the lip crew on the things our mothers taught us
We dedicate this piece to those special women in our lives.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum(s).
‘For nine years I grew up in a single parent-child household, but our home never felt empty. Mum’s chicken and lamb roasts were legendary and we always had plenty of friends to fill the seats around the dining room table – and the green plastic chairs we’d inevitably fetch from the garden. With no relatives nearby, my immediate family consisted of my mum’s great many friends; a host of honorary ‘aunties’ – Lou, Yvonne, Janet, Fran, Helen, Lyn, Sandra and Joanna, amongst a dozen or so others. They went to school together, golfed together, worked together, took up rock and roll dancing together, drank gin and tonics together and holidayed together. My mum drew a great deal of strength from her friends, and they her, and when she died while I was still in high school it was these women who rallied to our home. They crowded into our dinky kitchen to cook for friends and family who had gathered; one of my fondest memories of the time was waking up the day after mum passed away to find Lou busy making a casserole. They cleaned the house and divided up a list of people who needed to know what had happened. Then, after the funeral, they packed up mum’s office and our home until all that was left of her could fit into several boxes and an ornate glory chest. The house sold and I flew to Australia to start a new life. It couldn’t have been easy. The woman who shared mum’s office continued to make two coffees in the morning and sit one on the empty desk beside hers until the cup went cold. Some of mum’s friends quietly drifted away from each other; a few later said she was the glue that kept them together. It never occurred to me just how much they did out of love for mum, for me, in those weeks of uncertainty after she died, until some years later. So thanks mum, and my honorary aunties, for teaching me the strength of friendship.’ – Emma Nobel, Writer
‘My Mother and I had plenty of disagreements when I was growing up. She taught me things she would refuse to budge on. When I asked questions she would say “because I know everything.” Now that am I am older, I’m still not convinced. I do not agree that everyone has the same opportunity to succeed, that Australian indigenous communities are a burden on the population, or that Pride and Prejudice is the best mini-series made by the BBC. I do, however, agree with many of things I was taught by my Mother; and I appreciate her for the person she is helped me to be. My Mother was always a strong person. She never let anything hold her back. While working full-time, and looking after two children, my mother managed to run a successful art business, write a book, complete a fine-arts degree and maintain many female friendships. She would never let anyone tell her she couldn’t; and perhaps more importantly, she never let anyone tell her she should. I will never forget the story of when my grandmother criticised my Mum for buying us fish and chips for dinner. She replied by asking if she would have been able to pave the driveway if she had spent all day slaving away in kitchen? As a strong single mother, my Mum was always a great role model. Although I did not agree with everything she taught me, I am thankful for my upbringing overall. She has allowed me to become the individual I am today, and has contributed to my strong passion for feminism and women’s emancipation. Women’s need for men is not something my Mother ever taught me to believe in.’ – Heidi La Paglia, Writer
‘It wasn’t until I was reading Christina Crawford’s Mommy Dearest when I was sixteen or so that I realised that my mother employed the same tactic that the evil Joan Crawford had in parenting. If I didn’t eat my dinner, I would go to bed hungry and be served up cold stir fry again for breakfast the next morning. One day when I was about thirteen, mum served us up this mystery vegetable she called ‘Warragul Greens’. None of us had ever tasted it before, but it was sold to her as a delicious and healthy green vegetable the whole family will love. After years of learning to eat what was in front of me, lest I be given a more hideous form of it hours later, I scoffed down my Warragul Greens before anyone else had dared to taste. It was the worst thing I’ve ever put in my mouth. Bar none. Of course, as soon as my eight year old brother tasted it, he spat it right back out and said he wouldn’t eat it. This prompted my mum and dad to try it, to which their reaction was very similar to my brother’s. Mum told me I didn’t have to eat it, but it was too late. I think that was my first step in becoming an adult. It sounds silly, but through the discomfort that simple act of obedience caused me, I realised that I didn’t have to do what I was told if I really didn’t want to, even if it was my own mother doing the telling. Mum taught me to obey, and inadvertently through that lesson, to question.’ – Kiah Meadows, Writer
‘My mum has a very different idea of what it means to be a feminist than I do. I remember I asked her once if she was a feminist – after she was dispensing some very candid advice to me about relationships – and she answered, “No, I wouldn’t say I am.” “Why?” “Because I’m a loveable woman.” So, there you go. I’ve never asked her again but I learned what it means to be dependent on myself and stand up for myself from her. My mum grew up strongly believing in ideal femininity, marriage and religion. We’ve always been at odds when it comes to all of those things. But she also passed along her value of work ethic and education. I watched her come home from so many different jobs over the years, stringing together shifts and raising her kids to be reliant on themselves whether they are in a relationship or not. I know deep down she hopes my sister and I will get married and have kids, but I also know that she would be more happy to see us graduate and become successful and self-sufficient. I’m grateful for the example she’s set as a mother and a partner.’ – Shannon Clarke, Writer
‘My mum is the strongest person I know and I’m not saying that because she was in labour with me for more than 30 hours. She is a strong, independent woman who don’t need no man and raised me virtually single-handedly. As such, my mother taught me I don’t need one either. My mother was the first female constable at two police stations in NSW and taught me women can do anything men can do, or better yet: I can do anything I want to. She took over the family business at her father’s death and has kept it running for 13 years when its productivity was projected to cease the following year, then the next year and so on. This exercise taught me the importance of persistence and commitment to a cause. I am lucky to also have her devotion to the cause that is my education and lifelong prosperity and this is something that I hope to pass on to anyone who may inhabit my uterus for a while, too. My mother is not the perfect mother, or the perfect person. She is, however, a well-rounded one who has tutored me in the importance of balancing work and leisure, sacrifice and self-indulgence, and importantly: belonging and standing alone.’ – Sarah Iuliano, Writer
‘As a young girl growing up in a military family, the house I lived in would never last for longer than three years. I was constantly on the move and I was always saying goodbye. I learned pretty early on that you can’t take your friends with you and that sometimes, it’s just easier to leave them with your memories. It was upsetting and I’ve shed a fair few tears, but what I always counted on was the support of my beautiful mother. One of the greatest lessons that I learned from my mum was something like: Friends aren’t permanent, they’ll come and go. You’ll drift away from some of them but then you’ll meet someone new. It’s hard, yes, but there is one thing that you can always rely on. Your family. We will always be there for you and you know you can always count on us. Whatever you need, you should know that you will always have a home with us. I’ve learned to rely on my family because even when the going gets tough and even when you fight, you’ll be able to come back to them. It makes everything that much easier. She’s been almost a single parent while my dad has been overseas in war zones and for that, her consistent care of myself and my siblings, I will be eternally grateful. My mum has taught me a lot of other things as well, lessons that I’ll carry with me into adulthood and beyond, but this particular message has probably stuck with me the most. Thank you mum and I love you lots. Have a happy mother’s day, because you deserve it.’ – Chloe King, Writer
‘My Mother has taught me many useful things. Important things, like don’t put a pot or aluminium foil in the microwave, always buy what’s on special at the supermarket and most importantly, how to manage my curly locks in a straight haired world. Like a Rubik’s cube, she is colourful, bright, twisted and so damn frustrating sometimes that at times I wish she was as plain as the humble old cup and ball. But then I think, how boring would that be? How plain would my childhood have been if Mum hadn’t seen the world so differently? I remember when Mum dropped me off at school one day in year seven. I had just transferred to a new school. Being the new kid and not the most typical girly girl (I had just discovered Frenzal Rhomb and System of a Down), I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. On this particularly cold day my older brother and I had missed the bus and as a result Mum had to drive us to school. Mum, who had only recently got her driver’s license, was doing her best to get us there on time. She sped along in her early ’90s Ford, sporting p-plates, with Limp Bizkit’s Nookie blaring out of the speakers. She pulled up at the front of the school behind a line of school buses. Kids starting getting off, and in hearing the heartfelt lyrics of Fred Durst screaming, ‘I did it all for the nookie’, they searched for the source. There we were – my brother, me and my Mum, sitting in her hoon mobile. She turned her head and, as her curly black afro with red highlights caught what little sunlight we had, she smiled and wished us a good day. I have never been a girl who is embarrassed by their Mother but this was one time that came VERY close. It was probably at this moment that I learnt the most important thing from my Mother: the beauty of difference, acceptance and understanding. She taught me how to be a curly haired girl in a straight haired world. Many thanks and eternal love to you Mama Doolan.’ – Brianna Doolan, Writer