‘Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of 99... Wear sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.’
People of a certain generation will know those words are the opening to what became known as ‘The Sunscreen Song’ by Baz Luhrmann. The 1999 hit became nothing short of a global phenomenon, in a time before smartphones, social media and things ‘going viral’.
It was a spoken word song based on a column written by Mary Schmich, originally published in the Chicago Tribune in 1997. It’s sagely words became something of an anthemic blueprint for teenagers everywhere who were on the cusp of going out into the world, just as the millennium was approaching.
I was one of those teenagers and I adored it.
I can remember playing it on my Discman over and over and feeling the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
Almost 20 years later however, I listen to the song with slightly different ears. Where I once listened to the song full of teenage hope, with the world very much at my feet, now I listen to it and I finally understand so much of what the author was saying. I hear the song and I can hear the regret in it.
Because I didn’t go out there and set the world on fire.
The song is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn’t appreciate my youth until it was behind me. I know I’m not exactly on the pension yet, but still, my teenager years and twenties are no more and I feel regret.
Today, I look back at photos of myself as a teenager and I finally realise how great I looked, but at the time I worried about every spot, every calorie, every haircut, every clothing choice, every make up decision. I hated my thighs, my horrendous skin, my tallness. I was never ever pleased with my appearance, always on a diet, always trying to change myself.
Now I can see I looked amazing. I was on the brink of my life changing, college was still ahead of me, and the world was literally at my feet. And while I regret not embracing all of that at the time, the words of the song remind me that no teenager really grasps what they’ve got with both hands.
That’s the universal benefit of hindsight though, right? None of us can really see how good we have things in the moment, yet looking back we realise things were pretty good back then.
And then it occurred to me that motherhood is a lot like that. Right now, things are hectic. I’ve a super active 20 month old, I’m a stay at home mum, who’s also trying to work from home and have more balls in the air than snuggles the juggler. I’m stressed most days, look like the wreck of the Hesperus, often wish for my old life back, feel like I'm failing at being a good mum and am a zombie come 9pm.
But I’m willing to bet, I’ll look back at this period in my life, in say another 20 years and by Jesus I’ll wish I was back here. I may not be a teenager any more, but my life is still very much full of possibility.
So with all that in mind, I’ve come up with my own 'Wear Susncreen' version for all the mums out there, in an homage to the great original 1997 column.
Mammies of 2018,
Take a look in the mirror and realise you're a warrior. You created a tiny human, you gave birth to them and you’re looking after their every need, putting yourself last and them first every day of the week.
You are doing an amazing job. Trust me. One day you’ll look back at this time and think Jesus, did I really do all of that? You’ll realise just how awesome you are and just how well you did.
Embrace those mum bun days, the stretch marks, those wispy sticky up hairs, the days when you wear the leggings and don’t have time to drink a hot cup of tea.
Understand and accept that motherhood changes you, but that's okay. You will find yourself again, maybe a little different than before, but you are still you.
Don’t let other parents judge your parenting choices and make you feel bad, you’re doing what’s right for you and your family.
Laugh. Laugh often and laugh hard because your kids will do things that will both drive you to distraction and make you wet yourself with hilarity, so let yourself laugh.
Don’t listen to unsolicited parenting advice that’s designed to do nothing but bring you down, but be grateful for those who are happy to pass on their pearls of wisdom if you’ve asked them to bare their soul.
C-section, vaginal birth, ventouse, forceps, epidural, hypno-birthing, water birth, screaming your lungs out or standing on your head, all of those and more are valid and wonderful ways to give birth. There is no easy option, when it comes to labour – giving birth is an incredible achievement so wear it with pride.
Go with your mammy gut and don’t doubt it for a second.
You can do this, I promise you, yes even on those days when you want to resign and turn in your mammy badge or just hide in the under stairs cupboard and cry. Tomorrow will be a better day. I promise.
It’s okay to lose your shit and no mammy has her shit together all the time, no not even Susan from your mum and baby group who talks about her son eating kale and quinoa and sleeping through the night from day one. She has tough days too even if she doesn’t let on.
Bin mammy guilt. Bin in, set the bin on fire and drive over it with the car.
Finally, support each other. Remember you’re all in this together mammies, we all need support and love and help through the hard days… you are never alone.