Life Advice From Other People’s Mums

Ostensibly, I’m an adult. I have a job, I pay rent, I even live on a different continent to my parents. I manage to get through life on a daily basis without causing major chaos and I only leave the house with toothpaste on my shirt around once a week. However, on the occasions when I have to make an important decision about my future, which in your twenties is pretty much all the time, I often find myself drawing on a piece of advice my mum gave me.

I don’t remember the specific situation when my mum first told me to “follow the piece of string.” I didn’t even understand what she meant when I was a teenager, but as an adult this one phrase is something I always keep in my back pocket. I have passed it onto friends and strangers, and it makes me feel less lost on the days when I realise I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with my life.

As a person, I am excessively organised (I’m talking Excel spreadsheets-level organised.) I like to have a plan and for that plan to work out exactly as I’d hoped. Of course reality is the opposite of that, but when I get overwhelmed I remember to follow the piece of string. To me, that means only worrying about taking a step forward in the direction that feels best for you at the time, and trusting that the universe will work the rest out. And then taking the next step, and the next one.

I was repeating this advice to a friend and it got me wondering what other great mum advice there is out there. So I asked around, and discovered these pearls of mum wisdom for when it seems like being adult is way more difficult than advertised.

#1 You are capable of achieving whatever you choose.

“My mum has always just told us that we can do whatever we want in life. When I had to pick my classes for Year 11 and 12, I decided I was doing maths, English studies (so I wouldn’t be getting an ATAR), art and woodwork, purely because that’s what I enjoyed. I told her the only thing I wanted to do was go overseas, and Mum said that even though personally she would prefer that I did get an ATAR, if that’s what I wanted then she’d support me 100% and tell the teachers to support me as well. That definitely stuck with me.”

Lauren, 22

#2 It is OK to be selfish.

“When I was under a lot of pressure last year and getting super stressed trying to do everything with uni and work and please everyone, my mum could see it was negatively affecting my mental health. She told me I should be more selfish, and I found that so weird because we’re always told to be less selfish and put others first, but it really helped.”

Finn, 23

#3 A healthy body leads to a healthy mind (kinda.)

“My mum is a bit of a nutter with the best intentions. Her latest advice is to drink kombucha or basically anything with a live culture in it. I had a few intense bouts of food poisoning whilst in South America that really messed with my digestive system so she wants me to increase the good bacteria in my stomach. She also reckons that your gut bacteria is linked to improved mental health and happiness, so a bit of kombucha can’t hurt.”

Kirsty, 21

#4 Positivity is the key to success.

“My mum has two pieces of advice she preaches regularly. The first one is ‘if you want to learn a language, the only way is to sleep with a native speaker of it’. The second is Annie’s ‘law of attraction’, which is just the practice of putting all your positive energy into things in order to expect a positive outcome.”

Jess, 22

#5 Take the chances that are presented to you.

“Mostly my mum gives us medical advice and we always follow it but I guess that just comes with her profession, because she’s a nurse. Before I went on my gap year Mum’s advice was to explore as much as I possibly could and make to most of the massive opportunity I had been given. She was also the biggest influence on me moving to a different city for university. Her advice at the time impacted my whole future and from that I’ve now created a great life here.”

Georgia, 23


#6 Skip the bullshit.

“To say things plainly is the best advice my mum has given me. Sometimes it hurts people’s feelings or people think you’re rude, but most of the time it saves other people and yourself a lot of time and worry. As my friends know, this has become my life philosophy.”

Nic, 22

So there you have it: mums really do know best.

Molly McLaughlin is a freelance writer currently based in Mexico City. She tweets about feminism and sandwiches at @mollysgmcl.