As a mum, I often lived life on the sidelines. I was always the one to give up my go on the video game, mind the bags while everyone went on the waterslide, look after the baby while the bigger ones got to see the movie or give up the biggest and crunchiest hot chip* because, well, don’t worry about mum.
My sacrifices expressed my love for my family, but looking back, I’ve realised it also made me a bit, well, boring.
Mums want the best for our brood but we can lose ourselves so quickly and so easily. Before we know it, we're eating soggy, half-chewed toast crusts over the kitchen sink because we don’t think we’re worth more than that.
That’s how mums become invisible.
It wasn’t my family stopping me, it was me
Mums are nurturers. That’s not to say dads aren’t, but dads have always been encouraged to have other hobbies, dreams and interests.
In my case, all of my ‘I’m giving up stuff for my family’ was selfless, but also drenched in martyrdom. That no one acknowledged. It was completely wasted.
And when I would blow up in a rage because no one cared about little old me, my family would get confused. They would say, well, go to the gym class. Go and get a haircut if you want to, go on the bloody slippery dip. We just didn't know, mum.
They all got used to me putting myself last. And I didn't win any prizes for it.
My partner is completely supportive of all my weird life goals (learning to do the splits and fulfilling my 10 year old gymnast dreams, becoming a rock star), but he is not psychic.
Putting my best self forward
This year, I’ve broken out of my old martyr ways. I go to the gym class, and I am nearly doing the splits. Well, I am about half a metre off the ground, so, a little way to go.
I bought really nice underwear that I WEAR ALL THE TIME - no more ripped granny undies for me. I started a writing course. I taught the kids to get their own snacks and drinks from the fridge so I can sip wine in peace. I tell my family to mind my bag please, I’m jumping off the pier.
I went SCUBA diving for the first time since I was pregnant. I had a massive freak out and overcame it underwater. GO ME and all my bravery.
I dyed my hair purple. Then I quit my job. Who knows, next I might join the bloody circus.
And I am way more fun and so much happier after carving a bit of me back. I took it back with gusto and nothing negative happened.
I’m a better mum now because I’m happier
Sometimes we wait for our families to just ‘get it’. But they don’t and they won’t. You have to take it. They will get used to it.
Nothing bad will happen if you go out and sing karaoke until 3am with your besties. Maybe your family will eat toast for dinner that night. Maybe they won’t read a story for once, or get their goodnight song or even brush their teeth.
But sometimes, you just gotta belt out ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ to an audience of bored security guards.
Then you will be energised and ready to make school lunches and comb out nits again.
So, mums minding the bags, when your lovely family come back, tell them to wait for you because you're going on the biggest, scariest rollercoaster and you may just wet your pants a little bit.
And when you get back, you'd like an ice cream and a glass of wine to be waiting please.
* Actually I never gave up the chip. I’m not that selfless.
Kristen is a regular guest on Kinderling Conversation, weekdays at 12pm
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