Love is not spelled “d-o-l-l-a-r-s”.

Soap, water and a hairbrush. These are the three things that I rely on to propel us into the sunshine on any given day. The day you decide to skip the shower, allow bare feet and opt for a messy bun is the day you will run into people you’ve never met but always wanted to. Or people who hate you. Like the in-laws who apparently never visit because “they feel sorry for your children”. True story.

Anyway, the point to this post is not to scare anyone into a deranged regiment of hygiene, or perfectly shined shoes. It’s more about the never ending fucking pressure of appearances.

Here’s the thing about appearances. They are external. Revelation, huh? Years ago I sat down to write about motherhood with my First Family. And I remember waxing soliquoy about the mother with the perfectly dressed children and the calm demeanour and ironed clothing. I saluted her knowing the effort which must have gone into that. I admired what I could not achieve effortlessly. I was completely ignorant to the internal process which can go into appearances, especially when that external projection is coupled with the complexities of mothering.

Fast forward some ten years later, and a new brood of three, almost one after the other and some special needs chucked in just for shits and giggles, and I have become that mother on a good day. I’m a lot less ignorant to the loneliness which motherhood can mean and have grown a new understanding of the single mother despite being married. I should add that this time around I had the smarts (accidental really, I actually selected with the brain residing in my nether regions) to choose a co-co-producer who values provision for his children. That is to say, this man, for all his ability to Seriously Piss me off, is a good man in the sense that he feeds, clothes and houses his family. I feel appreciation for this amongst the Seriously Pissed Off snorts of derision.

I’ve learned to take joy in having things organised and clothes for play and clothes for going out. I’ve learned it because it’s pretty hard to go out in public with three kids under 4 and three kids under 5 with not a soul to help you. I’ve learned it because I’ve always known that presentation is a part of acceptance or dismissal. But at the same time, love is not spelt d-o-l-l-a-r-s. Living in my little bubble, I’ve wondered if the streets of this country are lined with secret silver dollars. I mean there are so many clothing stores and so many shoppers. I live in an Australiian suburb with one of the lowest socio-economic demographics, yet it is common to see little girls aged 3 or 4 in expensive dresses and little handbags and lipstick and shoes perched atop the slide at the local park. My inner Kiwi was at first both fascinated and horrified by this phenomena. According to my baby boomer mother, this is not at all a new phenomenon. Apparently, there have always been children hampered from playing by their clothing. But looking around me I can’t help but feel it’s more than their play which is being hampered.

Appearances can be used to not only hide a sense of inferiority, but also to replace substance. Have I been guilty of this? Probably. There are parts of me that are woefully inadequate feeling. But there’s also parts that remember being devoid of the means to mask my emotions with money. Any money at all. There was a 31 year old woman pregnant, educated, married, intelligent and picking onions in a field for money. There was a very stressed out 22 year old with a toddler and a baby on the way and a narcissistic ex who withheld money. That same 22 year old had $37 dollars a week to live on after paying her rent and the choice was sometimes between a loaf of bread or some fresh fruit. What I learned in those times was, to wash your face, tie up your hair and carry yourself the best you can. For that and those years I am grateful also. Because love is most definitely not spelt d-o-l-l-a-r-s.

I can’t help but wonder if the pressure to have the newest, shiniest most labelled things diverts us from, well, soap and water. That is to say, it completely ignores the skill in selecting things and making beauty with a super shitty budget. That is a talent and it is an effort we make out of love. It’s not one that gets lauded amongst the little Insta darlings with amassed followers, made famous not for their kindness, their intelligence or neccesarily even their good looks or any conceivable talent. No, they are simply dressed in dollars. Like lemmings we are urged to applaud and copy. I’m not saying there isn’t a time and a place to get dressed up or that there isn’t joy in splurging when you can. However, I think there’s an unsung skill amongst mothers and it’s time to start at least humming about it.

Whether its op shop chic, department store sale, or sewing machine, how about the world where dollars require effort to perform at a maximum? What about outfits that tell a story? A story of love or hope or ones best efforts under soul-fucking conditions? I want to celebrate that.
I want to read about it, I want to see it. More to come…