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FIT YOUR OWN MASKS FIRST LADIES

Do you remember the old Codral Cold and Flu Tablet ad, with the punchy catchphrase “Soldier on with Codral”? It melodically reiterated how “With Codral, you can soldier on” while showing dozens of mums suffering with colds and flu, but still smiling as they learn that with a quick dose of pseudoephedrine, they’ll be able to continue tending to every possible whim their family members desired.

I always wondered why those mums wouldn’t just hop into bed and sleep off the dreaded lurgy. They were sick, after all! But it was 1989, and this wasn’t #FakeNews. On the contrary, this ad was almost a documentary, and newsflash – it’s still accurate in 2020. Because us mums rarely get this mythical ‘me time’ we hear so many spruiking – not when we’re sick, or tired, or just can’t be arsed facing the world. Because we think that the world will stop spinning if we take some time off.

I reckon it’s got a whole lot to do with the number of hats we wear, and the way in which we girls naturally de-prioritise ourselves, settling onto a rung on the ladder of family importance that is somewhere above the animals, but almost always below the rest of the humans in the family. As an eternally time-poor, working mum for the past 12 years, I’ve lived my life promising myself that I’ll do that as soon as I finish this.” (insert verbs of your choice into the above sentence.)

The fact is, ‘me time’ is a thing at my place. Well, not for me, anyway. And it’s because we’re all so gaddamn busy. Right? Whether we’re rushing to a school play, a hair appointment or a business meeting, my chock-a-block iCalendar means I’m always the one arriving at event at the very last minute, sliding in at the very last minute like a baseballer. Are you hearing me, Mumma?

Okay! Okay! Admittedly, I’m a bit to blame for this. I do love a chat, which then has a knock-on effect for my punctuality at the next event, and so the cycle continues.

Back in December last year, I noticed some ever-so-slight changes to the appearance of a mole that has been living on my forearm since I was a little kid. It occurred to me that I hadn’t had a skin check for … ummmm … oh! … about 12 years. Ooops …

I made a mental note to book in to get it checked out. But then something distracted me – like my kids continuous (yet unofficial) auditions for the WWF; or the garage roller door needed fixing; or I had to lodge BAS … I don’t actually remember what it was, but I do know that I didn’t book in.

Then back in April, during lockdown, I noticed my ol’ mole had changed again, just ever so slightly. And I made a mental note to book in to get it checked out. But then something distracted me – like a kid’s doctors appointment, or the smoke alarm needed fixing, or I had to apply for Jobkeeper … I don’t actually remember what it was, but I do know that I didn’t book in.

Then in July, I noticed my “Holey Moley” had changed again, just ever so slightly. And I made a mental note that I *really* did need to get that checked out. But then something distracted me – like the dog got a tick and needed emergency treatment, or the ceiling sprung a leak; or I had to pay a phone bill … I don’t actually remember what it was, but I do know that I didn’t book in.

Because life is busy. And us mum’s make sure that everybody else’s needs are sorted before we tend to ourselves.

Last week, I was in a meeting with a client. She stopped mid-sentence to ask me about my mole. ”Have you had that checked?” “Yeah, nah. I’ve really gotta do that,” was my response. “Do it now,” my client insisted. “Like, right now. It looks dodgy.” And guess what? I did! I picked up the phone and I rang. I made the appointment for the very next day. And, surprisingly, the world didn’t stop spinning.

I arrived at FNQH at DFO, where the awesome Dr Vin took one look at my arm and told me that childhood friend was coming out, right now! I laid back, trying to be ‘chill’ (PS – I wasn’t. I hate all those blood and gutsy things type things.) Then I went home and slipped back into my daily hectic.

I have to admit, when I answered the phone a few days later, I wasn’t expecting the “malignant melanoma” diagnosis. And I certainly wasn’t expecting to be told Dr Vin need to take out more of the nasty-pasty cells from my forearm.

But it sure hit home when Dr Vin told me to send a gift to that client, saying “She has – quite literally – saved your life.” He said that if I’d waited another three months, we’d be having a very different conversation. So as I stared at the ceiling, trying not to green out with the yanking and tugging of sewing at my skin, I started thinking about the “What if’s …”

What if I hadn’t seen my client that day? What if I had said that I’ll go to the doctor after I get this next issue of the mag to print? Or after the school holidays? Or when life settles down a bit? What if I postponed booking my appointment… by just, say, another three months.

Just like the flight hosties on those long-forgotten creations called aeroplanes tell us, we need to fit our own masks first. We are no good to anyone if we aren’t fit and healthy ourselves. So, it’s time for a shift in the pecking order of this household. Because I don’t want to keep ‘Soldiering On’. It’s time us girls started making sure our own mask is fitted, so we can be on our ‘A’ game for whatever is thrown our way.

And I’m totes gonna start prioritising me … just as soon as I get through this busy week.

TL;DR – Get a mole check, ladies!

What do you think?

Written by #TeamOasis

MELISSA NIELSEN – A LIFE’S LEGACY

A SURPRISING JOB FOR A YOUNG EMERGING LEADER