Delia 1

Delia Chung Hom

Chinese American from Boston, MA  

“Growing up it was hard for me to understand what it meant to be Asian American and specifically Chinese American because there were no other Asian Americans around. . . I remember in kindergarten, one of my teachers had black hair so I immediately thought she was Chinese. That’s what I thought it meant to be Chinese, to have black hair. Later my mom told me she wasn’t Chinese so then I thought, what does it really mean to be Chinese?  

Delia is an inspiration to many. I was able to catch up with Delia to talk to her about her experience with identity, on what it means to be Chinese and her love for family, community, and creating change for working mothers.

“Growing up it was hard for me to understand what it meant to be Asian American and specifically Chinese American because there were no other Asian Americans around.  I grew up in suburban Massachusetts, in a town called Acton. Right now, Acton actually has a really large Asian American population that is mostly Chinese and South Asian. But when I grew up it was predominantly White. My dad landed in Acton because he went to school in Boston and my parents just wanted to settle primarily where his networks were.”

“I’m third generation Asian American and in our house we grew up speaking English. We ate with forks and knives and had spaghetti and meatloaf. I think because my parents were geographically isolated, they assimilated into being American because there were no Asian grocery stores nearby. They had to make do with what they could.”

“I remember in kindergarten, one of my teachers had black hair so I immediately thought she was Chinese. That’s what I thought it meant to be Chinese, to have black hair. Later my mom told me she wasn’t Chinese so then I thought, what does it really mean to be Chinese? When I was younger, my world view of it was this  –  I’m Chinese, I have black hair, I eat with a fork at home, and I ate spaghetti. What makes me really Chinese? I spoke English at home and spoke English to my grandparents. They spoke English back to me. So what does it mean to be Chinese growing up? It was really hard to articulate.”

“Every once in a while, my family would go into Chinatown and have dim sum. My parents would make fun of me because I would only eat what the White people would like to eat at dim sum and I wasn’t very good with chopsticks. It was really hard to figure out what it all meant without a substantial Chinese or Asian American community around me. My parents did as much as they could to expose me to Asian American history growing up.  I did a report on the Japanese interment camps in the 7th grade and I wrote about the Chinese Exclusion Act for a research paper in 6th grade. So I learned about all these things through reading but not by being exposed to a community.”

Delia’s parents encouraged her to be well-rounded and explore things that she was interested in . . . 

“My parents really cared about my education and were supportive in helping me with doing well in school but I think their involvement really was all about me learning about myself. They were never like, ‘Delia you have to get As’. In my town, you got to choose the elementary school that you went too, and I went to a more hippie elementary school. We didn’t even get grades! I didn’t get a grade in my life until the 7th grade!”

“My parents encouraged me to also be active, do sports, and be engaged. They really wanted me to be well-rounded and didn’t want me to focus on one singular thing.I really appreciate the way they engaged with me growing up and I recognize that is a privilege for them to give me space to do those kind of things. They really valued me being happy and fulfilled. It’s not just about achieving certain things or becoming a doctor. It’s about being happy and giving me the space to explore what I really wanted to be versus doing what I was suppose to do”

Today, Delia is a mother and the Director of the Asian American Center at Northeastern University. She shares with us her passion for her work and advice on balancing it all.  . .

“Mom life defines me the most right now. I have three children – a daughter at age 11, two sons at age 3, and 8 months. Our life is busy and crazed right now but it’s full of love and energy and ridiculous things happening at my house.”

“I work at Northeastern University as the Director of the Asian American Center and been at Northeastern for over 9 years. I think I’m really lucky that my job is something I’m passionate about and it’s a career that I’m able to grow and learn from. I know not everybody has the opportunity to find a path that compensates them financially, feeds their soul, and also create change in the world. Those are all things that I care about deeply and I think that’s what I need in my work to show up and leave my kids.”

“In terms of being a working parent, I think viewing parenting as having two full time jobs is exhausting. I’ve been able to find ways to create my own balance. I’m really lucky that my parents are involved and are helpful. My partner is super supportive in my work especially when it bleeds into the evening and weekends. I think for me, being a parent right now at least is really about being a team effort between myself and Eugene. I couldn’t do it without him.”

“But being a working mother, I often feel like I’m doing a bad job at everything. I’m not quite being the employee I could be if I didn’t have kids or the mom that I could be if I didn’t have a job. But I think not holding myself to those sort of standards and knowing that I’m trying to do the best that I can in being a role model to my daughter and women in the work place is important. It’s exhausting but it’s also having to just be okay with that. Being able to connect with other parents is also valuable. Especially connecting with other Asian American parents, you learn a lot in just thinking about values and balancing culture and family.”

“The one thing that I’ve done consistently for the past 7 years is that I have a therapist. I’ve seen her every 2 or 3 weeks for the past 6 years. Having that appointment on the calendar is saying to myself, that’s me time. Not the I’m doing the dishes time, but just time for me to talk about things that I’ve been thinking about, worried about, or stressing me out. To have that appointment on the calendar is really valuable and holds me accountable.”

When Delia has down time, she finds herself advocating for the Asian American community and creating change for working mothers. . .

“I’m all about family. I’m about creating opportunity and change within the Asian American community especially for younger folks. It’s funny because even when my life quiets down, that’s what I find myself naturally drifting towards. I had a little bit of free time in my life and my friends and I organized an Asian American story hour.  Who does that in their spare time? But that’s what I do!”

“My big thing right now is paid family leave. I think there’s a lot of articles and talk about women in the work place, family paid policies, and how can women have it all.  I’m tired of it being so focused on White women and especially the privilege White women experience. I’m really interested in seeing how to translate that in creating change in the work place and work culture because I feel like work culture don’t value motherhood. I want to find ways to create change in that whether it’s through legislations, through family leave policies, or creating an environment where motherhood is seen as an asset and not a liability. I want to be part of that change.”

 

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