Burnt Chop Syndrome 60



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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.”

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.

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?”

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’

Victoria Rose

Victoria Rose is the author of 'How to make the rest of your life the best of your life: Tough love for smart, single women over 60'. Her book highlights a simple 5-­step method to help older women reconnect with their passion and purpose for life and empower them to find their voice. Victoria's book is based on her personal journey through life. As a supporting parent, she struggled with juggling her career, raising two children and maintaining her individual identity. TheLeadershipVoice.com

  1. This is so true. I still have memories of my Mum telling us that she liked burnt toast. And didn’t really like ice cream

  2. I must admit like many mothers I put myself last, it was no effort because I loved them all. But I sometimes wonder if in putting myself last on the list, that my children saw me as being worthy of last place. I guess I will never know

  3. Most mum’s put themselves right at the back of the pack, I was last on the list, we sacrifise ourselves for our children

  4. I was well programmed in this,by my darling Ma,until I too had a light bulb moment and saw things so clearly when I looked at my Ma in law. Here was a woman who commanded respect and carried herself with an air of entitlement and had everyone round her little finger wanting to please her. I am finally now trying to establish what she kept insisting, Look after yourself first coz no one else will!

  5. Don’t underestimate Dads either I have given up a few things in my time for the kids, but mums certainly give up more

  6. Kiwis use it too. And my mum was a terminal sufferer. She worked so hard for we kids and would stay silent rather than diss someone.
    Mum would serve Dad first then the children then herself. I’m far too selfish to do that. But yes, I’d probably eat the burnt chop

  7. Because I send 2/3 of my wage to help others have 1 meal a day in countries ravaged by drought, floods and human greed (multi-national) and if I am so privileged to have a chop I won’t waste it….unless it’s destroyed by the burning. Add flavour, add chilli sauce or smother in gravy, suck up the ketchup,,,,,,no probs

  8. Australian Mums sure are not the only ones who suffer from this disease!

    1 REPLY
    • Of course Australian Mum aren’t the only ones to do it – it’s just that an Australian has put a name to it. It’s a good one too!

  9. I can relate to that very well now I’m suffering for it because I don’t get to see the ones I love dearly because there either too busy or I don’t fit into there lifestyle very disappointing You do for others all the time but when its your turn that goes out the door its all about them

    5 REPLY
    • Diane, we do what we consider right. I realise that it went unnoticed. Just remember that you have no control over others actions. Be happy that you are who you are. Bless.

    • What we do isn’t unnoticed. While we may grieve for the relationships we wish we had, WE know we’ve done what’s right

    • Really, it goes back to what we were talking about the other day – we do what we feel is right, but our children owe us nothing – in reality we owe them, as we brought them into the world. Most of us are very fortunate to have family who include us, but as they grow up and have their own families, their priorities must change. They never forget us (most of them!) and really come through when they are needed. Also, it is truly wonderful when they do include us in any of their activities.

    • Janice Leonie Locke What about your son or are they separated or does the DIL has full custody? .

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