When I was seven, my parents went on a two-week holiday to Italy and left me with a babysitter. It was awful. The nanny was delightful and kind and caring, but I hated her. She was just NOT my mum.
For the first few days it felt like the ultimate betrayal from my parents – how could they leave me to prance around Rome eating gelato and bowls of pasta, while I was stuck here with this lady? Did they not realise the entire purpose of their life was to cater to my needs? A holiday? Who would want a holiday from me?!
The question I ask now is… who wouldn’t. Like many kids, I thought I was the centre of the universe. No wonder my parents needed a holiday.
Yet this story is one I hear too often – mothers explaining how they couldn’t possibly leave their kids or partner for an adventure with friends. It would be too selfish. Nobody would survive. Their kids would be upset. Dad doesn’t know how to cook. They’d have a lifetime of abandonment issues. It’s all too hard. Oh, the guilt.
After the Italy adventure, my mother went on many more trips over the years – South America, Asia, Japan, Canada, Russia, Tasmania, Patagonia, New Zealand, Rwanda, South America again, Japan again. Each time we missed her, but we didn’t starve to death, nor develop crippling abandonment issues.
In fact, we thrived.
Dad learned to cook, for a start. Forget pizza and sausages… he took himself off to a Thai cooking course and we dined on Laksa and curry and stir fry packed with veggies and loads of flavour. He still makes the best roast in the family.
Grandma sometimes came to stay, imparting pearls of wisdom impossible for parents to preach. She taught me to sew and bake and pronounce ‘what’ appropriately – all important lessons.
Occasionally we stayed with friends – a week of sleepovers… hell yes! I forged deep friendships through these times which will stay with me forever.
There were times I missed Mum, cried into my pillow. But to borrow an overused old adage, absence made our hearts grow fonder and more grateful. Each time Mum returned with a sparkle in her eye and a suitcase full of presents, we were reminded how lucky we were to have her back.
Now, as an adult, I’ve grown to learn that parents aren’t put on this earth to cater to the needs of tiny masters, that they have their own dreams and loves and fears and flaws. And that’s okay. I realise now what a gift it was to have a mum who pursued that path, because it’s given me permission to do the same.
While I might have sobbed and whinged each time she left me for the mountains, I wouldn’t trade it for a mother who was my door mat… not for the world. Her adventures taught me that being a mother doesn’t mean relinquishing the woman you were before. I know now from experience that when a mother puts her own oxygen mask on first, things are better for everyone… because she’s happier, kinder, more patient, more vital. She’s more present, and that presence is priceless.
Now, in her late fifties, my mum has a thriving social purpose business, a seemingly endless list of adventures on the cards, tonnes of friends, a great relationship, and a childlike sense of wonder.
She’s happy. She’s free. She’s wild. She’s empowered and she doesn’t give a damn about what others think. She’s a role model for women to live courageously and step into their feminine power – no matter their age or ability.
As a daughter, that’s such a wonderful thing to know.
Because when a mother finds her wildness she not only teaches her children how to face fear and speak politely, but how to live a life that matters, how to enjoy the depth, and breadth, and width of those experiences that make it remarkable.
So the moral of this story is to find that wild woman inside you and unleash her. Put your own oxygen mask on first. Ditch the guilt. Feeding your soul with active adventures is a radical act of selfcare that is so far from selfish. In fact, it’s selfless.
You have the right to be deeply satisfied. You have the right to put your needs first. You have the right to live a life that has depth and breath and width. You have the right to feel fullfilled. And from a daughter on behalf of all the daughters (yep, I asked them all) … you have permission.
Now what are you going to do with it?