to walk in other's shoes. Recently, a friend hurt our feelings. We lashed out on her in front of mum. She just sighed and slowly, in the gentlest voice, began to help us see our mistakes and talked from the friend's point of view.
"We love and respect her so much for her inner strength and love she has poured into our hearts. If we can, we want to make everyday a happy mother's day for her!
"We didn't arrive at this stage on a smooth road. It took us kids several years before we began to appreciate our mum.
"It was hard for us, right after the divorce, to understand why dad left mum for another woman. We had a hard time accepting the situation. Furthermore, my grandmother and other family members took dad's side. As the Cantonese saying goes, "Fingers come inward towards the palm instead of bending outwards". Grandmother and the family stuck onto this notion and took dad's side - accusing mum of not being a good wife and causing dad to leave us. They insisted, in front of us children, that dad was right and mum was wrong, therefore, it was right for dad to leave mum. They refused to have anything to do with her and treated her as the source of shame for the family.
"Confused by the whole thing, we children too took dad's side and blamed mum. We were uncooperative and we shouted at her. Sometimes, we purposely did things to give her heartache and more work to tidy up to punish her. She, however, never uttered a bad word against dad. She explained the consequences of our bad behavior to us patiently, making us see that it was not to everyone's interest when we acted against her.
"We slowly realized that as much as dad said he cared for us, he hardly spent time with us. He was always busy going here and there with his girlfriend who later became his new wife. One time, he promised to take us for a holiday, then called us to cancel the plan because his girl friend wanted to go to Hong Kong to buy new clothes. We did not say anything to him but turned our anger towards mum. Still, she didn't utter a bad word against dad for disappointing us. Instead, she explained to us why she had no money to take us on a holiday. She had to save every cent for our household expenses and schooling.
"Despite this, we still refused to forgive mum for causing dad to leave us. What finally changed us was an incidence in an expensive restaurant. Dad took us kids out with his new wife. Trying to be nice to us, his wife talked a lot that night. She said that they went to expensive restaurants all the time as she liked classy places that served western food. She asked us if mum took us out to such places and we shook our heads. She took dad's hand affectionately and proclaimed, ‘We bring you to such expensive places because we love you. I'll love you just like your dad. He loves me a lot, see, he just bought me this diamond ring!’
"It was a big ring.
When we went home that night, we saw that mum had spent the whole night fixing our clothes on her sewing machine instead of giving them to a tailor so that we could economise. She looked very tired and worn out. That night, the two of us finally realized what wasn't right - dad had money and time to spend with his wife but hardly saw us even though he said he loved us. Mum had to do so many things at work and home and still gave us all her spare time. Her car is 15 year old but she picks us up daily from school in between all the things she has to do whereas dad's new Volvo has never shown up in front of our school gate even though he has a maid and a wife doesn't go out to work.
"Our teenage minds began to see things differently. When mum forgave the nasty in-laws who practically treated her like a doormat, we began to respect her more and more.
"When grandmother fell sick and ended up in the hospital, mum went to see her frequently. Grandma broke down and wept, finally admitting that her son (my dad) was in the wrong. We thought that mum would take revenge and would lash out at her. Instead mum sat with her for a few hours allowing grandma to cry out all her frustration and hurt. That really made us proud of mum. She forgave someone who had hurt her so much in the past. It made us realize that the only thing we can do unto someone who has hurt us is to forgive them, no matter what.
"Mum has made us realize that life is worth living even though it can be really tough at times. We've to forgive people in order to move on. Mum has also taught us the value of a relationship, be it an intimate love relationship or a friendship. This has helped us reach out to others who are emotionally in need. Our teachers praise us as model teens but we tell them that we are who we are because of our mum."