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Hey mum, cut yourself some slack, you're doing okay

Karen Hardy
May 13 2024 - 12:30pm

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from reporters across the ACM network, which stretches into every state and territory. Today's is written by Canberra Times lifestyle reporter Karen Hardy.

I sometimes wonder if I've done a good job of being a mother. The kids are no longer kids, both in their 20s now, my hands-on days are well over. It was much easier when I could gauge how well I was doing by how well I'd fed them, or whether I got them to school on time, or if I was on top of their extensive calendar of sleepovers and sporting events.

WATCH: Spoil mum properly this Mother's Day with what she ACTUALLY wants.

But how do you gauge yourself now, when the day-to-day is completely different? The kids don't live with me anymore, one of them doesn't even live in Canberra. There's a fun weekly catch up with the other, for dinner, maybe an episode of Bake Off or Gogglebox, or we'll go and watch her boyfriend play cricket or soccer and stretch out on a blanket and have a natter. Like we're friends.

(But we set those boundaries very early on in our relationship, we're not friends, we agreed. I'm her mother, she's my daughter, and while we do genuinely like each other as people, I'm still allowed to call some shots as I am the parent. Or that's how I interpreted that conversation at least. Ha. I'm sure she has a completely different story.)

Mothering when the kids are all grown up. Picture Shutterstock
Mothering when the kids are all grown up. Picture Shutterstock

But just recently a few things have happened that have made me think that perhaps I shouldn't be so hard on myself. They make adult decisions, or act on something in a very grown-up way, and it surprises me - that's not the right word, for it shouldn't surprise me as they're great people - perhaps it catches me off guard.

The boy posted something on social media about the current issue of domestic violence and gender relations. It was a repost, I'm sure, but he was making his stand for all men to address the issue.

In 2021, I wrote about a story where it was revealed that male students at Sydney's St Luke's Grammar were required to choose the qualities they looked for in a girl from a list that allocated more points for virginity, looks and strong Christian values than it did for generosity and sincerity. The girls, meanwhile, were given articles to read about why remaining a virgin until marriage was important. And this week, four boys at Yarra Valley Grammar School were suspended after it was revealed that they had posted photos of the female students and ranked them using highly derogatory terms including "wifeys", "cuties", "mid", "object" and "unrapeable".

In many ways, I'm glad the boy's formative years were spent in this kind of environment. We've had some terribly frank conversations during his teenage years, not shying away from the hard topics.

Some of the things he's told me over the years have scared the bejeebers out of me, the behaviours he's witnessed, indeed some of his own experiences. When he's told me he's stepped in occasionally, or put a drunk friend in an Uber, or accompanied a female friend to a party, just to keep an eye on her because something didn't feel quite right, I feel incredibly proud.

And my daughter, too, catches me off guard with her feminist bent. She's become an advocate for women's sport and fair coverage and equality.

We laugh about the night she popped up to watch the Brumbies Super W team play and was leaving after that game, only for the security guard to tell her she couldn't get back in and she said she didn't want to, that she'd only come to watch the girls. She stands up for what she believes in, is happy to pull people into line if she's felt they've overstepped the mark. I wish I had been more like she is now when I was her age.

If our job as mothers is to raise our children and watch them turn into adults and set them free, then that's the place in life where I'm at. I can only hope I've given them the skills and knowledge they need in life in order to make their own way, then perhaps my job is done, and has been done well.

I wish I had some of that time again, there would be things I would do differently, change my own actions and reactions in order to set a better example for them.

But like our relationship with our own mothers, we look, in hindsight, at how that went and what we took away from it, things we learned and absorbed or vowed to do completely differently.

So as we farewell another Mother's Day, cut yourself some slack and find those attributes in your children, whether they be young or old, that should reassure you you've done a fine job. It's highly likely that you have.

Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy

Canberra Times lifestyle reporter

I've covered a few things here at The Canberra Times over the years, from sport to education. But now I get to write about the fun stuff - where to eat, what to do, places to go, people to see. Let me know about your favourite things. Email: karen.hardy@canberratimes.com.au