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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  1. Doing the best you can – that’s what they’ll remember.

  2. Amen!!

  3. As the child of parents who did the opposite (Mum worked 2 hours away and Dad stayed at home) I find this so SUPER FUNNY! My Mum would probably have fainted flat on the floor if any of that ever happened when I was little, my Dad too for that matter when he did work for a year or 2 when I was like 6. My Mum and Dad would fight all the time about my Mum working so far away, it was the usual friday night fight. We lived in the middle of nowhere and I would have had my Mum change her job for anything, including getting rid of the fighting. That being said, making my father a little more empathic when his children got sick would have been a valuable bonus… 😛

  4. So I guess he wasn’t organized for notes to be left in her suitcases? 🙂

  5. Oh Kirsty, it’s like you downloaded my mind. I had the same reaction when I read that same article….. I resisted a 1950s comment too. *sigh*

  6. I do so enjoy your posts, I find myself nodding and giggling along – because at a very basic level it is just so wonderful to hear someone I can identify with so strongly.
    The most ridiculous thing I asked my husband to haul back from one of the endless destinations was composting materials, yes, composting materials! Admittedly I was 7 months pregnant and thought composting was a good start to self sufficiency on a small island! Needless to say husband almost arrested and visa revoked at airport, crisis only averted by very good friend in high places!
    Fathers will be the fathers they want to be.

  7. Strange that there are no comments on the actual article hey? Sorry – I’m stuck with the vision of G carting back ribs in his luggage!!!

  8. Some men, as you say, are just arseholes. Others make great dads – and ring the family because they love and miss them, not because there’s a woman promising to take her knickers off if he comes home soon.

  9. Love it, love it, love it! I read the article (and it’s partner article) and had a similar reaction to yours. So when I saw your headline this morning, I cheered! There is an assumption in the article that fathers have to be made to maintain a relationship with their children and it’s somehow our responsibility as mothers to make sure it happens, so well done for calling it out and, as always, in a way that made me smile.

  10. I have to go find the original article because I can’t quite believe that you didn’t make it up!!

  11. I have to go find the original article because I can’t quite believe you didn’t make it up!

  12. We are ex-pats with a travelling husband and honestly I pat myself on the back if the kids are alive and well and not emotionally scarred from a big busy up over breakfast! My job is to cope and keep things normal when he is away. To try to find a time to talk to Daddy with the kids but it isn’t always going to work out with time differences. It’s my job to send him on his way and tell him we will be fine but to also sometimes be honest and admit it’s really hard work when he is away. We welcome him home with excited faces and hugs and kisses it we cannot make banners every time he goes away!!
    Thank you so much for posting this 🙂 x

  13. Yes, the Austrailian community is increasing with their self-harm statistics. Frightening!

    Michael Silver

    Cutting Depression


  14. Fantastic post. Love it!

  15. OMFG! You’re right. The 50’s??? Your response is golden. Keep up the excellent work Kirsty.

  16. Absolutely love it!!

  17. I can’t believe this rubbish still gets perpetuated! Great response.

  18. Oh god yes! Yes to everything you just said. Same goes when some women I know say that their husband is ‘babysitting’ their kids. He’s not babysitting, he’s PARENTING!

    I really do try to strike a balance between my own thoughts/ideas/beliefs and others’ opposing ones, but for some reason anytime I see or hear something that sounds like a 50’s ‘good little wifey’ throwback I just find myself (silently) saying “Nope nope nope”. Especially difficult to bite my tongue when one friend claimed that it really is important to get yourself back in shape quickly after having a baby, otherwise your husband/partner will ‘go looking for it elsewhere’!!!

    Love your writing Kirsty!

  19. Organised, yes. Felt it was needed or understood why it should be done, not so much. 😛

  20. Great response! And I remember the days and nights of solo parenting, of frantic midnight trips to hospital, slammed doors and verbal jousting.

    However to balance things out I also know of toddlers, and teens, who would not go to their returning father, in the days before cell phones, skype and so on, because the mother had been so disgruntled a wall had been built a wall between father and child, with an element of hubris coming from the mother at the outcome.

    It is a given things will go wrong when we are solo parenting but there are some occasions, for example when a spouse is on an oil rig working in difficult conditions, when distracting them with issues from home can in fact become dangerous for them.

    That is why the sisterhood of STARS (spouses travelling and relocating successfully) is so very important!

  21. Hi Apple,

    I agree, times have changed, we now have wonderful technology available for traveling parents. Now anyone on an oil rig/airplane or back of a camel, can take the time to call, email, or shoot off a video to their children at any time they like.

    Yes, long live the sisterhood, I wrote this post with them in mind. I think it’s very important that we don’t guilt trip women into thinking they could be a doing a better job at solo parenting or that they’re responsible for their partner’s relationship with his own children.

    Thanks for your comment, so lovely to see you here.

  22. Thanks Sarah, oh yes, the babysitting comment, ugh!

  23. The visa revoked made me giggle out loud. At 7 months pregnant I once purchases a yellow and white stripy couch. I’ve never lived it down. 🙂

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