RAILING against parental advice is hardly unusual. In fact, disagreeing with those who spawned us is so natural I find it weird when mothers and daughters boast #BFF status.
My mum, Belinda, and I have disagreed about whether slices of Mighty White are a proper meal (me, aged seven), online shopping is a security risk (her) and banning your husband from the delivery room during labour (her).
So while I can’t agree with her on everything, there are some things she’s been right about all along.
Here are some of her pearls of wisdom I’ll be passing on to my own daughter, two-year-old Robin…
When I started freelancing, I was so excited by the ‘free’ part, I would work in bed, wearing pyjamas with Wayne’s World hair. This kind of behaviour is not mum’s bag at all. After a few weeks of slovenliness, I felt thoroughly miserable and unproductive.
‘I’m not surprised,’ said mum, appalled by my lack of self-respect. ‘Getting dressed is an essential part of any productive day.’
Mum’s with Roxette on this one. You’ve got to dress for success and that means being ready for a life-changing meeting at any moment. Fresh clothes and a brief meeting with a hair brush are the least you can do of a morning.
Mum has recollections of her and her pals in their London flatshare in the late 1970s, lolling about eating Grape-Nuts for supper in their pyjamas. When the phone rang she’d turn the record player on loudly before picking up so that if it was anyone’s suitor on the line he would think they were having a wild party. Looking like you have something going on is important, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t matter if it’s not true. It’s all about perception. Paradoxically, never boast about how much busier you are than anyone else because it’s self-important.
No one cares
Whenever I disappear into a fug of self-obsession, my mum says the most shocking thing. ‘Martha, you’d be amazed at how little other people are thinking about you.’ This isn’t a caustic put-down about my irrelevance. It’s actually to reassure me that human beings are generally so busy prioritising themselves they have little time to spend worrying about anyone else.
Hand-write thank-you cards
It’s old-fashioned, it’s twee and I hated being nagged about it for my entire childhood but thank-you letter writing is one of my mum’s golden rules and I now agree with her fully. Writing out, longhand, why you are grateful is as important to the sender as it will be lovely for the receiver.
Beware of anyone with no long-term friendships
Occasionally you’ll come across someone who seems to have appeared out of thin air, as if they hatched into the world fully grown, with no backstory or school pals. When you meet someone who has no ties to anyone, there is a problem.
Speak loudly, clearly and if something is off, say so then and there.
Chipped nails are disgusting
When I was a teenager I revelled in the gothic glamour of having chipped Tipp-Ex on my nails, with the initials of whoever I fancied overlaid in Biro. Naturally, it drove my mother insane.These days, I either wear no nail varnish or have perfectly varnished nails.
Validation should not come from social media
‘We didn’t sit around gormlessly waiting for the internet to give us little red hearts,’ says mum about her generation. Of course, social media is so new, we’re still grappling with how best to use it. I want Robin to be robust. If I think too much about the possibility that she will spend any time freaking out about what strangers think about her body, her jokes, her face or personality it makes me want to put my hand in a blender. I hope that social media will have evolved by the time she starts to use it. But I will always want her to remember her validity away from screens and their hearts and shares.
Hand-wash your bras
They last longer and retain their shape.
Blue eyeshadow is a no-no
Unless you are Twiggy or Adwoa Aboah.
Use excess pastry for jam tarts
Circles of pastry pressed into a cupcake tin, a dollop of jam in the middle, in the oven for 15 minutes. Easy.