New Zealanders share the best advice their mum gave them

This article was first published in 2018, but we think the advice still stands. 

One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters – or so said British poet George Herbert. So what’s the best advice your mum ever gave you? We asked some people who have been featured in our stories as well as writers for our site to share motherly words of wisdom.

Lynda Hallinan, Gardening guru

My mum isn’t really one for giving advice – she’s the peacekeeper in our family – but if actions speak louder than words, the thing my mother has shown me, consistently and constantly, is unconditional, nonjudgmental friendship. She doesn’t always take my side but she’s always available for a gossip and a giggle and a rant about the patriarchy!

Neil McLachlan, Interior and architectural designer

neil mclachlan

My mother, Phyl, told me to always walk into a hotel as though you own it – even if you are not staying there. It’s held me in good stead all over the world. She didn’t have a pretentious bone in her body and couldn’t bear anyone who does – she just had an amazing balance of humility and style that made people warm to her immediately and admire her. No crazy diets or extreme behaviour she would say – all in moderation.

Jing Song, wine entrepreneur

I spent my younger years in China and at this time my mother was a broadcaster following the Cultural Revolution. It was an exciting new time in China, with opportunities for creativity, entrepreneurship and technology that they hadn’t seen before. My mother was a talented performing artist and free-thinker. Working around strict government controls, she pioneered a new style of broadcasting that challenged convention.

Through a combination of tenacity, vision, hard work and kindness, my mother founded a broadcasting empire that started with just five people and which today employs 10,000, broadcasting to 30 million people every day throughout regional China.
The dedication and resilience of my mother served as an inspiration to me as I grew up and culminated in the founding of my own dream in New Zealand – Crown Range Cellar.

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Kate Coughlan, Editor NZ Life & Leisure

Molly Coughlan

Kate’s mum, Molly Coughlan

My mother, Molly, doesn’t tell other people what to do. However, since she’s fighting fit and partying at 89, she must have a tip or two. If pushed, she might say: Eat lots of vegetables, pay your bills on time and keep your house at the top of its market value with fresh paint and a good garden. She might also say stay fit and don’t eat too much.

Jim Kayes, thisNZlife blogger

Jim’s mum’s tapa cloth

Mum was a firm believer in staying busy and if we didn’t find something to do, she’d find it for us – mostly chores. With a large family, she was also keen to get us out of the house as much as possible. She’d often say, “Go outside and play.” I didn’t need a second invitation. What was cool is that we had a big section so our place was often the scene of countless hours of cricket, rugby or hide-and-seek games. It was a great childhood.

Annette Presley, Businessperson

Annette Presley

My grandma, Nanna Mu, taught me that every day you should love what you do and love people. When I was 11 years old she showed me that a terrible day can turn into to a great day by helping other people. When working with her in our shop in Papatoetoe she told me we should do everything with love. When we polished the gifts, we should polish them with love. And when customers found the perfect gift, we should wrap it with love as well. She also taught me I was valuable and for that I’m very grateful. Thanks Nanna Mu, I miss you.

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Lucy Corry, Food writer

Lucy Corry as a baby with her mum Marie.

I think my mum, Marie Corry, was what you’d call a professional mother. She had 10 children (but hated being called a housewife) and could dispense learned wisdom as readily as she could reel off bits of Shakespeare. I never took her advice when it was issued (what child does?) but now I find myself quoting her on a daily basis. “If in doubt, don’t” I hear myself telling my husband. “Don’t put it down, put it away” I say to my daughter. I may never quite manage to stick to either piece of advice myself, but I’d like to think Mum would be proud of me when I do.

Polly Greeks, thisNZlife off-grid blogger and NZ Life & Leisure columnist

polly greeks

The best advice my mother gave me is to be curious, compassionate and to look for beauty in the world. A painter of landscapes, she would always stop me in nature to exclaim at the way light was catching the hills, or to point out the stripe of white light on the edge of an ocean horizon. When I suffered from depression, she told me to hold a lantern up to the shadowed parts of my mind and explore what was there. “Know yourself,” she urges and, “Be courageous.”
“This too will pass,” is another of her sayings. As I watch her growing older, my lungs squeeze up tight each time I remember she too, is just passing through.

Christine Fernyhough, featured in the first issue of NZ Life & Leisure

Christine Fernyhough

My mother, Gladys, would give advice through quotes – “manners maketh the man” she’d say. As children, we were always on our way to Buckingham Palace: put your knife and fork down between mouthfuls, be on time, polished shoes and clean undies. Her most enduring quote, straight from the Bible, was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” with tolerance, compassion and kindness. “A mum’s hug lasts long after she lets go” Anon.

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Philippa Fourbet, Domaine Rewa winery and Le Chene Vert pots

My mother has regularly given me invaluable yet such subtle advice I can barely remember most of it. That which I do remember includes: “That boss of yours isn’t all he seems”; “Older mothers don’t need to look old” (i.e. “don’t stop going to the hairdresser every five weeks” and “That vineyard is just so you.” Five days later I owned what became Domaine Rewa. More recently, when I had started back at work after becoming a mother of twins and was lamenting I had absolutely no time to myself, her response was, “Well, it will be just like that for the next 20 years.” So now with my pared back, in fact zero expectations, any time I get to myself is simply a bonus and relished. I adore my mother.

Kelli Walker, Forage & Ferment

“Mum has offered plenty of advice over the years (mostly helpful). I particularly like the advice my paternal grandmother passed to her: when serving up food to guests, never admit it hasn’t turned out well. Always present the dish with gusto and confidence, like it’s exactly the way you intended. You have a much better chance of no one noticing its shortfalls that way. Note, my mother is an incredible cook – just like my grandmother – so I’m confident they didn’t need to fake it very often.

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