This week’s Nanna is Bettina:
I don’t know that I have much wisdom and I’m not from way back when, but I am no stereotypical Nanna. Is there such a thing as a stereotypical Nanna anymore? My Mother, who is obviously now a great grand mother and still in full-time employment, will never be seen with grey hair and is known for buying the grandkiddies awesomely cool clothes. She rocks. I guess I’m trying to say that Grandmothers are as individual as women everywhere.
When I am old I plan on selling up, spending any money in whatever way I feel like at the time and spending the rest of my time couch surfing at my sons’. Bet they can’t wait…
1.How many children do you have?
7 boys. Yes, what are the odds?
2. What were the main challenges for you raising your children?
The main challenges for me….well, there were many. Total lack of support being a big challenge. I was living in an isolated area with my oldest boys, about 80 km from the nearest town. I considered myself lucky because my family was the only one with power, a phone and taps in the house. The water was dam water and we had to go out to the tank with the kettle for drinking water . That sucked in winter if we forgot to get water in at night, because the pipes froze and didn’t defrost until late morning. The long-drop dunny was across the road and the boys were not allowed over there because I was terrified they would fall in. It was similar to a mine shaft. My oldest told me only a few months ago that he had bad dreams of holes in the ground and I said it must have been from when he was little and we lived out west.
Other challenges back then were little to no health care. It was a 4hr or so trip to Dubbo to give birth in a hospital. I did that once and refused to ever set foot in there again so next time we went to Mum’s which was 12 hrs away.
Schooling was another issue. It was 4 hrs a day on the bus or homeschool. There was absolutely nothing to do if you weren’t a miner so I got on the school bus and took myself off to TAFE and started a micro-business. Oh, no day care either, so I was told how nice it was that the boys’ dad would babysit. Babysit your own kids? It wasn’t called babysitting when I was caring for them, I was a Mum and that was my job.
Mail day was probably the most exciting thing for me because there was no internet back then.
Sounds like I’m a real Nanna doesn’t it? Well all that was in the early 90’s. 1990’s, just to clarify.
3.How did you overcome the challenges?
I never really have overcome the lack of support. I moved back to the coast in the mid 90’s, again to a rural location. One would think services would be better here but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Due to my natural ability to attract partners that are abusive, I have pretty much had to play dumb and play down, or actually completely hide the fact that I have a brain and have any skills beyond parenting. I am only now starting to realise that I am just as important as everyone else.
4. How do you think things are different for mothers today?
Things are different today as a Mother. I now have 2 pre-school aged boys, so I was the young Mum in the 90’s and now I am the older Mum. I should probably state my Nanna credentials too…My oldest boy had a son when he was 16 and my third son and his partner just had a baby. So my youngest two were uncles before they were born. It’s all starting to sound like a soapie isn’t it? Anyhoo, yes things are different.
There seems to be a lot more pressure on everyone, especially women, to be perfect and do everything ‘properly’. I think that we are all made to feel inadequate in so many ways that we spend so much time trying to do the right thing and rushing around because there are always so many things we need to do that we lose track of what is real.
5.What do you think are the main challenges for today’s modern mother that you have observed?
One challenge is actually spending time with your family; I mean in real life not on Facebook, or while texting. Technology can be great but if it’s ruling your life there’s a problem. Unplug from the Matrix every now and then and keep it real!
Community is another thing. We seem to have forgotten what that means. We often live far away from our families and don’t have the support of our Mothers, Sisters, Aunties etc. Where I live at the moment I am friends on Facebook with people in my neighbourhood but they don’t recognise me when we pass in the street or shops.
6.How do things differ now compared to when you raised young children?
I think there is more pressure to conform now. We seem to all be labelled as something if we don’t fit in to some narrow set of statistics.
7.What do you think could be done to make things better for the mother today?
Support from other women. Things like Mamabake that bring women together regardless of income, age, religious beliefs etc
8. What was the number one priority to you as you were raising your children?
My number one priority is still the same now as it was then: happy, well fed, well adjusted children. I have been a sole parent for a long time and I must have done something right because my adult offspring turned out pretty good.
9. How did you manage the domestics and child rearing back in the day?
Being on my own and in the bush, if I didn’t do it it didn’t get done. In the mid 90’s I was living near Goulburn in the middle of winter with three toddlers and no washing machine. Wasn’t that fun? I still remember how chapped my hands were. Never had the argument about taking the garbage bin out because we’ve never had a garbage service. I have had runs of anything that could go wrong does and in the most expensive way possible. On such joyous occasions I have been very fortunate to have the support of my own Mum.
10. One gem of wisdom you would like to pass on to 8,000 mothers to make their lives easier?
I have plenty! I have been jotting them down in the hopes of someday putting a book together. Industrial ear protection. I swear I have industrial deafness and I blame the kiddies. Nothing like a people mover full of your own offspring at full volume.
11. What was your family’s favourite dinner as they were growing up?
The most requested thing would probably be a roast and potato bake. Or anything involving bacon. I don’t often follow recipes, I prefer the ‘May the Force Be With Me’ approach to cooking. Except with things like biscuits and cakes, where I have learned it really does pay to follow a recipe if you want something edible.
Part 1 of the Nanna series (Helen): here