Would you ever hand over the reins of your life to your mum…? One woman did just that – but did her mum’s well-meaning meddling help or hinder matters?
When a friend made a throwaway comment about how my mum could be a life coach, things hadn’t been going that well for me. My finances were in the red (getting my card declined while buying milk was a particular low point), my career was limping along and my friendships were falling by the wayside.
I wondered what would happen if I handed control of my life over to my mum – something I’ve been actively resisting all of my adult life – and offered myself up to her unique brand of tough love. I decided to test the waters.
“You’re reactive, not proactive,” she tells me, quickly getting into her stride. “It’s like your brain is a busy train station – things just come and go, and you’re not in control of any of it. If you had a mantra, it would be ‘Oh fuck, I forgot.’”
And with that glowing character reference, I decided to give my mum carte blanche to target the areas of my life – my health, finances, career and relationships – that she thinks she could make positive changes to (so, you know, all of it).
Here’s what happened next…
I would describe myself as sporty, but the truth is, the only cardio I do these days is at the checkout in Aldi when I try to pack my shopping quicker than it comes flying towards me. My mum suggests joining a local running club to help get back in the habit of regular fitness, and perhaps meet some new friends along the way.
“Yes,” I say, coming around to the idea. “Perhaps I could sign up for a 10k?”
“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” she replies. “It concerns me that you don’t prioritise your health,” she adds, moving swiftly on. “You let doctors and dental appointments slide.”
She’s referring to the blood test I was supposed to have back in August last year that I’ve been meaning to reschedule ever since. “I schedule the same check ups around the same time every year,” she tells me. “Make the appointments and put them in your diary.”
She clocks my blank expression. “Buy a diary.”
I used to be the deputy editor of a celebrity magazine before deciding to go freelance when my two young sons came along. But the flexibility I once craved can often feel like an albatross around my neck – now, my time never feels like my own. Recently, the lure of starting and finishing work at a set time has led me to consider applying for part-time roles completely outside of journalism.
“No,” says my mum-turned-life-coach when I put my predicament to her. “You’re not putting yourself out there because you can’t take the rejection. You’re just making excuses to get out of doing what you actually want to do,” she continues, hitting the nail on the head.
“You don’t have any confidence in yourself anymore. It’s like you’re actively trying to take up less room in the world when what you need to do is hold your head up high and strive for what you want.”
It’s true – resilience is crucial when you work for yourself, and it’s something I’m in scant supply of. Mum’s advice forces me to acknowledge that the idea of a career change is less about finding a solution to the working parent juggle, and more about staying in my comfort zone.
One of my mum’s most common conversation starters is “On the Martin Lewis website” (second only to “I got it in the Laura Ashley sale”), so asking her to make sense of my dire finances seems like a safe bet. The problem I have is that because my workload ebbs and flows, so too does my income. But instead of avoiding checking my balance and just blindly using my card until it declines (10/10 would not recommend), my mum comes up with a solution.
“Go on the Martin Lewis website and apply for an interest-free credit card,” she says. “Put everything on that and clear your overdraft because you’re paying over £30 a month in bank charges. Once your overdraft is clear, pay off the card. Just make sure you pay off the card before the introductory period ends.”
Next I show her the £900 worth of utility bills I received this month.
“First of all, go on the Martin Lewis Website,” she says (see!). “Find a cheaper energy provider and then pay monthly by direct debit. That way you won’t be hit with anymore expected bills.”
Goodbye silent, gnawing worry.
“You’re the only person I know who gets pissed off when you get invited to anything,” my mum accurately points out. “You need to make more time for your friends.”
She’s right – I’ve always had a tendency to be a bit of a flake but I’ve really neglected my friendships since becoming a mum. “You absolutely do have the time!” she tells me when I try to make excuses. Somewhere along the line I’ve stopped seeing friends and fun as a priority, and I hate that.
But when I tell her that it’s been two years since my partner and I have been out together on our own (one thing mum and I have in common is our refusal to use the term ‘date night’), her jaw practically hits the floor. “When you become parents, you need to spend time together without the kids so you remember who you are as a couple,” she gently explains. “Spend more time together.”
This whole exercise has helped me see my life from the outside. It’s chaotic and, yes, reactive. I need to find some structure. I mean, sure, I definitely could have lived without some of my mum’s pointers (“are you really so busy that you don’t have time to brush your hair?”) but others have inspired me to make some pretty big changes. Mum’s made me realise that I never put myself first and that I need to work on my confidence.
“Everyone who meets you thinks you’re a lovely, beautiful person and you just don’t see that, do you?” says mum. That’s nice. Anything else? “Yes, get your brake lights fixed.”
Images: Unsplash, via author