“I’d tell any mothers with creative children: Give them the freedom to soar, and just stay at the sideline. So when they falter, you’ll be there to brush those doubts aside and boost them up again.”
Eileen Africa-Nocom was born in Quezon City, Philippines, as the youngest of eight siblings. After immigrating to the U.S. with her family, she met her husband Chris, with whom she had three children.
Eileen Africa-Nocom’s world came crashing down the day her 17-year-old son Josh nearly lost his life in a bicycle accident.
He was riding his new fixed-gear bike when he fell and hit his head, causing him to be rushed to the hospital for emergency brain surgery. Eileen sat with her son for two weeks as he lay in critical condition, in and out of tests and even a second brain surgery, and then for three months after that as he recovered. She was by his side as the nurses removed his breathing tube, and as they learned Josh would have to live with a paralyzed right arm — which meant his dominant hand, crippling news for a budding musician and artist.
As Eileen watched him suffer, she knew she had to be the rock he needed. “My outlook on life has always been influenced by altruism and generosity,” she explained. “So for me, I embraced that ordeal as a learning, and not a changing, experience.”
Her whole life, Eileen had sacrificed her passions — acting, singing and composing music — to raise her three children. Born in Quezon City, the Philippines, in the mid-’60s, Eileen was the youngest of eight siblings and showed a penchant for the arts from a young age. While attending college for pre-law/pre-med, she acted in plays and sang at parties, and was so good a record producer wanted to sign her to his label.
But family came first. In 1985, she made the decision to leave it all behind to immigrate to California to help the family restaurant business. Later, while working at a financial institution, she met her husband Chris, and together, they welcomed their first child, Josh, into the world. Shortly after Josh’s first birthday, Eileen and her new family moved back to the Philippines, this time to help Chris’ father with his manufacturing company. Eileen worked for the family company while also running her own construction materials business and heading a computer school. In the midst of all this, the couple had two more children, Tamara and Ira.
Eileen always made sure to make time for her children. She was heavily involved with their academics and extracurricular activities, and weekends were dedicated to taking them to the movies, dinners or the beach. When it came time to move back to America, Eileen prepared the children by teaching them to be more independent. It was important to her that they explore and develop their interests. So when Josh, Tamara, and Ira formed a band in their early teen years, Eileen encouraged them. She was able to recognize their natural talent for music and felt that the creativity strengthened their kinship to one another.
Josh recovered from his accident with Eileen’s support, and found a way to continue his art by learning to draw with his left hand, which in fact helped develop the distinct style he utilizes today as a full-time artist. While many Asian parents are known for pushing their children to pursue “traditional” career paths, supporting her children in their pursuit of creative endeavors has never been an issue for Eileen. Even now, she recognizes the value of creativity. “I’d tell any mothers with creative children: Give them the freedom to soar, and just stay at the sideline,” she said. “So when they falter, you’ll be there to brush those doubts aside and boost them up again. Encouragement is the key.”
Like many mothers, Eileen is an unsung hero who quietly works behind the scenes to uplift her loved ones. Whether it’s prioritizing the well-being of her children or supporting their endeavors, one thing remains true for Eileen: “I love that I see how well I was able to inspire or influence my kids to better themselves and to be good, kind individuals. My kids are my proudest achievements.”