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3 generations of women, one NYC apartment: Vicky Nguyen pays tribute to her mom

My mom is the engine of this family. Without her, there is no network journalism career, no gymnastics lessons, no chicken rice porridge when you’re sick.
Vicky Nguyen with her mom, who risked everything and fled Vietnam so that Vicky could have a better life in America.
Vicky Nguyen with her mom, who risked everything and fled Vietnam so that Vicky could have a better life in America.Courtesy Vicky Nguyen

I don’t feel like enough of a mom to warrant a Mother’s Day celebration. Even though I did birth three girls who are now 12, 9 and 4, I still feel like an imposter. A “woman with children” more than a “mom.”

Maybe that’s in part because I think so highly of my own mother, Lynn. To me, a mother is someone who sacrifices for her children, who leads by loving example, who is patient and supportive and selfless. I see her doing that work every day as she helps me raise my daughters, so when Mother’s Day comes, I celebrate all that my mom has given to me and all that she continues to provide.

Vicky Nguyen's mom, Lynn, her dad, Huy, and her three daughters celebrate together.Courtesy Vicky Nguyen

The pandemic year has been crushing and devastating for so many families, but it also given many a rare, uninterrupted year of togetherness too.

I’ve spent more time with my mom over this past year than ever as an adult. My parents moved to New York to help me with my three girls. Because my husband and I both work full-time outside the home, in jobs with unpredictable hours, we have always relied on my parents for childcare.

My girls literally say, 'Grandma never gets mad.' I have no explanation for her constant good cheer.

But seven people in one New York City apartment is another ball game. When I’m not on TODAY in Studio 1A, I’m usually working from home. And for the better part of the past year, my daughters were schooling from home too. So we had a full house and I could see all that goes into my mom’s day from breakfast to bedtime and everything in between.

My mom is old school... and she's the engine of this family.Courtesy Vicky Nguyen

In many ways, it’s much more exhausting than what I do as a journalist. My mom is old school. She never orders takeout (too complicated) and rarely relies on anything frozen. She’s an amazing cook who can whip up spaghetti, chow mein, banh xeo (Vietnamese crepes), banana bread, turkey cheeseburgers, stir fry, tacos and the most amazing fried egg with garlic you’ve ever tasted, flipped with a pair of wooden chopsticks. I don’t know what she has against spatulas but that’s how she rolls. No one is ever hungry in my house.

Not to mention getting kids to and from school in New York City, the tidying, the baths and bedtime when I’m traveling and my husband works a 24-hours shift, the constant work of childcare for three small people with varying requests and needs.

And never a cross word. My mom is rarely in a bad mood.She could be retired. She’s in her early 70s. She deserves a life of relaxation and gardening and reading and lounging. But my saving grace from an overload of Mom Guilt is when my mom says how much she loves laughing at Renley’s jokes (she’s 4). Or talking with Odessa about third grade and teaching her how to speak Vietnamese. Or constantly having to stand back to back with Emerson, who couldn’t wait to see when she’d be taller than her grandma. (It happened two months before she turned 12.)

Taller than grandma!Courtesy Vicky Nguyen

My mom is as close to a saint as I think I may ever know personally. She’s a quiet force of goodness I’m deeply grateful for every day. When I say I owe this life to her, it’s not only because she endured a C-section after I stayed in the womb for 2 extra weeks, it’s because she fled Vietnam in the dark of night when I was 8 months old. She risked everything and left her family and friends behind to give me, her only child, a chance at the American Dream.

My mom Lynn (center) with my dad Huy, holding me, and other family members in Malaysia, 1979.Courtesy Vicky Nguyen

Having my girls grow up knowing my mom this closely is a blessing. I say she had one daughter, but she’s raised four. Three generations in one home this past year gave me an up close look at what my mom has been doing since my first daughter was born 12 years ago. Hers is an eternal well of giving and I am eternally thankful for my mom on Mother’s Day and every day.

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