An Ode to Tiger Mom

It’s my Tiger Mom’s birthday this week! So in lieu of part two of Parental Relationship Management 101 (which I’m sure my avid readers are eagerly awaiting), I am writing about Tiger Mom. If you’ve been following this blog, I’m sure you’ve surmised that I have a pretty complex relationship with my Tiger Mom. Having said that, she is the strongest, most bad-ass woman I know.

lighted happy birthday candles
Photo by on

My Tiger Mom immigrated in the late ’80s with a bunch of debt, the promise of a better future and one humongous suitcase (you know the ones I’m talking about – they look like someone squeezed an entire house into the suitcase). As was often the case, her credentials were not recognized by employers here. She also didn’t speak English fluently, so her employment options were limited.

Tiger Mom saved every penny she could to repay the loan that allowed her to immigrate. Some of these measures were pretty extreme. By Tiger Mom’s own account, once, while out on the job hunt, she got really thirsty. Purchasing a drink was not an option.

So Tiger Mom snuck across a stranger’s lawn and drank from the garden hose/tap.

Ok, so some minor trespassing, but it was an isolated incident, right? Alas …

Eventually Tiger Mom got a job, but it was located far from where she lived. She had the early shift (at the crack of dawn) and no public transportation could easily take her to her work. So Tiger Mom bought a car and learnt to drive.

As you know, when you first start learning to drive, you must indicate that you’re a learner driver and you must have a fully-licensed driver sitting in the front passenger seat. Yeah … tell that to my Tiger Mom.

Tiger Mom took a couple of lessons from a friend and from then on drove to work daily … without any supervision.

God, I hope the statute of limitations has expired …

I have a bunch more stories like these about Tiger Mom, but should probably stop here lest I incriminate her further. Anyway, all this being said, my Tiger Mom went through a lot to provide for her family and I would not be where I am today without her. I am deeply grateful for her sacrifices. This is part of why I am working so hard at a better relationship with her – after all, I owe it to her.

Next week, we go back to critiquing Tiger Moms and how they have psychologically damaged Tiger Cubs for life, but for this week …

A very happy birthday to you, Tiger Mommy.





Parental Relationship Management 101: Part One

We talked a few posts ago about actively managing your relationship with your parents and I had promised a follow-up post about how to decide what kind of relationship you want with your parents. Well, the wait is over! In this two-part series, I’ll share with you my framework for how I think about this knotty question.

In part one, I talk about identifying what type of relationship you currently have with your parents and what type of relationship you may want to have. In part two, I look at some questions to ponder in deciding what kind of relationship you would actually want to have with your parents.

So, onto part one!

Let me tell you about this chart that I made up. Just as there’s nothing in life that can’t be fixed by a box of chocolates, there’s nothing in life that can’t be illustrated by a good diagram.

Full disclaimer: this Tigergram is a very unscientific attempt by yours truly to two-dimensionalize complex relationships.


I think any relationship can be broken down into two key components: emotional and financial, represented by the x and y axes respectively.

On the far right of the x axis is someone who is close to their parents, who feels they have open dialogues, and who is content with the level of involvement their parents have in their life. On the far left is someone who doesn’t feel heard, who feels constantly criticized or who feels their parents are too controlling.

At the bottom of the y axis is someone who is completely financially-dependent on their parents (e.g., they live with their parents, their parents still cook and clean for them, and their ATMs are their parents’ wallets). At the top of the axis is someone who provides full financial support for their parents (i.e., they cover all of their parents’ living expenses).

I plotted some points on this chart to illustrate:

Point A represents where I was when I was 18. I was completely financially dependent on my parents (as is the case for most 18-year-olds) and my relationship with my Tiger Mom was at an all-time low. I was constantly terrified of being chewed out by Tiger Mom if I didn’t get at least an A- on any given exam/paper and I desperately wanted independence, but I felt financially helpless. I was not in a good place.

Point B is where I think I am right now. I’m largely financially independent (hooray for employment!) and my relationship with my Tiger Mom has improved. I say largely financially independent because although I don’t need it, psychologically I know my parents will backstop me financially if I ever needed it.

My relationship with Tiger Mom has improved in part because Tiger Mom has mellowed out a bit and in part because I myself have made a more concerted effort to understand her perspective. (Side note: Did you know Tiger Moms are fallible and have their own insecurities?! A post on that another time.) But I still get frustrated sometimes with the level of control Tiger Mom exerts over my life (e.g., she wants mini Tiger Cubs and she wants them now!).

Point C is where I would like to be. I want to be able to support my parents financially in their retirement and I want us to be close as a family. I want to be able to ask my parents for advice about important life decisions, without feeling judged or like Tiger Mom’s choice is the only right choice. And I want to feel in control of my life.

Where are you on this chart?

Where do you want to be?

In part two, we’ll discuss some considerations to take into account in deciding what kind of relationship you might want with your parents.

As always, if you’re enjoying the posts, have comments/thoughts on anything I’ve written, or would like me to cover a particular topic in a future post, let me know at or follow me on Twitter or Instagram @CordeliaQ888!

Extreme Parenting: Don’t Try This At Home, Kids

Hey guys, sorry it has been a while since my last post. My Approved Profession doesn’t exactly leave much time for anything else, much less my Secret Unsanctioned Side Gig. Do you ever have those days at work where not only do you not have time to pee, you don’t even have time to drink water because that would entail peeing later, which, as we’ve already established, you don’t have time for. Over the top? Perhaps. But accurate description of the last few weeks.

Speaking of over the top, I recently read an article in the New York Times, Welcome to College, Your Parents Are in the Tents Next DoorApparently, parents across China are camping out in tents near their children’s dorms while their children settle in at university.

green and white tents near trees
Photo by ajay bhargav GUDURU on

I suspect this doesn’t come as a surprise to many Asian-Americans or anyone with a helicopter parent.

I imagine my mother could have been a Tent ‘Rent. My mother has offered, numerous times, in jest (but not really), to stay with me for a couple of months and cook and clean for me. I’ve always turned down her offers because: (1) my mother would make me eat healthy food; and (2) you know that comes with MAJOR strings attached.

See, the dirty secret of Tiger Moms is that every Tiger Mom is in fact comprised of two Tiger Moms. We’re all familiar with Tiger Mom, The Authoritarian, whose singular goal is her Tiger Cub’s utter domination in every aspect of life: get straight As, pursue an Approved Profession, marry a rich husband / beautiful wife, and raise another generation of Tiger Cubs.

But there’s also Tiger Mom, The Manservant, and there is no length that Tiger Mom, The Manservant, will not go to help her Tiger Cub fulfill his/her destiny. It’s all part of the Tiger Cub Luxury Package: you just focus on your studies/work and I, Tiger Mom, will do everything and anything else to ensure that you achieve your prime directive – I will cook for you, clean for you, and wash your clothes for you. I will even spoon feed you while you study if that’s what it takes.

It’s just … too much. Don’t get me wrong – I admire Tiger Moms’ dedication to their children, and I certainly wouldn’t be who I am or where I am today without my parents’ sacrifices. But it seems that many parents don’t practice moderation. They swing from one extreme to the other, from being too demanding on their children to coddling them.

I think it’s fair to say that many Tiger Cubs would rather wash their own laundry, clean their own rooms, and cook their own food if it meant they wouldn’t be scolded for getting a B+ on an exam. Sadly, I don’t think Tiger Moms understand that.

Coming back to the Tent ‘Rents, I really think they are denying their children a critical aspect of the college experience – learning to become an independent human being.  College was where I learnt some of my most important life lessons: (1) tequila shots may seem like a good idea, but it never ends well; (2) just because I can eat pizza for every meal doesn’t mean I should, and (3) watch out for bank fees – those guys are barbarians and will rob you blind.

I wouldn’t want my kids to miss out on these experiences. That’s why I say to the Tent ‘Rents: Let go, it’s better they learn these lessons while their livers can still process alcohol, their metabolisms can still digest food and they’re still drawing from the Bank of Mom and Dad.

As always, I would love to hear from you – what extreme parenting behavior have you observed or experienced? Email me at or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram @CordeliaQ888.