For some, the lessons we learn from the first key person in our lives"our mother"sets the course for the life we lead. It might be that we set out to do exactly what we're told and shown, or perhaps we're motivated to do the very opposite.
The truth? Mothers aren't perfect. In some cases, they try to be. In others, there's not even a glimmer of pretence. For everyone, that critical relationship"whether it is positive and loving, or scarred with bitterness"leaves a huge impression.
Things My Mother Taught Me features stories of high profile mothers, and high profile people including: Benjamin Law, Naomi Simson, Li Cunxin, Shaynna Blaze Vaughan, Napoleon Perdis, Tracy Bartram, Adriano Zumbo, Fiona Patten, Graeme Simsion and more, who each reflect on their relationship with their mother. It's an exploration of all the stuff mothers know (or don't know) and how that knowledge and the ability to share it"for good or bad"helps to shape a person. Sometimes it's the smallest moments that have the biggest impact.
With interviews ranging from funny to poignant, the book documents not only the important relationship that each and every human life begins with, but the evolving nature of contemporary Australian society.
Claire Halliday has more than 19 years experience as a freelance feature writer, with articles published in major magazines and newspapers including: The Sunday Age, Australian Women's Weekly, Australian House & Garden, Madison, Marie Claire, GQ and more. Claire started her copywriting business"Copy Queens"in late 2011, which caters to a diverse range of corporate and small business clients. She has published three non-fiction books and lives in Melbourne with her husband and four children. Claire tweets at: @1clairehalliday
Things My Mother Taught Me
Author: Claire Halliday
Question: What inspired you to write Things My Mother Taught Me?
Claire Halliday: I'm a mother of four children, personally, so I often think about the idea of legacy - what mine might be for them and how they will judge me in their future. Being adopted adds another layer to my ideas around motherhood - I've spent a lot of time throughout my life thinking about my own birth mother and how she came to give me up, plus my adoptive mother and what it means to take in a child that's not biologically yours. Mothers can have such a huge impact on their children - for good and bad. I love talking to people and digging down into the details of their lives so the idea of asking some well-known Australians about the impact and influence their own mums had on the people they are today was something really fascinating to me. That's the fun part about being a writer - you have the privilege of exploring people's stories and finding out who they really are.
Question: What do you hope readers take from Things My Mother Taught Me?
Claire Halliday: I would hope that people think about their mums - or themselves as mums - and take a moment to celebrate the good things they have achieved along the way. Of course, as many of the stories in this book reveal - not every mother is perfect. I am always impressed by the resilience of some people to overcome tough upbringings and take responsibility for their own adult lives and just get on with life. I hope that people reading this will look at the way they nurture people in their own lives - if not as a mother, then as a friend, or wife, or husband, or sibling - and think just a little bit longer about the way that even the most ordinary actions or comments can sometimes have a long-term impact.
Question: What is your earliest memory of realising you had been shaped by your own mother?
Claire Halliday: My mum - and I am talking about the mother who adopted and raised me - had a deep love of reading and books. I remember weekend spent trawling second-hand bookshops for vintage treasures and collectables and I still have all of those books today. Giving me a love of reading and writing was a great gift.
Question: What did you learn from the interviews with high profile Australians?
Claire Halliday: I was reminded of something I already knew - everybody really does have a story. It doesn't have to be as dramatic as Li Cunxin's upbringing in rural China and him being sent away from his mother and the rest of his family to become a world-class dancer. Sometimes, even the smaller moments have a huge impact too. I was also reminded of the struggles that so many people overcome in their lives. I actually found hearing these stories quite confronting in many ways. It really made me think about all the things I have said or done with my own four children - and the mistakes I have made along the way. It made me want to try to be a better mum - whatever that really means - and work that bit harder to really listen to them and see them as the individuals they are. I wonder what they will say about me when they are adults? I'll just have to wait and see.
Interview by Brooke Hunter