What I realised about my mother and all of her friends… But is it a bad thing?

I was at a Boxing Day lunch with my mother and her friends, having a chat as you do. The

I was at a Boxing Day lunch with my mother and her friends, having a chat as you do. The conversation turned to work and how my job was going. I talked for a little while about office politics before I naturally asked the other women about their jobs.

These women, all in their late 60s-late 70s responded to my question with the same response: I’ve never had a job. I wasn’t quite sure they understood the question… I thought my mum had a job when she was younger? Nope, it turns out that all nine women had never been employed, instead having babies in their late teens or early 20s.

I had never stopped to think about my own mother and why she had never had full time employment, or any sort of paid work. It just seemed normal to me as I was growing up that she was at home and Dad was at work.

However in talking to these women, they did not feel like the didn’t have a purpose, or that they didn’t know what hard work was – they had a purpose, and they sure as hell knew how to work hard. Even though they had never been employed in an office, a few told me how they worked on the farm, or how they struggled to make ends meet. But all they ever truly wanted was to be happy and give their children a good life.

Looking at my life and how many jobs I’ve had, I can honestly say that there is a part of me that wishes I didn’t have those pressures or stresses on me. I feel in this day and age it’s almost completely unacceptable to have children and stay at home your entire life, but in the 70s and 80s, and even the 90s, it was the done thing.

It really makes me wonder if women who have never worked feel something is missing? Or if the key to happiness is just taking it easy work-wise and focusing more on the family? For some reason I feel like the older generation got it right when I look at home overworked myself and my peers are, male and female.


Tell us, what do you think? Were times were better back then? Why do you think so many over 60 women lived their life without doing this?

    • Liz Stretton  

      I’m nearly 70 and I don’t know any female contemporaries who didn’t work full or part-time all through those years apart from a break with babies and pre-schoolers. Maybe I mixed with the wrong crowd.

  1. Unfortunately my super contributions reflected my choice to be in the unpaid work force and as my husband of over 30 years decided to move on financially I am behind the 8 ball because of my choice.
    I do however have strong children who are good people and I was there for them so any mistakes I made were my mistakes.
    I did however have a career before children and I had mine late for the 80s and 90s…I was 28…some of my work mates thought they coukd start in their 40s but they missed the boat.
    However you do sacrafice a comfortable retirement income should your oartner jump ship with the treasure chest.

    • Elise Harrison  

      Same Suzanne. I had a lucrative career but gave it up to raise my family. My choice. All I wanted was to be a wife and mother and it took all my time . Now, however, I’m facing the struggle of old age on the pension as the super I’ve earned working now that my family is grown and my partner gone, is minimal if not laughable.

  2. I would think thst cooking,cleaning,raising kids,nursing sick family m embers,helping with school work driving kids to practices,games,doctor appointments,not to mention keeping yourself looking good for your man are a few things that might constitute having a job!

  3. Generally women didn’t work back then, it was a societal norm. Looking after the family was a full time job, with no fully automatic washing machines, washing was assigned a special day. There were no drip dry, wash and wear clothes, everything had to be ironed. No take away foods, except fish and chips, no cleaners,no cars to save walking to the shops.The majority of families were larger as birth control was not so easy as taking a pill. I think many families had financial stresses however their expectations of life were less, so they were happy with less. I think life is far more interesting now.

    • looking after children is still a full time job it just that mothers want to work because they want things if they asked their children they would prefer their mothers stayed home and looked after them.

    • Different times different life style’s to us … they want what they want NOW .. not criticising “it is what it is”. We HAD to wait to get what we wanted, no choice .. now it goes on credit card so no waiting. I love it .. but think I have achieved a lot more in my life financially because I learnt to wait + balance what was really important

    • JAY  

      I think you are going further back. At 77 now I had a twin tub yes not fully auto but I had the car. Birth control with the pill had started when I got married. All girls I knew had a job prior to marriage or helped on the family farm I left work when 5 months pregnant I returned when my 4th child was 3 years old During that time I helped out on the farm cooking for extra wsorkers among other things. Shearers have 3 meals and if they stay at the farm there is also breakfast and 3 course dinner
      Farmers wives are among the hardest working women

    • Foureyes  

      What rot! My mother would be ninety now, and my husband’s mother would be 96! They both always worked outside the home, as did most women we knew. Is Jacqueline talking about the nineteenth century, with mangles and coppers? Washing day? No washing machines? No drip dry clothes? She must have inhabited a different Australia from mine!

      I wonder if there is an element of snobbery here? There are women who like to maintain an air of gentility and profess to never having worked, and a lot of the posts on here do seem a bit smug. There is no shame in working hard to provide for your family.

  4. I had nearly 20 years out of the workforce raising five children. They were harder years and I worked harder than later when I rejoined the workforce.

  5. Most minority household had working mothers for those of us who are boomers. Our mothers were either office help, co-owners of small companies with their husbands, were hired housekeepers, formed cleaning companies and women’s contracting companies for house repairs and painting, were master sales franchisers, store clerks, supervisors, day care founders (not just babysitters), and our grandmothers were maids who did other people’s laundries, housekeeping, cooking and serving in other people’s houses as the housecaretaker on duty even on holidays, and from dawn for breakfast until dusk for dinner. After all of that were also available at home to take care of family in the old fashioned way, and their kids knew to stay out of trouble because momma’s paycheck was important to having a roof overhead, heat, and clothing. Sometimes momma worked 2 jobs if she had to, to keep finances rolling. That in addition to being the support for the dad, who also worked long hours as a custodian, laborer, small business ownder, resteraunt owner, cook, chef, etc. The expectation for the child was to be a source of pride for the family, make something of your life in school, be productive and an achiever as a student, and just be and do the best you can with your situation to live and walk with respect, to be a helpful neighbor, and to be a lover of humanity as a religious person with faith in God. We were still raised by our mother and all of her friends because they watched over us taking turns so that they were the village it took to raise us children.

    • My mother is now 91 years old and definitely no mother we knew growing up worked. I guess baby boomers are now aged 45 to 65 and those at the older end rarely saw their mothers in the workforce.

      • JAY  

        If my mother were still alive she would be over101. She worked as a Secretary for the local Shire. Many women worked.

  6. I didn’t have a job until both my kids went to high school (90’s ) My parents were mortified to think I “had” to work. I needed to prove to myself that I could manage work, home and family. I’m retired now and my daughter and daughter-in-law are both heading back into the work this year with their youngest off to school.Super not so great, but hubby’s more than makes up for it.

  7. I, and most of my friends, are in that age group, and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been in the workforce. Some of us are still working.

  8. My working life started at 16 and I took a year off with both my children. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford for me to stay at home. Over the years I have had part time work which I loved, but then for various reasons had to go back to full time. I’m still working at 63, four days a week in our own business and hope that one day I can retire! I. Must admit I found it easier to go to work (and if being honest, preferable) than stay home with kids! Stay at home mothers do it tougher that’s for sure.

  9. It wasn’t an easy life for those mums….I’m 66 and had to give up a fantastic job when I had my first bub as there was no maternity leave! !! I did work part time nights and Saturday morning but it’s not
    the same to being in charge….wouldn’t
    have it any other way as my kids are my
    greatest achievement!! Went back years
    later but my super was pitiful back then
    as it didn’t come in til half way through
    my working life….my husband doesn’t
    have that much either yet we are
    expected to live on it! Our taxes were
    supposed to be invested for our pension

    from the government but it’s not good.
    However not complaining for us as we ar
    e ok but know many people over 60 who are really struggling! There were no childcare facilities available so that was the big problem if you had no family close by! 🙂

  10. It was a reflection of the times and as Jacqueline said it took all day to do the laundry, iron, cook meals, clean etc..Plus a lot of men felt it was a womans role to do those menial tasks and didn’t help. I chose not to work outside the home until my youngest child was at school (although I did do menial boring monotonous work like packing pegs to bring in a few extra $) but from a sociological perspective the thought of not contributing financially and of not valuing my brain and talents out in the workforce makes me feel quite ill.One thing I want to clarify though; I’m in NZ and I notice Suzanne Kader said she gets less superannuation because she didn’t do paid work. Is that how it is in Oz? If a women doesn’t contribute tax she gets less superannuation? Just curious…

    • Yes…the only super I received was what I had paid in over the various years…for the last 10 years prior to my marriage break up I did contribute to super so was just so lucky to get enough to pay my home off…my divorce settlement was quite unfair however thats another topic…but yes I live off a government benefit now and thats ok…I have enough.

    • Yes June, back when super started in Australia, instead of receiving a pay rise a % of our pay was banked into super!, depending on what your rate of pay is a % goes into super, also we can add money ourselves to it to make it grow further. The larger the rate of pay you are on the larger your super will be, I also know people that started a personal super fund with their own money before it became compulsory.

  11. One comment. …a lot of us stay at home mums were volunteers which today is a problem….in fact a lot of things I did for free are now paid positions!

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