Tomorrow I’ll Be A Better Mother

Most nights I go to bed thinking about how I could have tackled the day better. Tomorrow I’ll be a better mother. It’s not the logistics, I don’t really bother about perfect lunch boxes or how well the evening meal is planned. If I’m late handing in the latest concession form on time, bad luck. It’s my children’s faces that feature prominently in my guilt. The disappointment of a broken promise, the argument that didn’t need to happen.

“Mum, you promised you were going to make a pavlova today?”

“Mum, you said you were going to be there at 4?”

“Mum, you don’t have to go to softball, Dad can come, you’ll probably just be on your phone anyway.”

Children can be a bloody hard audience to please. Does she really think I’m on my phone? Is that what she’s going to remember?

::

Angelina Jolie was the first person I heard talk about it. I was sitting on the couch breastfeeding a baby when a re-run of The Actors Studio came on.

“No emotions were really enough…I grabbed a knife and cut him, he cut me back…it suddenly felt more honest. I went through a period of when I’d feel trapped I’d cut myself because it felt like I was releasing something.”

As I sat there, enveloped in suburbia with a warm cup of tea, a piece of toast in my hand and a baby on my lap, I stopped mid sip to digest the information. It was 2006, I’d never heard of cutting. I thought it must have just been an Angelina thing, you know, like open mouth kissing your brother. It turns out Angelina wasn’t alone, other celebrity cutters or self harmers included Fiona Apple, Russell Brand, Johnny Depp, Demi Lovato, Christina Ricci and Princess Diana. You didn’t see that last one coming did you?

My Mum was telling me a story of a marriage breakdown recently. “It’s really sad, on top of dealing with the marriage being over, her daughter has been cutting herself.” I could tell by my mother’s tone that this was something that was totally foreign to her.

“That’s not that unusual, there’s so many girls doing it now.” I sounded callous, flippant, like I was talking about spring fashion. Cutting had popped up in so many of my conversations when I was home over the winter that I was talking about it in the same vein as colour blocking or ballet flats with a capri pant. Except cutting is not that pretty, it’s more like denim on denim or the mullet dress. A girlfriend told me the counsellor at the school she taught at was over-run with kids who were self harming. Friends spoke of teenagers who had removed blades from pencil sharpeners and disappeared into toilets. It seemed to be everywhere in the press and rightly so.

In Australia in the past ten years self harm statistics have doubled.

::

I read the saddest anonymous blogpost recently. Sad because it was a little too close to home. The mother of TCK (third culture kid), anguishing in the news that her daughter was cutting. How did it happen? Was it their expat lifestyle? I thought about my own daughter, safe and tucked up at home with me, but who knew what the future held. She was fine at 13, but how was life going to be for her at 15? And then I realized there was nothing I could do. I was doing everything I could. As I read through the post I wanted to reach in through the sentences to hold the author tight and give her the one true response that I knew for sure “It’s not your fault. It just is what it is”.

It’s everywhere. Like a really ugly fashion trend, only with far more devastating consequences.

I can’t be a better mother. I’m doing the best I can. Today, yesterday, and tomorrow.

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