I haven’t seen my mom in six months – its the longest I’ve ever gone without visiting her. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, I was given three days to move out of my dorm room, find a new place to live, and get a plane ticket. My family recently moved to the Netherlands, and with the European travel ban in place, I couldn’t go home. Luckily, my parents hadn’t sold their old house in the United States, so my boyfriend and I packed up our entire lives and moved to my childhood home in Missouri. 

While I missed my family, I was excited to live on my own for the first time. After years of eating in college dining halls and having roommates, I felt ready to cook my own meals, buy whatever groceries I wanted, and have my own space. 

The day after I arrived, I ambitiously started planning the meals I wanted to cook and headed off to the grocery store. Later, when unpacking my purchases, I realized that I had forgotten nearly half of the items on my mental list. Frustrated, I tried to tackle a complex recipe – sweet potato enchiladas. I spent hours peeling the sweet potatoes (I used a measly peeler, not realizing a sharp knife would be more efficient), and I didn’t have enough ingredients for the sauce. By the time I finished dinner, it was 10 p.m.; the enchiladas were dry, and I’d used too much garlic.  I went to bed, defeated, and ordered takeout for the next three days. 

Worn down and exhausted, I called my mom, sobbing. 

Dishes began to stack up in the sink. I forgot to bring the trash to the curb on trash day. I tried baking cookies and spilled flour all over the floor. My car tire blew out while driving. I was spending too much money on groceries. The WiFi stopped working while I was trying to finish my finals for the semester. I became overwhelmed in my quest to be what I considered an “independent adult.” While my boyfriend was patient with me and helpful with chores around the house, I put intense and gendered pressure on myself to be a domestic goddess. Worn down and exhausted, I called my mom, sobbing. 

My household struggles allowed me to understand the silent hardships my mom has faced throughout her life, furthering my appreciation for her. I took my mom for granted when I was younger. I rarely helped her with chores around the house. She cooked all my meals and drove me to music lessons every day after school, all while working full time as a pediatrician. She was always there to listen to me while I cried on the phone during my first year of college. I forgot to call her on Mother’s Day sophomore year. I became upset with her whenever she tried to make me something I didn’t want to do. Despite my lack of gratefulness, she has always been there for me. 

I also discovered a deep and profound respect for my mom and everything that she has done for her family.

Living alone has gotten easier for me. Despite the rough start, I realized that I loved cooking and creating meals, just like my mother. Once I removed the pressure of perfection, I learned from my mistakes and slowly enjoyed my journey into independence. I also discovered a deep and profound respect for my mom and everything that she has done for her family. I ordered her flowers on Mother’s Day this year. We fight less and talk on the phone more frequently.

I thought that simply doing laundry and grocery shopping would make me more independent. However, my struggles and mishaps without her resulted in a newfound appreciation for my mom, causing our relationship to flourish. I never realized that the distance between us would only bring us together. 

Claire Cheek

By Claire Cheek

Editorial Fellow