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

    Claire Cheek is a rising senior studying English at Wellesley College. A textbook Cancer, she loves having spontaneous dance parties, cooking elaborate meals (but hates cleaning them up), and enjoys listening to sad girl music while staring up at the ceiling and pretending she’s the star of an indie coming-of age film. From researching bumblebees in the Rockies to writing poetry for her campus literary magazine, Claire has a plethora of different interests, and is eager to explore and write about them as an Editorial Fellow. She’s also excited to use media as a way to discuss and highlight underrepresented female voices and stories.