My life is in dire need of a steam clean, and there's no better time to clear away the crap and cobwebs than on a birthday. Tomorrow I turn 44 years old, and I figure it's a good time to reflect on and celebrate the life lessons I have learnt, still haven't learnt, should learn and will never learn.
I've put together a list of those lessons, but before you groan, this is not a bunch of smug, self-satisfied rules for living. Besides, lists have never been my strong point, as I exist permanently in a state of controlled chaos.
However, if the apocalypse is nigh, my family and I could live quite comfortably in my car. There would be enough to eat, with scraps of food left over from old school lunches, along with stagnant water from half-drunk Disney Snow Queen Elsa water bottles.
And my family would be well-clothed, since I have a mountain of clothes for big and little people in the boot. If you need something to help pass the time, there's piles of reading material, with a month's worth of newspapers stacked on the front seat and overdue school library books jammed under the driver's seat. Plus there are some sparkly purple fairy wings to help you get the hell out of this place if it really is all too terrible ...
The unlisty life continues inside our home, with piles of washing, explosions of toys, clean dishes, dirty dishes, books, two cats, four fish surviving in an algae-filled tank, and two tadpoles, named Lily and Rosebud, who are existing in a sludgy, slimy glass bowl. I need to have a good strong talk to myself and take some of the following pieces of advice:
• Don't worry if your house is a pigsty; it's a home, not a showroom.
• Stop pretending life is perfect. It's not. It can be messy, hard and heartbreaking.
• Be honest about the vile times - it gives other people permission to also 'fess up to their struggles.
• Don't forget to tell the people closest to you that you love them.
• Return phone calls - but if you don't, it doesn't mean you don't love your friends. (I do love you, really I do ... )
• When you're faced with boldness, be bolder. (I have to credit Napoleon Bonaparte for that cracker of a quote.)
• You are a good mother.
• You don't have to have biological kids to be a mum; mothering comes in all shapes and sizes.
• It doesn't matter if you pushed your baby out of your vagina or had it unzipped out of your stomach. All that matters is that you and your child are healthy.
• Breastfeeding can be hard: it hurts and your nipples can bleed.
• Using formula to bottle feed your babies doesn't lower their IQ or make you any less of a mother.
• Sometimes you hate being a mum, but it doesn't mean you hate your kids. They make your heart ache with love. It's the unrelenting roles associated with the title of "mum" that can wear you down.
• Babies will go to sleep ... eventually. (Although I'm still waiting for mine to sleep through the night!)
• Going to the park is boring.
• Playing with little kids all day is boring.
• Being with your kids all day can be blissful.
• Having a break from your children is heaven.
• You feel guilty enjoying time away from your family.
• You feel guilty for not being present and in the moment with your family.
• You feel guilty for going to work.
• You feel guilty for not going to work.
• Your libido can go missing for a while, but don't forget the raunchy and sexy woman you have been and still are.
• Nothing beats chocolate in bed and a Swedish crime thriller.
• Vibrators are very handy.
• Men do not notice stretch marks and cellulite; only other women notice the songlines of your body.
• Support other women and the choices they make, even if they're not your choices.
• Go gently on yourself; you are enough.
• Leopard print is classic.
• You can never have enough sparkle on your clothes and in your life.
• Pink, purple and blue hair rocks.
• Floss your teeth.
• Laughter is the best medicine, but antidepressants come a close second.
• The only normal people in your life are the ones you don't know very well.
• Be kind.
• Baked beans on toast is okay for dinner every now and then.
• Stay optimistic. It doesn't mean being a Pollyanna, but cynicism is ugly.
• Don't lead a safe life - take risks. It is far better to go down in flames than live a small, timid existence.
• Sometimes you have no control over what happens to you, but you can control how you choose to deal with it.
• Sugar is good for you.
• It's not always about you. (But what do you really think about me???)
• Stop worrying about what other people think of you. (Are you listening, Jessica?)
• Ignore lists. Only you know what is best for you and your family.
This article first appeared in Sunday Life.