Scummy mummies

THE new face of Westfield shopping centres is not a supermodel. She has the turning circle of a Kombi, leaking nipples and a T-shirt smeared with white gunk that may have once lived inside a human being.

She is Melbourne comedian Nelly Thomas and she is tearing herself away from organising her daughter’s first birthday party to sing the praises of mummies who are slummy, scummy or tummy rather than unrealistically yummy.

Anyone who’s ever pushed a new person out of their privates knows this whole yummy mummy business is a mixed blessing. Sure, it’s great that society no longer relegates breeding women to an asexual been-there, done-that pile. But we desperately need to ease up on the pressure. Juggling motherhood and a job is hard enough without also being expected to look like Cate Blanchett at Kevin Rudd’s 2020 Summit.

Honestly, Cate. We love your work. But did you have to cruise around Canberra looking so svelte and radiant SIX DAYS AFTER GIVING BIRTH? Where were your poo-splattered tracksuit pants (one leg on correctly, the other one inside out)? Where were the Bepanthen hair dreads and the water-filled frozen nappies strapped to the protesting boobs with pantyhose? Did you even have the courtesy to have some newborn spew up your nostrils?

Blanchett would no doubt meet with the approval of English author Liz Fraser, who insists that yummy mummies start early by getting leg waxes, pedicures and other essential preparations for handsome doctors before heading off to the labour ward. Fraser — who compares birth to pushing a ping-pong ball through the buttonhole of a perfectly crafted Burberry trench coat — also reminds new mothers to slip into something sexy for the trip home from the hospital.

“(Do) NOT fall into the trap of wearing tracksuit trousers all the time,” she lectures in The Yummy Mummy’s Survival Guide. This is so easy to do, but will leave you feeling as frumpy as a big, fat frumpy blob, and you will start to slide towards grey underwear and unwashed hair.”

Fortunately, those of us who emerge from birth looking like a B-Double road train that has just been hit by a B-Double road train have decided to start telling it like it is. And, amazingly enough, a corporate giant has decided to listen.

Promotional material for Westfield’s new “We are family” campaign focuses on the smelly, tiring and often isolated reality of modern mothering. It also features a stretchmarks-and-all photo of Thomas when she was 8 1/2 months pregnant.

The shot is so startlingly realistic that one of Thomas’s mates who saw it assumed it had been defaced. He thought someone had added the breastmilk marks, the T-shirt stains and the purple stretchmarks to be cruel.

“Another comedian friend told me that under no circumstances should I allow the photograph to be used,” Thomas says. “This woman said it was revolting and that no one would come to my shows. But there are worse things in life than putting on 25 kilos and having stretchmarks on your guts. God, you could be married to Sam Newman.”

Thomas, who can’t understand how celebrities manage to incubate babies and still have perky body parts, loathes the pressure for normal women to look like Hollywood mums (most of whom have dedicated teams of trainers, dieticians, surgeons and airbrushers).

Her post-birth beauty routine involves having a shower. If it’s an extra special occasion she may also brush her hair: well, the few strands that haven’t fallen out with the pregnancy hormones, that is.

This echoes the sentiments of the hundreds of women interviewed for the Westfield campaign who said it was a good day if they:

* Were able to snatch 30 seconds of alone-time on the loo;

* Got around to putting on a bra before driving the kids to school; and

* Managed to take a bath without emerging with a rubber duck wedged into an unspeakable crevice.

To hear more of these sorts of stories, see Thomas in stand-up comedian mode and participate in a series of workshops on mothering matters, visit http://westfield. com.au/wearefamily/ or www.nellythomas.com for session details. Women with unwashed hair and grey undies are particularly welcome.

- Originally published in The Australian on 19-06-2008.

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One Comment on "Scummy mummies"

  1. Emma
    Michael Wild
    03/10/2010 at 4:53 am Permalink

    “Could be married to Sam Newman.” Now there’s a horrible thought. Reading this made me think that my dear wife got away pretty well with our two kids though surgical measures were taken after the second. When I contemplate obstetrics I struggle to see how intelligent design or natural selection was involved. I quite possibly would have lost my wife and both my children but for modern medicine and in truth the births were not particularly fraught. In many ways “the good old days” were not so good at all,

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