I expected parenting to be a learning experience but didn’t realise how much it would teach me about myself. It’s also changed me and given me new insights about my own upbringing.
It must have been challenging for my young parents to balance their working and home lives, raising four children in a small town and a different era of thinking. When I was in preschool, my 20-something mother was voted ‘Housewife of the Year’ and the photo of her wearing a minidress and the winner’s sash, sporting a beehive hairdo and a big dimpled smile, for years was proudly displayed alongside our family portraits. I found it funny, still do, but can understand how rewarding it must have felt to her.
From 19, my mother ran our household while working full-time in three businesses. She often worked all night from a small counter space in the kitchen. No matter what time you woke up, that light was on. She created a new way of managing small business that today has become a national program, without any fanfare.
My father was a doctor with a small country town outlook. He worked non-stop in his own practice and making rounds at two hospitals and home visits. I rarely saw him. We were discouraged from bothering him unless we were ill and I feel I hardly knew him. Some of my childhood friends have great memories of him tending to them when they were sick, and he is well-respected for his many years of medicine and research he contributed to university projects in his own time. I am told he had a genuinely caring bedside manner and it fits with my memories of him.
I left home for university long before my parents had any spare time. My childhood was brief, busy, comfortable and structured around achievement, but there just wasn’t much time for holidays, hugs or being together. My folks did what they knew best.
In contrast, I married later and had my son later, and every day I’m learning there are no rules for raising a happy kid. I’ve come to appreciate that families come in many colours and sizes and ultimately, we’re all winging it.
I see time as precious and the greatest thing I can give to my family, even as it flies through my fingers and I strive to find it. Time and travelling together are the gifts I want most for us.
When I imagine myself through my child’s eyes, I wonder what he will remember. I hope it’s the two things I have most in common with my mother; her dimpled smile and the resilience to keep learning.