I vividly remember the day, seven years ago, when I walked into my son Ollie’s classroom and saw something shocking, that made me rethink the type of mother (and person) I wanted to be.
He was six at the time and dragged me excitedly through the scattered chairs and desks toward his latest masterpiece—a brightly painted stick figure portrait of his Dad.
“Wow Ollie” I said, admiring Chris’ giant orange head and long spindly arms with amusement. Underneath the painting was a neatly typed caption that read:
“My Dad loves football, playing the piano, Star Wars and drawing cool pictures.”
“Well done buddy,” I praised. “You’ve captured Dad really well.”
“Thanks! And look Mum, here’s yours!” he beamed, proudly gesturing to a bright yellow stick figure with black hair, bright red lips and huge blue eyes (my eyes are actually brown, but never mind).
“Gosh, don’t I look glamorous!” I said happily. Then my gaze fell to the caption underneath. As I read the words, staring at myself through my son’s eyes, I was dumbfounded:
“My Mum works for money, lies on the couch and eats pizza.”
I let the words sink in. Really? I don’t even like pizza! And when do I ever have time to lie on the bloody couch!
“Do you love it Mum?” he asked, his aquamarine eyes searching for approval.
“Oh yes!” I faked, wondering what his teacher had thought when she typed those words, and how many other teachers and parents had seen it.
I hugged my boy, kissed his pink cheeks and bolted home feeling mortified. How could he know so much about his father and so little about me?
Throughout eight years of motherhood I’d given my kids everything I had, but amidst all of that loving, nurturing and machine-like juggling of work and family commitments, I’d shared nothing of the real me. In my son’s eyes I was the money making, couch dwelling, pizza eater. He and my daughter Becky had no clue who I was as a person. And in truth, neither did I.
I realised, by becoming a mother I’d gained two children and lost myself.
That was when I started to write – and over time writing became my way back—an outlet to amuse, inspire and re-discover who I am.
Over the following years I made an effort to ensure my kids got to see the real me. When I wasn’t working or hanging out with them, I was writing, making art for the walls, jogging with my friends or pottering in the garden. I felt that if I could model for them an authentic, balanced life then one day they’d go out into the world and create their own.
Well, that was the plan anyway…
Fast forward seven years and I’m curious about whether the effort I’ve made to share more of myself has given Ollie and Becky, now 13 and 14, a better understanding of me than the ‘couch dwelling pizza eater.’ So the other day I decided to ask them:
Me: “If someone asked you to describe your mum (a.k.a. me), what would you say? What’s my personality like? What interests do I have? How do I like to spend my time?”
Here’s how they replied:
Becky: “I really don’t think anyone cares enough to ask that question, Mum.”
Ollie: “You like sitting on the couch and eating pizza … same as always.”
The moral of the story? If you choose to add a little more balance to your life, make sure you do it for yourself, not your kids. Chances are they probably won’t even notice or care! Eventually, when they leave home we’ll be left with whatever life we created for ourselves when we chose to be something other than their parent. So go for it!
Until next time,
Lisa Nimmo is an author, speaker and mum of two teenagers, based in Wellington New Zealand. If you’d like to know more visit lisanimmo.com
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