An open letter to all mums
By Julia Foley
What you plan, may happen. Or not. That’s life.
Or it may happen upside-down, in reverse, with wine and food colouring and sprinkles, and it may or may not involve emergency services. That’s life with kids.
Mothers (aunts, carers, anyone interested in looking after my children) despite what social media may suggest, there are no fixed rules. Only experiences to share, if you choose to have regard to them, from one mother to another.
So in the spirit of over-sharing mothers, here are some I live by:
If you are both alive after the first six weeks, you are on the right track.
If the man at the supermarket tells you off for not supporting your baby’s head, thank him for his care, and walk away confident your baby’s head will not fall off.
The five food groups matter, but it’s ok to serve only one at a time occasionally.
Lemonade watered down still tastes like lemonade to those who haven’t tasted lemonade before. (I kept this ruse up for years.)
A birthday cake that you slave over for hours with turrets and piping will be remembered forever. And so will a pile of donuts from the supermarket stacked in a tower. They never forget ‘the donut cake’.
Their favourite meal might be a family recipe passed down through generations. Or it might be pasta with sauce from a jar (and if Leggo’s stops making that olive stir-through sauce, I’m stuffed).
If you miss the concert, are late for the play or stuff up the recital date, they will forgive you. Please forgive yourself. Reproduce it in the living room, go next year, take flowers.
If they get gastro in your tiny motel room, bodies strewn, projectiles from both ends, this is armageddon. But it will pass. It’s ok to use the shower cap as a rubber glove to rinse out pyjamas, we’ve all done it. If you never go away again, fair calI.
If you video the wrong child at the concert because curly hair can be confusing, make sure you find the child’s mum and offer up a wonderful record of their special night.
If you forget to press the video button despite holding the phone up for five minutes to film the performance, be comforted that it lives in a special place in your actual memory.
If you’ve never cooked bread or a slice, that’s ok. That’s what bakeries are for.
If you cook bread or a slice, you’re amazing, please share.
If you teach one child to push the other on the swing so you can have a coffee, you are not being a bad mum, you are teaching life skills and relaxing, which will make you an even better mum.
If you do everything for them, how will they know what to do themselves? Just watch how stealthily they steal chocolate on the top shelf, you telling me those skills can’t unpack a dishwasher?
When they slip into your bed at night for a cuddle, hold. Because one night, it will be the last time, but you won’t know it, and when you realise they don’t come anymore, you’ll be devastated.
If the little one announces that he now knows what is inside dog poo, be pleased that you are growing a scientist. And wash hands.
Teach them that healthy stuff like bran added to cereal is ‘sprinkles’. That’s a magical word.
If your kids wish you didn’t work, explain. That you love work. That you hate work, but you must. That work provides birthday presents, and meals. Teach them to value work, and value time away from it, with you.
If you want silence (ever), maybe don’t have kids?
Yoghurt is a meal.
If they want to wear pyjamas or a tutu or a tea-towel, let them. Or join them, because mine seemed less interested then.
Know them. Know that the introvert needs alone time, and the extrovert needs a play date, and the middle child needs you sometimes. And none of them need eight hours of screen time, or chewing gum.
Know you. Know that you need ‘you’ time, and adult time, and rest. And time to make sure washing is dry before putting away, because having to wash clean clothes again just isn’t fair.
If they are driving you crazy, tell them you are driving them to the police station for guidance on rule enforcement. Start the car. This works.
If you are not coping, turn up to your best friend’s house and cry until she cooks you all dinner.
Surprise them. Moon traffic on your street. Sing in the supermarket. They will look at you with wonder. Respect.
If you don’t fail every day, well done!
Remind yourself that someone is always having a worse day than you are. #perspective
And think of them. #empathy
If your daughter writes in her school book that ‘Mum came in and yelled at us like she was being attacked by a SHARK!’, admire her imagination and let the teacher know she has a BIG one.
If you do yell unreasonably, convert guilt to communication with a cuddle. Kids appreciate the ‘why’ even if it’s a bit lame (‘I’m nervous about who the next Bachelor is’ is possibly too lame).
The photos they want to see are not posed in your Sunday best, but the shot of the baby on the floor eating a packet of crackers that smashed there (ie. dinner). And the video in your dressing gown yelling at your husband ‘not to film me like this!’
A mother receives an extra ‘gift with purchase’. The gift to love and be loved, for who you are. Be true to your best you. Make your own rules.
*Lessons likely to change frequently. But if you follow them, maybe you too can receive the ‘best mum in the weld’ award. Twice.
Bio: Julia Foley is a working mum who also works, and all these things have happened to her. The three kids are in good shape in the circumstances and a very patient husband endures. Julia runs a strategy and communications consultancy, helping leaders engage people on things that matter.
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