11 Mothers I Love to Follow

(As appears in Real Mums Club magazine: www.realmums.com.au/you)

Let’s get something straight. Real mamas rock. We do.

And make no mistake, we rock more than just the cradle.

To me, a ‘real’ mother is anyone who consistently nurtures, cares and protects their underlings. It doesn’t matter who they are, how much money they are cushioned by – or short of. It doesn’t matter whether they gave birth ‘naturally’ or via C-Section – or in many cases, whether their children actually biologically came from their bodies. It isn’t determined by whether they are with their offspring’s father, or with another mother or no one at all.

Everywhere you look there are good examples of good mummies. Each of them has a different story. All of them make mistakes and all of them deserve a tickertape parade. Even the ones that don’t raise/feed/educate/dress their kids the same way we do.

It’s hard not to compare ourselves with other mothers. I, for one, am always looking at how others reward and discipline their kids. The best advice I’ve garnered in this caper has come via watching others and in doing so I’ve picked up a multitude of tips that have helped my home remain a happy one and not one that in any way that resembles the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan (at times, it’s been close though)!

In my observations I’ve also come across a multitude of child-raising practices that are definitely not high on my list to emulate. You know how it is, you’ll be having a conversation with someone about life with the kids, rolling your eyes, bitching about the thanklessness of it all, swapping anecdotes and the other person will shock you with a story about a style of parenting that goes beyond anything you would be OK with in your family. “You did what ...? I thought you said ...? Oh, you did! That’s different.” Topic change.

At that point I literally have to bite my tongue to stop myself imparting a “better” way of doing things. And a good thing I do. Do these people love their children? Yes, of course. Are their kids safe, fed, clothed? Tick, tick, tick. Does their upbringing mirror how I want to raise my kids? Not always. Am I a “better” (there’s that word again) mum than these other women? Oh please! Who am I to judge? Like everyone else I’m making this stuff up as I go along and just hoping to avoid becoming the subject of a future pop song about childhood angst and parenting imperfection (Kelly Clarkson’s Because of You, anyone?)

Oh, and another thing? Let’s address the next big category in the Better Mother Competition: work.

That whole working-mums vs. stay-at-home-mums rivalry is not helping anyone. We have to put that business to bed and stick together. We need government-invested paid parental leave. We also need workplaces that demonstrate understanding that highly-valuable employees and responsible parents who need to leave early, are not mutually exclusive entities.

Let’s save our energy for fighting for those causes instead of one another. Otherwise, we are judging one another based on discrepancies in choices that, let’s face it, often aren’t choices at all.

Instead, let us loudly revere one another for doing a bang up job. And let us remember to give ourselves permission to do our own stuff too. Sure, it’s rewarding as hell helping these gorgeously, impressionable little mites, but damnit, there’s a happy medium between putting them first and ourselves last.

Other mums that I love most of all are those that manage to put their kids first yet still follow their own dreams, careers, consciences and/or pastimes.

Here are 11 in no particular order.
1. Angelina Jolie
Let’s get this one out of the way, shall we. There are many things I love about Ange. Most of them superficial, but ever since she saw first-hand the decidedly unpampered plight of the children, the downtrodden and the sick away from her Hollywood home, she hasn’t shut up about them or stopped adopting them.

2. Susan Sarandon
Highly articulate, no BS-taking, highly politically savvy. SS doesn’t jump on any bandwagons; she drives her own.

3. Start Up Mums
If you type “mums home business” (or something similar) into Google News, your computer will be flooded with success story after success story of mothers who took risks and started home based enterprises so they could earn an income doing something they loved while remaining close to their babies. (Not to mention working and waking more hours a day than ever before.)

4. Scrap-bookers
I’m not even going to pretend that I know a lot about the scrap-booking movement but my god it’s everywhere – over the internet, overleaf and over here! What I love about sooo many mothers being into it is the general premise of a hobby that is just for them that they take interest in and can develop and take pride in the results. Ditto bloggers and exercisers.

5. DR Ruby Langford Ginibi
This mother of nine, grandmother of 21, great-grandmother of 14, Aboriginal activist, historian and author, overcame obstacle after obstacle and undertook some serious personal growth to become a truly inspirational indigenous Australian. Her autobiography,
Don’t Take Your Love to Town – which chronicles amongst other things the death of three of her children, the long-term correctional incarceration of another, and her alcohol addiction – won the 1988 Human Rights Literary Award.

6. Cheryl and Nikki Bart
I have long held that I would rather give birth without drugs (which I previously have done and found it very over-rated!) than attempt to climb Mount Everest. Ultra-fit people do it every year and in doing so even they can barely walk a few steps a minute; risk horrible things happening to their limbs, brains and hearts; can’t eat; are at the mercy of weather, wind, avalanches. And I haven’t even started on the cold. I begrudgingly tip my lid to those crazy folks who beat the odds and make it anywhere near the top of the world. One such couple of loonies include this Australian mother and daughter duo that
got there on 25 May 2008. They’re undeniably nuts ... but what a way to bond.

7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. The View
Have you seen this show? I resisted it for a few years but now I’d have to consider myself a Viewer (mainly thanks to Whoopi Goldberg joining the show). The program is basically a panel of five women who sit around gabbing about hot topics on just about everything in an oestrogen-overloaded talk fest. They also do celebrity interviews, product reviews and the like. Although there are times when I just want to reach through the TV and smack one of them out (one in particular), mainly I love that there is a show out there that has managed to feature five strong women who are all mothers and are all very different in their experiences, morals, opinions and even dress styles.

Who are the mums that you love?

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