I want to be like my mum in this one important way.
My mum had eight kids. I always knew it was a lot of work for her, because she was always working, right through my childhood.
Hanging out the clothes on the Hills Hoist, and then turning them over halfway through the drying so they wouldn’t have peg marks on them. Ironing everything: pillowcases, tea towels, hankies. Making us Vegemite or cheese spread or meat paste sandwiches for lunch, and cooking up dinners of lamb chops with mashed potato and carrot and peas.
I don’t know how she found the time to do all the cooking and washing and cleaning that comes with eight kids. She used to say that once she got past five children, the ones after that were no extra work, because the first ones were old enough to start helping out.
But I don’t think that’s true. I think she just didn’t sleep much.
She looked after us. But she always did that little bit more than she had to. On winter evenings, when I was having a bath, she would put my pyjamas by the heater so they would be warm for me to put on. At night, she would leave the hallway light on for me, even though she was always trying to save electricity, because she knew I was scared of the dark.
There were drawbacks to growing up as the seventh child of eight. Most of my clothes were hand-me-downs, I always shared a bedroom (and often a bath), and I never had much one-on-one time with my mum. But those little acts of kindness meant that I always felt loved.
My mother is an intelligent woman. She had a career, and gave it up to raise eight kids. She didn't have the mental stimulation of work, or the rewards and recognition it brings. She was seen as just a housewife, just a mother. Like so many of the mums of her generation, she was massively underappreciated.
I don't know why she wasn't resentful and bitter at the neverending housework. I don't know why she didn't totally lose her cool and scream at us when we were whiny brats. I don't know why she didn't lock us outside and sit down with a bottle of gin and try to block us out of her head.
I don't know how she always managed to be kind.