Growing up in the ‘80s, I spent a lot of time watching my mother and learning small, important things. Like coral lipstick looks nice with chunky gold earrings, blouses look good tucked into high-waisted jeans, and tri-coloured pasta is fancy stuff. But fast forward to 2017, and I’ve realised there are many, many other good lessons I’ve picked up from my mother along the way. Here are some.
1. A woman has to change her life every five years
My mother has a theory that every five years, a woman hits a wall in her life. That we need to actively take care of our lives, and reimagine ourselves every half-decade, or else we can get swept away by the needs of our families. This is a good reminder to attend to ourselves. It’s not indulgent or flippant, it’s essential: like moving a plant around the house to get more sunshine.
2. TV’s not so bad. Watch as much as you want
Some of my best childhood memories are of me doing headstands on our orange velvet couch, watching He-Man and Inspector Gadget. And yet, with so many screens in our lives now, it seems like every parent is harbouring a deep guilt over ‘screen time.’ Mum says stop worrying, no one ever died from watching too much Play School.
3. Wear nice shoes. They say a lot about a person
Our family is big on nice shoes. They should be clean, polished, with a high-quality sole on them. I had to spend a lot of money on countless, cheap shoes before I got the message. When I did finally buy a pair of beautifully-made brown leather loafers, I realised that a good outfit really does start from the bottom up.
4. Look forward to your ‘40s
“Your ‘30s can be tough,” explained my mum. “You raise children and you feel old. But then you hit your ‘40s, and trust me, you’ll get your second wind.” I’m holding onto this one with crossed fingers.
5. Learn how to make gravy
And don’t skimp on the butter. While gravy has fallen out of favour for the last two decades, I would trade all the foams and jus and reductions for a good old-fashioned gravy on my roast chicken. If it’s from a Women’s Weekly recipe book, even better.
6. Be the boss of your home
Our generation of mothers gets a lot of advice about being boss ladies out in the working world. But running a tight ship at home has become a less popular message. The truth is, women have been running the ship for a long time. Now, thankfully, we share the wheel with our partners. But still, there’s work to be done at home. And as mum is always reminding me: mum and dad first, kids second.
7. Make an effort. A bit of lipstick goes a long way
I think the point here was more about self-presentation. Clothes and makeup have a transformative power. And they’re actually kind of fun. Don’t wear anything to please a man (or a woman), but do wear things to please yourself. Shape yourself into whatever image you want, and for goodness sake, wear more colour.
8. Accept your marks
“At fifty you get the face you deserve.” Or at least, that’s what Coco Chanel said. As I was growing into a self-conscious teen, my mother always made a point never to mess with her face or her body. She decided to get the face she deserved. There was no whinging about wrinkles, no sighs of self-loathing. Instead we were told to accept our marks and get on with it. This is what daughters need to hear. Over and over again.
9. Walk everywhere
I have to remind myself of this one when I’m driving the car twenty minutes to get to a pilates class. My mum just walks. Everywhere. And she’s super fit. It’s not as sexy as core-building, but it’s free, and judging by my mother’s bad-ass calf muscles, it works.
Love you Val.
What kind of life-lessons did your mum pass onto you?