I was brought up to be the ‘woman who had it all.’ Then I became a stay-at-home mom

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This Very first Human being column is penned by Jina Lee who is a previous law firm. For a lot more data about CBC’s 1st Individual stories, please see the FAQ

It has been a yr since my body crumbled underneath the strain of pandemic everyday living. In the spring of 2021, I took a 6-month go away of absence from my career as a attorney, which I then extended to carry on my restoration and to homeschool my autistic daughter. 

I was nervous and exhausted, but generally I felt responsible and a sense of decline of my identification as a skilled doing the job mother. 

I am the 1st Canadian-born boy or girl in my family. I grew up in a multi-generational Korean dwelling in Toronto with two sisters, our dad and mom, and paternal grandparents. My mother and father and grandparents  did not explicitly use their sacrifices to guilt me into childhood compliance. However, I was usually mindful of the tricky selections they manufactured to make certain I had each option. In electing to relaxation from the rat race, I felt as however I was belittling what they experienced given up for me.

About the evening meal table, my family’s history was often recalled with gratitude and joy, and their sorrows deemed the unavoidable charge of creating our family in a new land. 

Jina Lee, left, grew up in a multi-generational Korean loved ones. She and her sisters use common hanbok in this photo with her grandparents from the late 1990s. (Submitted by Jina Lee)

My grandparents were being born in Pyongyang, North Korea. On Dec. 5, 1950, my late grandfather Person-Youthful Lee and his surviving brother determined to adhere to the retreating American troops south. (The eldest brother had been killed in an air raid months prior.) They packed  a handful of possessions, under no circumstances imagining that the Korean border would close, for good separating them from their dad and mom.

The two young adult men joined a significant contingent of refugees travelling south. Parentless and penniless, my grandfather and his brother acquired money by restoring the worn rubber shoes of their fellow refugees. The brothers acquired plenty of to invest in a picket cart and start out a porter services for the additional rich refugees. They continued south prior to settling in Busan, South Korea.   

On the same December early morning, my grandmother Hyung-Shin Bai heard explosions from the town centre and noticed the horizon ablaze. After mastering the American troops in Pyongyang were being burning their weapons in anticipation of retreat, she and her siblings left their parents and youngest brother driving to head south.

They commenced their escape on foot and fortuitously came on a southbound coal practice transporting refugees. My grandmother sat on heaps of coal for three times prior to arriving at the border of North and South Korea. She as well finally migrated to Busan.

Jina Lee’s grandparents had been engaged in 1955 in Busan, South Korea. (Submitted by Jina Lee)

My grandparents achieved in Busan and married. My grandfather joined my grandmother in the cosmetics organization. He was a all-natural entrepreneur and in accordance to spouse and children lore, his organization was a person of the initial domestic beauty suppliers in Korea importing technological know-how from Japan. In 1975, he bought his beneficial business enterprise and factory to escape the political instability of publish-war South Korea. He immigrated to Canada with his younger loved ones. 

My grandparents commenced their life in Toronto cleaning office properties at night time. Afterwards, they operated a tiny grocery retail outlet 15 several hours a working day, 365 times a year. My father used the evenings and weekends of his youth operating at the family members shop. Just after I was born, my mom and dad worked comprehensive-time for decades whilst obtaining time to  push my sisters and me to immediately after-university packages and church gatherings, and making rice crispy squares for faculty fundraisers. We were not rich, but we were being in no way in need to have. 

Jina Lee, appropriate, is the initially-born Canadian boy or girl in her family. She poses here with her two sisters and moms and dads in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in 1992. (Submitted by Jina Lee)

In our enjoy-stuffed household, I was encouraged to be proud of my achievements. My parents ended up elevated in a Korea that observed overly educated ladies troublesome. Even the most educated women of all ages would sooner or later go away the workforce following getting kids. My moms and dads fortunately declared to their a few Canadian-born daughters that in Canada, almost nothing about being a female prevented us from excelling. 

“In Canada,” my grandfather typically mentioned, “you can have it all.” And I strove to have it all. I required to verify that their daily life of sacrifice was not in vain. 

And for a number of decades, I did have it all — a thriving career and a wonderful loved ones — but I was overextended and overwhelmed. I was eaten by the need to have to seize that elusive get the job done-everyday living harmony (does it basically exist?). Despite my health difficulties, I could not shake the emotion that I wasn’t undertaking enough at property or at perform. 

When I introduced up the risk from using a go away from work, my partner confident me that in spite of the monetary difficulties, we could make ends meet as a single-cash flow relatives. We identify that the potential for 1 dad or mum to select to continue to be property is a privilege numerous Canadians do not have.

I then broke the news that I was pausing my vocation to my mom. 

Right before I could apologize for currently being egocentric, she responded, “You have designed a wise final decision.” When I explained to my father, he consoled me. And relief loaded my coronary heart. 

Jina Lee’s grandmother is surrounded by her great-grandchildren throughout her 88th birthday celebration in Richmond Hill, Ont. (Submitted by Jina Lee)

Parenting in all its sorts is actual function. It is difficult and unrelenting. Mimi and Haejin, my recent “employers,” are equivalent elements lovable and merciless (and the shell out is terrible). Irrespective of the everyday chaos, being a continue to be-at-home guardian has taught my coronary heart to rest. I no for a longer period try to do and be every little thing all at when. 

When my relatives pushed me to go after a life they could not, I assumed they wished me fame and fortune. I see now that what they ideal for me was liberty. These two generations have structured my childhood in this kind of a way that I would have the freedom to be the fullest edition of myself — whichever that version looked like. I am humbled and honoured to be the receiver of this kind of high priced privilege.

My selection to relaxation has introduced us closer as a spouse and children — primarily for the reason that I on a regular basis present up unannounced trying to get child care and do-it-yourself Korean foods. My go away of absence has specified my ever-supportive grandmother and me the present of time. We shell out several afternoons jointly, which has been especially important during the isolating stretches of the pandemic. 

Jina Lee, still left, celebrates with her grandparents when she was named to the bar in Ontario in 2012. (Submitted by Jina Lee)

Months just before his passing, my grandfather roused his most cancers-riddled body to notice me in court. He informed me that it was just one of the happiest days of his lifetime. He advised me that as he sat in the gallery, listening to his granddaughter dressed in barrister robes, he recalled the sorrows which experienced loaded his existence to convey him to that day. 

Experienced he lived a couple extra yrs, I am sure that day in courtroom would pale in comparison to the day his eldest granddaughter made the decision to relaxation in the privilege he had earned. 


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