When I was a little girl, I thought my mum was a tiny bit magic.
Not quite up to the magical experience level of, say, Glinda The Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz or the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella. I never saw her wave a sparkling wand and make a road appear while battling angry flying monkeys or turn a slightly rotting pumpkin into a gilded coach for special occasions.
But on the other hand, small children are notoriously unobservant about the things that go on around them… so maybe she did stuff like that all the time and I just never noticed. I guess we’ll never really know.
Now that I’m an adult out in the real world, I can see that my mother was and is a special kind of magic, wielding the kind of powers that only mothers, and sometimes single mothers in particular, really know how to harness. I just couldn’t see it at the time.
Sometimes, the experience of growing up with a single mother can get quite a bad rap.
Listen to this episode of This Glorious Mess to see the other side of single parenting.
Whenever I tell people that I grew up without a father, and that my mother raised four kids alone while working full time, their first response is often one of pity, tinged with a strong sense of bewilderment and just a spoonful of morbid curiosity added into the mix for good measure.
There seems to be this stereotype that any story involving a large family cared for by a single mother and with not a lot of money should always be set against the backdrop of a gritty trash-tastic trailer park. A place where all the kids are miserable and ill cared for and one of them ends up doing something awful like embarking on a cross-country car theft spree or auditioning for the later seasons of Australian Idol where everybody is so over the format and it’s clear that even the winner is not going to land a record deal.
But what people don’t like to talk about are the moments and memories that are made all the more lovely because they were made so much harder to come by.
Looking back on my childhood, all my memories could have just been about survival, because that was certainly a slightly cloudy factor of life that could creep into even the brightest of days. But somehow my mother was able to keep the worst of our fears at bay.
She filled our lives with safety and activities and treats and traditions. And books, so so many books.
When we were little, night after night the four of us would lie on mattresses around her feet while she read aloud to us from an array of books that are still favourites of mine today. I don’t think life will ever seem quite as wonderful as the nights I lay under a blanket and listened to my mother’s voice lift and fall with animation and suspense as she read aloud to us from Little House on the Prairie.
Thanks to my mum and her passion for bringing books and words into all of our lives, my whole adult life and career have become about telling stories.
I’ve worked as a journalist and a writer for a whole bunch of magazines and newspapers during my career and while I’ve had my work sub-edited by some of the best in the business, I’ve never found an editor who hold a candle to (or spot a grammatical error) quite like my mum.
When I was first trying to make it as a writer, my mother would read ever word I wrote before I sent it off to be judged as worthy or rubbish by some far-away commissioning editor. With a pen in hand and her glasses firmly propped upon her nose she would carefully and meticulously work through the masses of paper I would hurriedly hand her, sorting through the mess of text over and over again until she was sure it was word perfect.
And let me assure you, these were words that were not always easy for her to read. And not just because the prose was sub par or the topics were as bland as plain bread rolls on the days you run out of butter.
When I started having short pieces of fiction published, they were less Little House on the Prairie and more… Little Shop of Horrors. I favoured penning stories that fell into the realms of fantasy and horror, and while my mother is probably one of the world’s most dedicated readers, this was not her genre of choice. In fact, at times I do believe the woman was downright horrified that her classic book loving daughter had turned to the literary dark-side.
You see, even though my mother was raising her family solo, she somehow made time to make us all feel that when it came to our education and careers, she had enough time to make us feel like we had dozens of parents on our side. Such was her dedication that we hit the books and followed our dreams.
Which is how my brother and sisters and I became the first ones in our family to attend university and now our little family includes a lawyer, a doctor and a medical scientist and a writer.
And it’s how she ended up editing all my stories, no matter how gruesome and grim they would be, with one hand practically covering her eyes and a look of abject horror on her face. And the only complaint she ever uttered was to once ask me with a slightly pleading tone “…darling, can’t you write something a little bit nicer?”
Now, looking back on all of the things my mother has done for me, all the celebrated moments and the long list of things I probably don't even remember my mother has given me, I don't think I've ever truly given her credit for the one think I've never had to think about.
She gave me the gift of never feeling cheated or that I'd missed out on something important. Because even though she was a single mother, everything she gave us was more than enough.
If you’re like me, maybe you’ve also never stopped to think about how selfless and incredible your mum really is. If my mother has taught me anything it’s that actions (such as editing your child’s work) speak the loudest of all.
Barnardos Mother of the Year is the largest and most recognised awards celebrating everyday Aussie mums. Nominations for the 2018 Mother of the Year are now open, and we all need to make sure our mum’s names are on the list.
If you have or know an incredible mum who deserves some special recognition then you really need to head over to www.motheroftheyear.com.au to nominate her.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner Barnardos Australia.
Barnardos Mother of the Year is the largest and most recognized awards celebrating every-day Aussie Mums. Nominations for the 2018 Mother of the Year are now open. Don’t miss out, it will only take a minute – and an incredible mum you know deserves to be celebrated! www.motheroftheyear.com.au