Burnt Chop Syndrome

Were you the one who always got to eat the burnt chop?

As a young mum cooking chops or sausages for the family, sometimes I’d accidentally burn one. Naturally, that one went on my plate. After all, I was the one who burnt it.

Imagine my surprise upon reading there is a name for this behaviour. It’s called ‘The Burnt Chop Syndrome’ and is apparently a uniquely Australian expression. Further surprises unfold upon reading what it means if you suffer from this malady.

So yes, initially the feeling is “I burnt it so I should eat it.” If you happen to like burnt chops, then no problem really. Perhaps you even secretly burnt the chop on purpose? But if you don’t like burnt chops, and you still place it on your plate, what is the message you are giving to yourself and to others?

The message to you might be “I will give myself the worst so my family can have the best.” The message to the family might be “I am the least important person here and deserve the worst.”

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Or you could just like burnt chops. Or were you a martyr mum?

Reading a blog post recently, a woman described herself as a martyr mum. She confessed to always showering last, just in case they ran out of hot water, sitting in the most uncomfortable chair so her family could have the comfortable chairs and parking on the road so her family could use the driveway. One day, after spending two hours in casualty with a painful eye, this mum reports she walked through the front door and had to almost beg for a cup of tea. Now she’s wondering: did she raise a bunch of self-absorbed adults or is she just terrible at voicing her own needs.

You know this isn’t just about burnt chops don’t you? Have you ever reached for something, perhaps the last French Earl Grey teabag, and stopped as you thought to yourself “That’s my daughter’s favourite tea. I’ll leave it for her.” Even though your daughter lives on the Gold Coast in Australia and you’re in Melbourne, yes let’s save it for her when she does visit next. So I now reach for the ‘good enough’ tea bag. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

A friend told this story about her sister. Her sister had just returned from a four-week holiday in Europe and hoped one of her adult children would pick her up from the international airport. However in phrasing her request to her son, being mindful of his full-on work life, she told him it was okay if he wanted to sleep in instead of coming to pick her up. Her daughter got a similar caveat. When this woman landed, no one was there to pick her up. Her son had sent a text saying he would take advantage of her offer, and sleep in. Her daughter also had a good reason why she couldn’t pick her mum up. As she drove home in a taxi, this mum was ‘miffed’. Even though she realised she’d set the situation up herself, she still felt hurt none of her children came to pick her up.

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The Burnt Chop Syndrome strikes again! Have you realised where you might be acting like a martyr? Possibly in your workplace as well as your private life?

What others say about ‘The Burnt Chop Syndrome’:

According to Val Allan, a Naturopath recognised as the ‘grandmother’ of the industry in Western Australia “The inherent danger with this syndrome is that mothers, as the prime caregivers in most cases, have a duty of care to look after themselves better in order to fulfil the roles they have chosen. There are obvious times that mothers have to put themselves much further up the pecking order so that they can do the best for their families.”

Rosalie Pattenden, a Melbourne-based clinical psychologist with Relationships Australia says: “Women still tend to see themselves as responsible for the emotional well-being of the family and as a result they look after everyone else first and keep the burnt chop for themselves.”

Theresa, author of the blog ‘Alittlebirdmademe.com’ shares a compelling ‘Burnt Chop’ story: “I heard the stories about burnt chop syndrome (a very Australian phrase that signifies mothers eating the food that isn’t perfect while serving up the good, perfectly cooked food to their children and partner – worth googling) and just chuckled knowingly, because I eat the burnt chop. That is what mothers do. Right?”

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Theresa continues to write about her family and a particularly distressing event they endured, then finished with this paragraph:

“Today marks the day that I say no to the burnt chop. I am going to build a life that nourishes me, and fulfils me. I am going to stop being the selfless martyr. And after all these years of being told that I am a ‘good mother’ I am going to choose to be a more selfish mother, so that I can in fact start to be the great mother that my children deserve.”

And here is a son’s take: “I’ve just come across ‘The Burnt Chop Syndrome’, which I had no idea existed as a phrase for something I have observed for years with my own mum.”

There can be no doubt ‘The Burnt Chop Syndrome’ may have been coined in Australia, but the ramifications of serving yourself the burnt chop are global. So, take a look at your own life. Whilst you may not be actually eating a real burnt chop, what is it you are putting up with that represents eating the burnt chop?

This is a chapter from Victoria’s new book: ‘How To Make The Rest Of Your Life The Best Of Your Life: Tough Love For Smart Single Women Over 60’