How I told my family to F*!# Off, and I’m still a great Mum

familyIt’s true. I did it.

I always thought I would hold it together. I’d never be one of ‘those mums’. But I guess I underestimated the power of perimenopausal hormones and the sheer frustration of modern life. Who knew I could stoop so low and tell the ones I love more than anyone else on this planet to ‘f*#* off’?

Here’s how it happened. We were camping in beautiful Byron Bay. It was all supremely relaxing, a wonderful family holiday, or at least it felt that way. Leisurely strolls through the picturesque township. Lazy days on pristine beaches. Early morning sunrise walks up to the local lighthouse. Even taking time to watch the daily procession of whales playing in the gleaming Pacific Ocean. We ate great food, laughed constantly and didn’t have a care in the world.

Byron may no longer be the secret coastal hideaway it once was, but somehow it still has a magical ability to transport you into a tranquil state of bliss. Perhaps it’s the air from Nimbin wafting over, a nearby township known for it’s ‘herbal remedies’, and this state of euphoria is actually because we exist in a permanent haze of pot?

But we digress a little. One afternoon I found myself wandering along the main street of Byron and noticed a sign: ‘$1.00 Oysters and Happy Hour Every Wednesday’. Now as anyone who knows me will vouch, I’m a sucker for oysters. I’m not afraid of a happy hour either. So, in a moment my plan was set. We were going to this restaurant, to sit on the balcony, sip champagne or cocktails and devour some $1.00 oysters. The booking was made and a few hours later off we went, away from the campsite and folding chairs to enjoy a night on a gorgeous deck with great food and drink. We arrived and settled into our balcony-edge seating as our waitress made her way over. I eagerly asked for the oysters, only to be rather rudely informed the $1 Oysters Special was only on Wednesday night and it was Thursday. Whoops. This minor detail had slipped past me.

It was about now things began to head south like a pod of migrating humpback whales. Firstly, the attitude of this waitress annoyed me. A lot. I’m not sure if she too was battling raging hormones, she was sick of her job or maybe just didn’t like the look of us. Either way, she was having a rough night and her rude manner was completely unacceptable.

Now it’s worth telling you something about our family at this point. We’ve always been a pretty flexible bunch and we’re quite adept at changing things up on the fly. However, in saying that, when it comes to concrete plans we do like to stick to them – especially when food is involved. As a family of dedicated foodies it really is important to us, almost sacred. So, my little calendar-based oversight interfered with everyone’s palates and dining choices that evening. Sure, we could have eaten somewhere else. But I was hella focused on these oysters, the balcony, happy hour and the experience.

Beyond the sudden menu change I think we were all pretty hangry by this point. As a family, none of us manages hangriness especially well and, looking back, this is where the emotional cracks began to widen on an otherwise serene Byron evening. Fact is, being hangry never serves anyone. That drop in blood sugar can be brutal, triggering even the sweetest of us all – yes, Ella – to turn in a heartbeat. (It’s important to note on this particular holiday Sophia wasn’t with us. She had to stay home for work, so it was just the four of us: Philip, Gabriel, Ella and myself.)

The discovery of the wrong day and the fact the succulent, freshly-shucked oysters were still available, just not for $1.00, sent our table into chaos. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we just didn’t order the bloomin’ oysters at the regular price. There’s something about a sale or a discount that makes people crazy, it was like Black Friday Oyster Day and I’d missed out.

In an instant, a cloud of black descended over our family table as everyone unravelled. Philip’s frustration wasn’t very well hidden. Then Gabriel decided to jump on the bandwagon. He was sitting across from me on the edge of the balcony, sporting a bizarre attitude that had him slumped over the railing appearing as if he would rather throw himself into oncoming traffic than sit at the table. Sweet Ella tried to keep everyone calm and kept looking over her shoulder embarrassed we were making a scene. Was my mistaking the day that bad? It was like I had thrown the entire universe into a spin and no one knew where we would land. It was $1.00 Oysters and a drink special, people. It wasn’t like I was taking us to a life-giving experience that would change the trajectory of our collective lives. I just wanted a cheap piece of shellfish and a stiff drink!

Sadly, Ella’s glances over her shoulder and to the next table were warranted. We were making a scene and I was the lead actress. With a cast of characters right behind me, I wasn’t on the stage alone. But, I was pushed to breaking point. The look on Gabriel’s face, the huffs and puffs from Philip, and the hormones raging through my body took me to a place I’m not proud of, and I could tell I was a train heading for a crash but I couldn’t stop myself. There was a fire in my belly that was unstoppable and out it came… “Why don’t you all just f*#! off and leave me alone!”

With that, I stood up, realised I was stuck in the corner, and Phil’s chair was blocking my Scarlett O’Hara screen exit. For those who don’t know Scarlett O’Hara, she was one of the lead actresses in Gone with the Wind, and she possibly had the most dramatic highs and lows I have ever seen. I demanded Phil let me by so I could escape my reality and leave everyone in my wasteland (really lovely, I know…. remember, I said this wasn’t one of my best moments, but it was real). Ella was even more embarrassed now. Gabriel shifted from looking like he wanted to throw himself into oncoming traffic to total shock and horror that his mum had indeed lost it. As for Phil, perhaps it was just another day in the life of a perimenopause and andropause relationship. He seemed to weather the storm and eventually let me by. I stamped off to the bathroom and found myself alone, in the stall, sobbing. Sobbing because I didn’t recognise myself as I felt alone and crazy, inside and out. Sobbing because this wasn’t me.

I’d never told my family to f*#! off before, and I never thought I ever would. But here I was already riddled with the guilt motherhood generously supplies. I’d ruined their life. Forget that, I’d ruined everything. I texted two of my girlfriends and said, ‘I’m sitting in the bathroom of a restaurant crying because I’ve just stormed away from our table after telling my family to f*#! off. I’m a mess’. They both replied with the expected sisterhood love and acceptance which was soothing to my black heart. I called my eldest, Sophia and burdened her with my guilt, anger and frustration. She was her usual gorgeous self and talked me off a ledge and reminded me that, contrary to the preceding 5 minutes, I was a good mum and maybe everyone needed me to lose it. She was so kind and generous with her words, and that made me cry even harder because I was talking to this mature, wise, compassionate, gentle soul I had helped raise.

Maybe my heart wasn’t so black. Perhaps I wasn’t ruining everything. Maybe the hormones in my body and life were just too heavy at the moment. Maybe instead of losing my shit at those I loved the most in the world, I needed to be kind to myself and take a good look at what I was carrying. I needed to identify where the pressure was around me. I needed to start peeling back the layers and lay exposed in my truth, fear, anger and loss. Could that have been precisely what I needed? Show kindness to myself? Take care of me?

After talking to Sophia, I did my best to dry my tears. I listened to her advice which was, ‘wash your face mum, after we cry you always tell us to wash our face and we will feel better, so wash your face and go back to the table. I love you’.

Once again my heart swelled with joy and peace. It struck me as unusual, yet wonderful, how the words of my eldest child were so healing and wise in their simplicity. I gathered myself the best I could and returned to our table. The grumpy waitress was back serving our drinks and food with zero regard for her job, let alone her customers. I squeezed past and sat back in my seat. I could tell everyone was on edge (even the table next to us were anxious), all wondering if I had calmed down or if I was back to unleash a second round of expletives and anger. To their surprise, and no doubt relief, I apologised. I explained myself, hormones and all, and owned my part in what had just transpired. I apologised to each of them, one by one, and thankfully it wasn’t like eating bitter herbs. I felt remorse and was very sincere. I was also happy my cocktail had arrived. We sat for the remainder of the evening enjoying the sunset and ordering more food and drink from our increasingly grumpy waitress. It’s worth acknowledging she wasn’t just grumpy with us, she treated every table she served with complete disdain. Why? I don’t know. But one thing I do know is, on that day, I needed to heed my own wisdom.

I always tell our children: the only person you can control is you. Others will do things, say things, act in specific ways. Circumstances will change and life will happen. Yet in and through it all the only thing you have control over is yourself and how you respond. So, as I continue to travel the perimenopausal highway which is paved with speed bumps, potholes, gigantic boulders and soft spaces, I remind myself I have to be kind to myself and find words that speak life into everyone around me, including myself.

Even though, yes, I told my family to f*#! off, here’s the thing: I’m still a really good mum. And so are you.


Vana Belle Hospitality…

For our 20th Anniversary, Philip and I whisked ourselves away to Thailand. To be completely honest, I was a little hesitant at first. I was hesitant because we aren’t those people who need nor do we want to be away from our kids. Actually, travelling with our children has always been something we have loved and enjoyed rather than endured. Neither Philip nor I have ever been ones who have ‘needed to get away from our kids’. I know some parents do who do need the ‘much-needed break’ and that’s okay, it’s just never been us. 

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Princess Cruise for a Day

I am heading off on a three-day cruise next week without the company of my family. Instead I am travelling with a friend of mine that I have known my entire life! We are celebrating our birthday on the cruise as we share the same day. For those interested, you’ll see some of our adventures on social media (Instagram & Facebook) because like any good social media girl, I’ve bought the deluxe drink package + wifi!!!! Disconnected yet a little connected.

For now, allow me to take you on a trip back through time to the first cruise experience we had as a family. It was a massive joint family endeavour; the five of us, my sisters family and her three kids, my brothers family and his four kids and my mum… Enjoy!

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Inside the Quiet.

Like many people, I have tried over the years to stick to New Year’s resolutions and promises made to myself.

Like most, inevitably I fail a few weeks into the year. Whether it be my bad habits, the desire to shift some unneeded weight, the year I learn a new language or start to paint. The only resolution that I hold onto seems to be the one that promises I won’t do it. Resolutions, for whatever reason, have not worked for me.

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Social Media, Teens and the Judgement We Pass

Social Media

Social Media… it’s a jungle out there.

Firstly, let me say that I have been guilty of what I’m about to write. Why am I writing and exposing myself and possibly many of you who are reading? I’m writing because we need to address ‘Social Media, Teens and the Judgement We Pass’. We are raising teenagers and I’ve had a gut full of the harmful chatter. It’s time to say something.

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Life Isn’t Perfect and the Sky Isn’t Falling

Life Isn't PerfectLife isn’t perfect but guess what? The sky isn’t falling… You’ll be okay! There is a word that has been making its way around social media spaces and blogs. From what I can see, it started with Glennon Doyle Melton, the founder of Momastery. The word is Brutiful. It’s usually used in reference to the lives we all live. Our lives are both beautiful and brutal at the same time which gives us brutiful.

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Neighbourhood Terrorism Alive and Well

Neighbourhood TerrorismI never imagined I would write an article with this title. The fact that I am is a sad reflection of recent events which have rocked my family. We have found ourselves targeted by hatred, ignorance and, quite frankly, absolute stupidity.

Yes, we’ve experienced hurtful words before. We’ve felt the sting of racism and the bite of careless comments made in poor taste, but never before have we needed to deal with such a torrent of vicious abuse, literally on our own doorstep. Never have we been faced with terrorism in our neighbourhood.

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Back to School… The Aching Heart of a Mother

IMG_1543Over the past few weeks, kids across Australia have headed back to school Lazy summer days are over and the school bell beckons our attention. How did our holidays slip by so quickly? Where did the days, the plans, the sleepovers go? Alas, we are faced with lunchboxes, new diaries, schedules, school fairs, sports carnivals, meet the teacher nights and homework.

This year, I sent off my eldest, Sophia to complete her final three terms of Year 12. Our son, Gabriel, is in Year 9, and our sweet little Ella is in Year 5. How did we get here? Where did the years go?

Whilst scrolling through Facebook and looking at everyone’s back to school photos, I landed on a picture and post by my friend

Katie and her big boy

Katie and her big boy

Katie. Katie’s eldest is heading off to the big school, and by that I mean Kindergarten. Her photo said so much. I could see the sadness in her eyes and the excitement and anticipation in his. The eagerness to step into this new adventure was all about him and that familiar pang in the heart and guts could be seen in Katie. Her comment read: “The only photo I was allowed to get of this big boy starting school this morning. We’ve found ourselves here in the blink of an eye (my blink – not his). Every day has been a treasure and today especially … My big, brave boy walking off to class with his puppy (Teddy) under his arm.”

As I read her words, I found myself lost in a world of grief. I remember the first day of big school for all my children and today, especially Sophia. I commented on Katie’s post and confirmed the blink. We are warned of it when we have our children, but it never seemed real – until now! Whether for Katie, who is embarking on the school years, or myself who is nearing the end of a chapter for one child, I desperately don’t want the story to end, yet I am excited and feel that I am being prepared for Part 2, or the “to be continued”.

As I drove my children to school (yes, I made my 17-year-old let me drive her to school for her final first day of secondary education), I looked over at her sitting so confidently and beautifully beside me. In a blink, my mind raced back to the day when I was driving her to prep, perched in her car seat, lunchbox grasped in her hand, feet dangling and listening to the Wiggles. Today, I looked at this woman who is prepared to face the world, to go out and explore and to live a life she loves. There were no Wiggles in the background; rather it was something she had chosen from her playlist, a new band she had discovered that speaks her language. I felt a tear in my heart.

I thought about the years of school and all the moments that could be found in the BLINK. The hormonal days I’ve had driving them to school, yelling like a lunatic, knowing that my hormones were causing me to be a complete nutter. The days that her hormones were all over the place causing her to freak out over the length of her skirt, shoelaces or the shade of her foundation. Mums of teenage girls, you know what I’m talking about. The times when I forgot it was costume day or, the many mornings I dug through the contents of my car trying my best to create news stories out of discarded straws, matchbox cars or business cards simply because news day crept up each week far too quickly. What about the birthday cupcakes that I didn’t bake and the ones the other mums did, the decorated ones that deserved a spread in bloody Martha Stewart Living? What about the assemblies where awards were given out for picking up the most garbage on the school yard or acing the spelling bee? I made it to some, but others I missed because I simply hadn’t put them in my calendar. It’s in these moments that I scream at social media because undoubtedly another doting mother has posted or texted me a picture of my children because I wasn’t there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the photo that was sent, it’s just the personal guilt I struggle with.

Then there’s the parental academic and sports jousting. Thankfully, I did my best to avoid this trap, and I would advise my younger friends to do the same. Trust me, it kills friendships and damages your kids. In saying that, as a mother who works out of the home, I have been guilty of secretly despising the mums who don’t miss a beat. Those who bake, complete every inch of homework on time, never forget a library book, attend every excursion, incursion, book parade and fair. There have been times when this has bugged me, downright annoyed me and left me feeling “less than”.

But today, as I look at my daughter, I’m so glad I learned to be grateful for the picture-taking, baking mums who have filled the gaps when I have fallen short. The ones who have cheered my children on from the sidelines when I didn’t make it or I was away working.  I am forever grateful, and I too have held their children when they’ve been hurt or have forgotten a book. I have been there and although I highlight the times I missed a beat I know that I was there more than not. In fact, my husband and I have made every effort to attend as much as possible for our kids. But, the cookie doesn’t always crumble the way we would like it to.

What I do know is that as we have matured as mothers and fathers and are now looking at the women and men we have raised, we realise that we have grown with them. We have become better. We celebrate each other knowing that our children will make mistakes. They may not always get straight A’s or become the school captain or valedictorian. They might get suspended, talk back to a teacher or upset another student and that’s okay because it is all part of their journey.

To my eldest, Sophia, I want to thank you. Thank you for being amazing. Thank you for always being so teachable and allowing us to shape you, because as we’ve shaped you, you’ve changed us. Thank you for letting me re-live my school years through the many projects we did together – I apologise for taking the reins during these times and becoming a crazed mother. You know I LOVE the project work!!! Thank you for the moments that you have created, the ones that have had us doubled over in laughter and the ones that have seen us go through a tissue box. Thank you for working hard and getting good grades because that has seriously made our job much easier. Thank you for becoming my morning DJ on the days where only JB, Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers or, more recently, Lana Del Rey and the infamous Kanye West would take us to where we needed to be. Thank you for those times we sang Adele’s HELLO and Bonnie Tyler’s TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART at the top of our lungs. Thank you for getting your driver’s licence and giving us the opportunity to spend 120 hours in the car with you. Hours I will never regret. Slow trips to Canberra, hair-raising lane changes and a few near misses. I’m sorry for those “grandma” moments when I hit the invisible brakes and grabbed for the door handle.

As for your school lunches …. well, I tried my best, shunning processed food in favour of healthier options, but it’s fair to say that dinner is more my priority. Dinner is when we get to gather at the end of the day, linger around the table and share stories of the day’s adventures. Oh, the joy.

To the parents out there who are still tearing up either because, as my friend Katie, your little one has just started, or because, like me, you hope the days linger and slow down, just relax and savour the moments. Take it all in because if you blink, you might miss it. As parents, be intentional about cheering each other on, it will only help our school communities and the relationships we find ourselves in. Life is way too short to concern ourselves with what we perceive other people’s problems to be. As the good book says: “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” And in one of my favourite quotes, J.M. Barry encourages us: “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Wise words, indeed.


GetRealLive Radio is BACK!

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We are excited to invite you to join us tomorrow for GetRealLive Radio. Yes, there is Real Talk Radio with myself and Mark Zschech and back by popular demand and much planning, Nicole Liboiron and I are hitting the air waves tomorrow morning and we would love for you to join us.


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Tomorrow we have a really interesting guest. Author, Joseph Wakim, will be with us and he will be sharing his story about losing his wife and how he had to step in and raise his 3 Daughters on his own. Published by Allen & Unwin the book is called, ‘What my Daughters Taught Me.’ It has been described as a ‘brilliantly honest memoir … hilariously so’ and also a ‘fight against gender and cultural stereotypes’.

The book not only deals candidly with father-daughter relationships, but also with resilience, hope, faith, masculinity, strength, grief and the ‘humour hormone’.

Tune in tomorrow at 10am (Sydney AEDT) and be part of the conversation. We will be taking calls, answering questions and comments from Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Click on the link below to listen live or on demand

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