My dear friend Georgie Abay of The Grace Tales and I recently rounded up the kids for a picnic in the park. Over an afternoon playing in the autumn sunshine we got thinking about all the most life-changing lessons we’ve learned about motherhood - those things that are poignant and important to remember, whether you're a mother or a daughter. We also had an opportunity to test out the beauty salve loved by the British Royal family for generations, Pommade Divine on ourselves and the kids...
The all-natural balm is not only a multi-purpose handbag beauty staple for us (addressing dry lips, elbows, cuticles and more), it can also heal multiple kid afflictions like insect bites, eczema, grazes, cuts – even bruises. The clove-scented fragrance and soft texture got a big tick of approval even from fussy Max who usually runs away when I try to put cream on him. The trick – I discovered – was to call it a “magical cream” and to show him the picture of the little boy on the top. Below, are the other essential lessons I’ve learned since becoming a mum to these two beautiful children, Max and Luella…
1. ADMIT IT. BEING A MUM IS CRAZY HARD.
Notice my emphasis on the crazy, because there are many times when I thought I was losing my mind, and if it wasn’t for friends and family dragging me back from the brink, I most certainly would have. When the chips are down I think mums really just have to reach out to each other and be honest about their struggles. Chances are they’ve gone through the same thing and can help, or at least normalise things so we don’t feel like a complete freak. Georgie and I call each other every morning when we’re doing the school run, and compare parenting (and work!) flukes and fails with honesty and abject rawness. When I’ve called her in tears because I’m exhausted and my attempts at disciplining Max aren’t working and I just can’t bare. Another. Tantrum… we invariably end up laughing about something or booking in a wine date and suddenly the problem doesn’t seem so huge. And I can breathe again.
2. THERE ARE NO PERFECT MOTHERS. JUST PERFECT LOVE.
Parenting can seem like a competitive sport. There are so many women that seem to do it perfectly on social media. From the home cooks who bake Pinterest-worthy birthday cakes to the ones that seem to only dress their children in neutral-hued organic cotton. But no one really has it all together. Behind almost every flawless Instagram shot are hours of painstaking preparation, not to mention ratty kids, cranky partners and a seriously stressed out mum. I’ve come to realise that it’s okay if I feed Max a toasted cheese sandwich for dinner again because we’re all too tired, and it’s alright that I iced a Woolworths Sponge for the last two birthdays. At the end of the day, we’re all just doing the best we goddamned can. As long as we love our kids and keep them fed, clothed, safe and happy, we’re doing our jobs. Some mums are just better at showing how they parent. Some are good at photography and baking and curating their life into little square boxes. But most are much too tired to bother. And that’s okay, too.
3. CLEAN THE ROOMS THAT COUNT AND IT’S OKAY TO ORDER TAKE OUT.
It’s not just parenting we need to relax with, it’s everything else in the Mum Orbit, too. Cooking, cleaning and organising the kids schedules often does fall on mum’s shoulders. And so often I’ve found myself suffocating under the weight of one more load of washing or vacuuming session. At midnight. When I interviewed makeup artist Bobbi Brown soon after I’d given birth to Max, she told me to spend time with my kids while they’re little, and not let those precious hours get chewed up by housework or cooking. She said if she’d had her time again she would have spent less time in the kitchen and more time with her kids at the park. I try to remind myself of this and if I’m short on time I’ll just tidy the rooms that people see – and let the bedrooms fester a little bit longer. I’ll open the Foodora app if it means I can spend more time cuddling Lulu. Remember, it’s not forever. Sometimes I’ll revert to my old self – the girl that used to label the pantry shelves and organize book spines by colour – and I realise that that woman isn’t lost forever. She’s just busy for the moment, picking tiny Lego pieces out of her hairbrush.
4. WORDS HAVE SO MUCH POWER. USE THEM WISELY.
When your children first start to parrot back something you’ve said, it can be a shock. Suddenly you have to censor your speech and listen to what you’re actually saying. You realise that you have the power to shape another humans entire emotional navigation and moral compass. It’s deeply confronting, and also such a gift. It’s important not just to avoid speaking negatively about others, but also about ourselves. We need to even listen to how we speak about money, and nature and work. Children shape their beliefs about the world when they are tiny, and those attitudes will dictate every relationship and experience they will have as adults. Finally, with words, I don’t think we have to speak down to kids or oversimplify things. My dad used to use huge words that I didn’t understand, “Look it up in a dictionary” he would retort whenever I complained. I guess Google will have to suffice now.
5. THEY WILL GET HURT. AND THAT’S OKAY.
Max has been coming home from school with lots of “hurts” lately – he keeps playing soccer with the bigger kids, and they really make a meal out of him – but he loves it. He breathlessly tells me about the new moves he learnt and I can see his confidence growing. Even though it breaks my heart a bit to see his once perfect legs covered in scabs and bruises we just kiss them better and get on with it. Putting a healing balm like Pommade Divine on them helps, too. There will be many more and much bigger hurts. Emotional ones too. I’m going to have to let him play rugby, and go overseas. But that’s life, we can’t bolster them from reality or they’ll get a pretty rude shock when they finally leave the nest. I think it’s important to prepare kids for failure and pain in life and give them the skills to deal with it themselves.
6. DRINK UP THE MOMENTS. REALLY GULP THEM DOWN.
I know I’m not the first mum who wishes she could eat her baby – those chubby little legs literally make my mouth water sometimes (seriously, what is that about?) It’s those visceral moments that I try to savour, because those are the ones we remember. Maybe it’s ‘being in the moment’ or mindfulness, or maybe it’s just stopping long enough to notice. I still remember tucking Max in to his toddler bed, breathing in the sweet smell of his hair and tracing his soft cheek with my fingers. I can instantly recall his warm breath on my neck and the first time his little voice called out, ‘I love you mummy’ as I closed his bedroom door. When I pick Lulu up from her cot now, I try to stop and sit down and relish that moment when she cuddles into me, issuing delighted little sighs. I take note of how silky her curls feel against my lips, the fresh linen smell of her sleeping bag mingled with that warm skin scent that smells like home..
These are the memories we’ll take out and caress when we’re older: Tiny fingernails. Messed up morning hair. Milky breath. Weet bix and banana kisses. Fragments of their lives that will replay in our memories forever. Mum’s have to remember to drink it all in – to savour the smell, the touch and the feeling it gives them. Because that’s motherhood – in all its brilliant and shining glory.