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Mum life: The four words that we all want to hear

Fat Mum Slim /

As I sat down alone in a small dumpling house in Sydney, I ordered the 201 and 225 from the menu and played around on my phone. Dining alone is something that always looked so cool on TV {Sex and the City, I’m looking at you} but I’ve always felt rather awkward doing, but I’d do anything for dumplings.

Not long after my first dish arrived at my table, a couple sat down beside me. They were about the same age as me, around their late 30’s, perhaps early 40’s and they were married, both dressed in business attire. Now, I’d like to say that I was so wrapped up in my own thoughts, and eating my dumplings that I wasn’t listening into their conversation, but they were seated just 20 centimetres away from me, and I’m an expert in eavesdropping, so of course I was listening. Always listening.

They ordered their dumplings, and his phone rang, and he answered to quickly say, “Hey mate, I’m just having lunch with my wife to discuss the kids, and I’ll call you back later.” He hung up and put the phone down.

I pondered how Sydney-siders were so cool that couples met up over dumplings to discuss the kids, where Hubby and I usually talk about ‘kid’ things once they’ve passed out in bed, and we’ve collapsed on the lounge watching reality TV. Dumplings was so much cooler.

The conversation between them went for a while, and was filled with love and stress, and attempting to manage the fine juggling art of kids, work and life. “You know, I really want to make some time for myself. I want to run again, you know nothing major, just 10km, but then I miss out on the kids and it’s all hard. There’s not enough time. I don’t think I will.”

If it wasn’t for the large prawn dumpling filling my mouth, I might have been tempted to turn to her and say, “Right!? There’s not enough time!” But I kept eating and listening.

And there wasn’t anything revolutionary or sexy being said that was worth repeating, but sitting down in such a small space with another couple, as an outsider, and being privy to their conversation, it was comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in the juggle. Not that I want to run 10km, mind you, but I would like to shower uninterrupted at least once a week. I could sense the exhaustion from the mum, and the sense of guilt she was feeling. I was feeling it too.

I was smack bang in one of those weeks where I had to be in a million places {on planes, different cities and states, in meetings, school events, life stuff} and I felt like I was about to collapse under the pressure. I was being pulled in too many directions, and carrying the stress of bills that needed paying {and wondering where the money for that was going to come from, or if it was going to come at all}, getting a year older that same week {I don’t know why that stresses me, it does}, a humming consistency of anxiety that wouldn’t quit, and carrying a backpack full of guilt that I was doing a particularly shitty job of it all, particularly on the parenting front.

I wanted to reach over and hug her, but, that would have been awkward, so I kept eating my delicious dumplings, pretending not to be listening in.

The next day, as I returned to normal life, I packed the car at 6:30am, with towels, goggles, school uniforms, lunchboxes, the kids and my last iota of sanity, and headed to our weekly swim class. I sat on the side of the pool, along with other parents, and a boy, around 10, waiting for his next class. Lulu bobbed up and down in the pool, half paying attention to her teacher. She took her goggles off, and back on, and did a little trick underwater.

I called out, “Lulu, put your goggles on, keep your head above the water and pay attention to Robert.”

The boy next to me gave me a look. I quickly looked back and quipped, shoulders shrugged, “Mean mum?”

“Nah, you’re a good mum.”

I don’t know who that kid was. Never saw him before. And don’t think I’ve seen him since {but if I’m honest all 10 year old boys look the same to me}, but those words breathed air into my body and lightened me a little. They were validating and reassuring, and sure, they came from a kid who knew nothing of me, other than me calling out across the pool, but I was taking it. I needed it. I was a good mum. Even in that week when I wasn’t doing anything well, I was. I was totally taking it. Sometimes you just need to hear it, no matter where it comes from.

And I thought, as I carried those word around me all day, holding them gently like a newborn baby, that they might be the best words you can hear. Other than “You’ve just won a million dollars!” of course. Those are the best words, unless you don’t like a million a dollars for free. Having that reassurance that we’re doing a good job, {heck I’d even take the reassurance that I’m doing an above mediocre job}, is comforting, and sometimes just what we need. They are some of the best words a person, a mum, can hear.

So, let me tell you, you’re a good mum too. In case you need it today. We’re all doing the best we can. It’s a juggle, and sometimes a struggle. You’re a good mum. You truly are.