Mums, learn to put yourself first for once in your life

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Mums, learn to put yourself first for once in your life

Mothers have a guilt gland. It throbs from the moment that little pink line appears on the pregnancy stick. Normally easy-going females suddenly transform into gourmet gestapo, obsessively avoiding wine, sushi, cheese… Music choices are also sanctioned as we ditch rock’n’roll for Ravel; heavy metal for Mozart, in order to boost baby’s brain cells.

“Buy your mum some flowers and go spoil that goddess rotten.”

“Buy your mum some flowers and go spoil that goddess rotten.”Credit: ISTOCK

When toddler-wrangling, mums feel guilty if we don’t incessantly serve up forests of broccoli florets. If my offspring happened to eat anything that came out of a packet or a sachet, I’d instantly be looking for signs of scurvy or rickets. Next stop? A Dickensian workhouse.

When I went back to work, I felt constantly guilty that I wasn’t there to experience every one of my baby’s talking and walking stages. And yet, my stay-at-home-mum pals felt guilty about what kind of role models they were providing for their darling daughters.

During the school years I felt guilty about being too strict. The weekends leading up to exams had to be devoted to revision. I wouldn’t accept any excuses – well, nothing short of cholera, decapitation or abduction by aliens. But was it worth it? Will the only memory my children have of their mum be a gargoyle with birds-nest hair and eye bags, ranting at 2am about missed curfews?

Other times I felt guilty about not being strict enough. When my son wanted to drop out of school to “find himself” in Nepal, I should have told him that if he had no idea who he was, I doubted the Nepalese would know either.

And why didn’t I tell my daughter what I really thought of that drippy boyfriend? The unkempt one whose hair was so long that all I could see was his nose? For months, I had whole conversations with one nostril.

Or the poet who encouraged her to study at the “university of life” – a course he was clearly flunking. I should have sent him packing the day I heard him describe hollandaise as the language of the Netherlands. But I bit my tongue; hell, I bit it so often I could have used it as a sieve.

I’m feeling guilty about being a burden on my children as I get older, which is how I became obsessed with the “Swedish death cleanse”.


Once the kids fledged, I presumed maternal guilt would fade. But on and on it goes. Do I call them too often? Or not often enough? Am I too interfering? Or do I need to stick my beak in a bit less?


At the moment, I’m feeling guilty about being a burden on my children as I get older, which is how I became obsessed with the “Swedish death cleanse”.


This may sound like a grizzly crime scene clean-up involving rubber gloves and vats of disinfectant, but it’s practical advice on culling possessions. I’ve just spent a manic week tossing out books, clothes, records… In my zeal, I accidentally recycled my boyfriend, only to find him in a bin bag in the boot at the op shop drop-off. Repacking my scattered possessions, I felt a pang of loss. Was I really ready to give away my Led Zeppelin LPs and vintage orange Penguin paperback classics? No. I was not.

Carting everything back home again, I pondered the Japanese method of decluttering, which encourages a woman to hold every object in her life and if it doesn’t bring joy, throw it away. Well, you know what doesn’t bring me joy? Decluttering. And maternal guilt. Guilt is the gift that just keeps on giving, so why not simply mark it “Return to Sender”?

Most of us stumble through parenthood as best we can and just hope we aren’t smashing our most precious gifts as we blunder around the furniture of family life. Well, you know what? Kids are resilient. Mowgli was raised by wolves, and even he survived, right? There’s no point worrying about being a perfect mum. Your kids will just grow up to whine, “Why didn’t you screw me up more when I was young? I’ve got nobody to blame now.”

So, this Mother’s Day, let’s stop being mummy martyrs and learn to put ourselves first, for the first time in our lives.

And if your guilt gland throbs, just think of the acres of toast you’ve buttered; the flocks of chickens you’ve roasted; the schools of salmon you’ve poached. Just think of all those tedious school speech days you’ve tried not to sleep through. (Speech days would be most effective in remote areas, like arctic base camps, when they’ve run out of sedatives and surgery is imperative.)

Motherhood is as easy as climbing Everest in high heels and hotpants, carrying a disco ball. Get your kids through their teens, happy and healthy, with no addictions, cult memberships or far-right tendencies and well, you’ve reached the summit.

So today, mums of Australia, I ask you to step forward to accept your medal for all those selfless services rendered. And any offspring reading this? Get off your iPad, buy your mum some flowers and go spoil that goddess rotten.

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