• March 2015

What Makes Our Moms Truly Amazing?

By Eurah Lee
Host
Millennials Radio Show

This month in the Millennials magazine column, myself and two other students who are part of the Inkandescent Internship Program explored what makes someone truly amazing — by interviewing our mothers.

After all, we know these women are truly amazing. But what impresses them?

As it turns out, while our mothers come from different countries, and today live in different parts of the world, they have similar thoughts on what it means to be truly amazing, and what they want for their children.

Scroll down for our three Q&As — mine with my mom, Billie Kim; Jonathan Nichols with his mom Bonnie Nichols; and recent college graduate Juliana Rodriguez, who is now the assistant editor at InkandescentPR — with her mom, Maria Rodriguez.


Eurah Lee’s mom, Billie Kim

Occupation: English teacher in Seoul, South Korea

Married? Once before, for 12 years

Number of kids: 2

Where did you grow up? I spent half of my childhood in Busan, South Korea, and the other half in Springfield, Virginia.

1. What does it mean to be a Truly Amazing Woman? And, do you think you are truly amazing?

Billie Kim: A truly amazing woman is someone who has her own career. She is a woman who is not only successful, but also has a lovable personality. And, no I don’t consider myself truly amazing. I’m not that rich and I’m not that successful. I just have a normal life. I’m not that much of an amazing woman.

2. When you were my age, what were your biggest challenges, and are you still struggling with them today?

Billie Kim: When I was your age, I didn’t have any big challenges. I just wanted to play around with my friends and finish college. I wanted to finish school as quickly as possible, today, too. (Currently, my mother teaches English in South Korea.)

3. What were your dreams and goals? Did you accomplish them?

Billie Kim: I wanted to be a photographer. I wanted to travel the world and take pictures. I started to accomplish my goal, but I didn’t finish it. I began as a wedding photographer.

4. How do you think my life is different than yours was? Is it easier or harder for us in terms of pressure, opportunities, technology?

Billie Kim: My parents were really Korean and really traditional. So, they wouldn’t let me do anything. They didn’t support me in my dreams and they didn’t want me to go around the world. My parents weren’t as open-minded; they just wanted me to get married and have a family. I think it’s easier for you guys. That’s why I raised you so you could do whatever you wanted to. I always let you go wherever you wanted to go. I didn’t want to raise you like my parents raised me. I’m never against whatever you’re doing. I just want you to be happy.

5. What do you think my future will be?

Billie Kim: I think your future will be wide-open. I think you will be successful because I know how smart you are and I know that you are trying hard at everything you do. You are not a lazy kid who’s sitting around — you’re not that kind of person. You want to do anything and everything, and you always want a challenge. That’s why I know you will have a big, bright future.

6. What are you most concerned about for me?

Billie Kim: My biggest worry is that I don’t have enough money to support you or make you happy or make your life easier. I wish I had more money so you don’t have to worry about it until you reach your goal. I want to support you but I cant.

7. So far, have I lived up to your hopes for what I’d become?

Billie Kim: Yes, you have lived up to more than my hopes.

8. What is the biggest thing you tried to teach me? How am I doing?

Billie Kim: Manners, and how to socialize with people. But now, you are really well-mannered and I’m really happy with the way you are.

Eurah Lee’s reaction: I thought I knew everything about my mother and the way she felt about her life today. I never once doubted the fact that she truly is the most amazing woman in my life, but simple questions like these can have any daughter, son, intern thinking that “the definition of a truly amazing woman can only be seen through the eyes of her child.”

Looking back to my childhood, I never knew exactly why my mother was the way she was. Why she was always so lenient, letting us do whatever we wanted or go wherever we wanted? Hip-hop dance lessons for four years? Go for it, I’ll pay for it. Guitar lessons? If you want to learn, I’ll find an instructor. Backpacking in Turkey? Go explore the world.

Every decision I made, every risk I took, every mistake I dwelled on, my truly amazing mother was always behind me to push me back up.

She has always been beside me, like a friend, and in front of me, to lead me to the right path. My mother never failed to surround me in her love and support, no matter my early and elongated rebel phase. She says she is not a truly amazing woman, but she also lies about her own age.


Jonathan Nichols’ mom, Bonnie Nichols

Occupation: Cashier

Married? Yes, for 35 years

Number of kids: 2

Where did you grow up? Primarily Whittier, California, until I was 12 and then in Redwood City, California, in the San Francisco Bay area

1. What does it mean to be a Truly Amazing Woman? And, do you think you are truly amazing?

Bonnie Nichols: I guess it would mean someone who succeeds on all fronts in their life. Who succeeds in career, succeeds in raising children, succeeds in giving back to society, and succeeds in making the world a better place. I don’t consider myself that.

2. When you were my age, what were your biggest challenges, and are you still struggling with them today?

Bonnie Nichols: I think when I was your age, meaning when I was a student, that was pretty easy because I always did well. When I graduated from college, being an English major and not wanting to get a teaching credential and teach because it wasn’t a good climate at the time in California, my challenge was finding something that I wanted to do, finding a career. Once I found something, I did management-training programs out of college and that got me into the insurance industry, and then I went into HR. The biggest challenge there was the fact that I had to do a lot of public speaking and that was something that I wasn’t comfortable with, and so I had to overcome those kinds of limitations.

3. What were your dreams and goals? Did you accomplish them?

Bonnie Nichols: I think for me to use the word “dreams” doesn’t apply, because that’s just not the sort of person I am. But I did have goals that I wanted to achieve: I really wanted to get married and have a family and raise kids and be able to be with them in a way that my mother was not able to be with me. My mother, from the time I was probably 4 or 5, worked out of the house and we had a series of, they used to call them housekeepers, who would stay with us all day and would essentially fill in the place of a mom.

First of all, because that was very unusual in that era — you know, this was the 1960s — I felt kind of different because of that, and I also felt somewhat neglected. I never wanted to have my children feel that way. I think I accomplished my goal there. It was a big thing for me because I was a middle child and was left on my own a lot like a latchkey child. I had to take care of my brother and that kind of thing. I didn’t care for that.

4. How do you think my life is different than yours was? Is it easier or harder for us in terms of pressure, opportunities, technology?

Bonnie Nichols: I think information technology is just incredibly different. When I was in college we used typewriters. There were no computers; there were no cell phones. I think technology makes your life so much different than mine was. I mean we had TV, but not even color for quite awhile. I actually think it’s harder for you now in terms of pressure.

When I got out of college, if you had a college degree and you presented yourself well, you would have an opportunity to be in a management-training program and get on a management track. That kind of stuff has almost disappeared. So for someone like me who had a liberal arts degree and very limited work experience, it was a great opportunity to be able to go into a professional job right out of college. I think that’s different now.

I think that things are very competitive now, and I think you have to be a lot more focused and organized then you had to be 35 or 40 years ago.

5. What do you think my future will be? What are you most concerned about for me? So far, have I lived up to your hopes for what I’d become?

Bonnie Nichols: I’m very optimistic about your future and I think you’ve done very well. I’m really proud of the social skills that you have and your ability to speak in front of groups, the ability to perform in front of people. I think that’s tremendous because that was a huge thing for me to overcome, and it seems like it comes so naturally to you. You’re focused and you work hard and I think you have a great future ahead of you. You have really good emotional intelligence, and it makes it really easy for you to be around people and read them and I think that’s a real gift.

I don’t have concerns about you personally, but I do about the world that we live in today with the violence and the extremists and all that stuff. I worry that it’s in some ways a less safe world and so that concerns me. And typical of anyone my age, I’m concerned about climate change and other broad social issues and how they will impact you.

6. What is the biggest thing you tried to teach me? How am I doing?

Bonnie Nichols: I think I would say self-reliance and the ability to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and do what needs to be done. To have inner strength and be able to work through difficult periods by working hard and being self-disciplined. You have to just get out there and do something.

That’s what I think is really important, to never kind of wallow in things and to always try to do something positive to impact your situation. I think you’re doing really well. I’m very proud of you.


Juliana Rodriguez’s mom, Maria Rodriguez

Occupation: Executive housekeeper at Hyatt Dulles, Dulles International Airport

Married? Yes, for 25 years

Number of kids: 2

Where did you grow up? Colombia, South America

1. What does it mean to be a Truly Amazing Woman? And, do you think you are truly amazing?

Maria Rodriguez: Being a Truly Amazing Woman is to be special, to be master of all things, to be unique. I strive to be these things. I am strong, I am independent, I am caring, I am loving, I am smart, and I think all of that makes me a Truly Amazing Woman.

2. When you were my age, what were your biggest challenges, and are you still struggling with them today?

Maria Rodriguez: When I was your age, I was graduating from college and my biggest challenges were the same as yours. Finding a job that was going to help me develop my skills and become a successful professional in the hotel and hospitality industry. It was difficult back in Colombia, but here I’ve had a successful career with Hyatt for the last eight years.

3. What were your dreams and goals? Did you accomplish them?

Maria Rodriguez: My dreams and goals were working for an international hotel chain and becoming a manager. I accomplished them not only in Colombia, but also here in the United Sates. I started working for very important hotel and hospitality companies in Colombia, and here, I work for one of the most prestigious hotel chains worldwide. I am very happy with where I am in my career.

4. How do you think my life is different than yours was? Is it easier or harder for us in terms of pressure, opportunities, technology?

Maria Rodriguez: Your life is very different compared to mine because we grew up in different countries, with totally different cultures. I have very good memories of my childhood; I had a lot of friends to hang out with and not too much technology. It was a different generation. For your generation it is probably harder in terms of pressure, but with all the technology, those challenges are easier to overcome.

5. What do you think my future will be? What are you most concerned about for me? So far, have I lived up to your hopes for what I’d become?

Maria Rodriguez: You are one of the smartest young people that I have ever seen in my life, and it’s not because you are my daughter, but because it is true that I say that. Your future will be brilliant. Everything you want to accomplish, you will. Your determination is amazing for someone your age. I am not even a little concerned about your future because you have principles and you know what you want, and you will get it. You have exceeded all the expectations that I had for you. You are now an independent woman with a brilliant path ahead. Just enjoy the good moments and overcome the bad ones, and know that I am there for you always.

6. What is the biggest thing you tried to teach me? How am I doing?

Maria Rodriguez: I taught you values and principles, the same ones my parents taught me. There are rules to follow a and you learned all of that very well. Many times you thought that I was being too strict, but I hope now that you are older you see that I just had your best interest in mind. You are all that a Truly Amazing Woman should be. I love you very much.

Juliana Rodriguez’s reaction: I am so proud that I have grown into the woman my mother thought I would be. Growing up she always put mine and my brothers well being before hers, and she continues to do that now that we older, and out on our own. Her and my dad give us endless support and encourage us to pursue the things we love.

I am lucky to have the mother I do, and nothing makes me happier than celebrating the Truly Amazing Woman she is ever day of the year.