As I reflect back on 2020—a year filled with challenges and heartbreak for so many—I am reminded of all my own silver linings from during that time. In January 2020, I earned the title of “Manager” at Schellman and soon after in June, I became the first manager at the company to become a mother. With Schellman’s new maternity policy in place, I was able to take 12 weeks of leave as I juggled the challenges of caring for a newborn and recovering from childbirth, all in the midst of a global pandemic. Schellman‘s policy allows new mothers the flexibility of taking staggered leave throughout the year or all once – I chose the latter and dedicated my time to establishing a new routine and bonding with my daughter, Kaylee. Without the added stress of work, I experienced the joys and new challenges of parenting while acclimating to life with a newborn—it was an invaluable time for me, filled with experiences I will forever cherish.
As we are now entering springtime in 2021, I am reminded that May not only brings the celebration of Mother’s Day—my first—but also the commemoration of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month. As many know, AAPI month recognizes Asian American Pacific Islanders in the U.S.—May was chosen to both commemorate the arrival of the first known Japanese immigrant to the U.S. on May 7, 1843 and to honor the upwards of 20,000 Chinese workers who helped construct the transcontinental railroad, which was completed on May 10, 1869. Not just a reminder of the past, this month also celebrates the AAPI culture, heritage, and cultural diversity that still flourish in our society today. My household represents the perfect microcosm of such—we are bi-cultural, and we honor the Vietnamese traditions my husband grew up with, as well as my own Chinese traditions.
"My household represents the perfect microcosm of such—we are bi-cultural, and we honor the Vietnamese traditions my husband grew up with, as well as my own Chinese traditions."
Growing up, my brother and I learned of these Chinese customs at an early age. My parents taught us never to wear shoes in the house, to take care of our elders, and to never stick our chopsticks upright in rice. They made sure we understood that red symbolizes success and fortune, and while the number ‘8’ is lucky, the number ‘4’ is not. In addition to the standard American holidays, we also celebrated those like Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year—each of which came with specific festivities. While the former was reserved for eating mooncakes and hanging lanterns, celebrating Chinese New Year meant that cleaning the house of any bad “fortune” and praying or offering treats to our ancestors, as well as exchanging red envelopes filled with varying amounts of lucky money (crisp bills) with family. Etiquette stipulates that married couples give red envelopes, while younger children and unmarried individuals receive them—that was one of my favorite traditions as a child.
Now that I am grown up, with a new baby of my own, I am often asked how I will be raising Kaylee. The answer is simple – I want my daughter knowing what the AAPI community stands for, and I want her to be immersed in her heritage. In fact, we’ve already gotten started—in 2020, my family and I celebrated our first Mid-Autumn festival and the year of the Ox as a family of three, and we will continue to take part in all of the traditions that honor our bi-cultural, AAPI household.
Especially amidst the uptick in racism and attacks on our community over the last year, I feel that it is now more important than ever to spread awareness and educate our youth about cultural acceptance. Looking back, my childhood was an important time for me in that I learned what it meant to be Chinese and how to connect with my elders. The things my parents imparted onto me are the same things I look forward to teaching Kaylee, and I look forward to watching her grow and become another proud member of the AAPI community.
About the AuthorMore Content by Vicky Au