Motherhood was not something I ever craved but I made do 130



View Profile

Motherhood was not something I ever craved, at least not immediately. I had no connection with small dribbly babies when I was growing up and my brother born three and years after me was not the sort of child to change my mind either, he was a horror on tiny thin legs. Always sickly, and constantly in trouble. He pulled tablecloths off and put things down the toilet, he locked my mother out of the house in winter, he started fights with bigger boys (and I had to fight them off to save his life).

I gave birth to our first child in an Auckland Women’s hospital. I was in New Zealand and totally isolated on a new estate, I had few friends and no family around, the move to the house had happened while I was in hospital. I was 12,000 miles from my English home. So I was alone in a new house with a new baby. Husband had no leave – even the first day he was expected back at work after collecting us.

A steep learning curve began. We had secondhand everything. Well, the bassinette, cot and pram were all second hand. New clothes came in many small parcels from England. Kerry was allowed to roll around on a rug in the sunshine often naked. She could crawl at five months. I fed her myself for six months, and then I decided she could learn to use a cup early; I didn’t use bottles. At eight months she drank from a cup. Before then I had started her on small amounts of cereal, fruit, eggs and vegetables, I tried her with tiny spoons of everything. She was a small agile baby and was able to walk around the furniture at about seven months. Before she was 19 months I had the second baby. So how would the experiences I had be today? I would have had some visits from a social worker I expect. I imagine my wisdom would have been questioned. I did have the Plunket nurse visit me in 1960, but mostly I was on my own. My daughter and I learned together. I think she was already wise.

Family Photos 432

We would have had a baby bonus….oh what a joy that would have been, real cash! As we had nothing. Some extra cash would have been welcome. But nothing came to us in those days. Even when I returned to England the ‘Child allowance” was pitiful and was only paid for a second and third child.

The local nurse in charge would have advised me not to give my child any solids until she was at least six months, perhaps even a year? What utter tripe. All my children had solids well before they were four months, and guess what? They all eat well, are not overweight, and are active 50-something-year-olds, all three do marathons or exercise regularly, none of them ever had an allergy to any food. Not bad seeing their mother knew nothing about babies.

Now for families there are school payments, child care, and benefits for Mum after the birth. How different it would have been if we had those benefits. I swapped my hair dryer to obtain a twin push chair so I could go for walks with the three children. I did without new clothes for a good few years, and when we returned to England I had to cope without a washing machine for many months. Two children in nappies at night; and a new baby. That was probably the hardest winter of my life. Imagine all the equipment mothers expect now, and compare that to mine. I had a baby bath, second hand pram, and third hand cot. Yet the children didn’t suffer, they were warm, they were loved and in spite of me not being the motherly type, we managed very well. The vast array of equipment they need now seems pretty unimportant, and in the end it’s the mother that matters not the money or the glossy cot.


Do you have a similar story to share?

Jacqui Lee

Jacqui Lee is 75 and now retired but the last ten years or so have been some of her busiest. She worked at a hospital, where she took several Certificated courses, she cleaned a school, helped to run two conventions, wrote short stories, started painting, and in fact is never bored even now, "I honestly feel we are lucky to still be upright and breathing, and my motto is, Remember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live today. I love fun, clothes, food and friends."

  1. Hard work indeed , sounds pretty much like my two older sisters with their children . And I am sure older mothers at the time felt they had it easy too . It’s all relevant

  2. Oh your experience sounds so much like mine. I was the baby of my family so had no hands on experience with babies and just got on with it.I truly believe that the most important thing a child needs is their mother, especially in the early years,
    not any of the material things people think they need.

  3. each new generation has its own expectations of what is needed and what is wishful thinking, my Nan had 10 at home and hand washed the lot. Then one day she was given an old Pope wahing machine with the rollers at the top…now to her that was heaven for her, in the 1950’s my Mum had a twin tub that was her heaven….I had a new twin tub for many years till it wore out then I had a top loader for 20 years, washed everything till it wore out…our heaven is not what we wish for but what we need…the kids in these three generations had what they needed…their parents love and guidence….to day young people want the whole lot of NEW EVERYTHING all at once on a platter, then go out to work 2 jobs apiece to pay for it…their kids have no parents at home…sad!

    1 REPLY
    • So true Norma, and about the twin tub, Mum had one and it lasted 25 years…Dad tinkered with it and it was still going when she got the next one. Yes everything at the start is great and if you can afford it …fine, but sometimes ‘things’ are made too important in life..

  4. we raised five kids in a new country without family support let alone government support. managed to raise them well by being a full time mum.

  5. My first was born on the cusp! The cusp meaning we were expected to do everything a stay at home mum did but work as well. We still had second hand everything but if we wanted a house two wages were needed. We were very often “dog tired” but would stay up very late making sure the house was clean the clothes were washed if you were lucky you had a twin tub (mine was an old pope wringer). Then you would make puree left over veges for the baby for the next day. Fortunately for our babies the first couple of years we seemed to be able to say home. We had mothercraft nurses helping us out BUT mum was our main go to, so yes all mine were on solids before 6 months. They all played in the dirt and probably eat alot too! All rode their bikes without helmits, played cowboys and Indians and played footy on the road. Didn’t hurt them like it didnt hurt us!! Wonder why it’s do different now??

    2 REPLY
  6. Probably lots of support from famil and friends.

    3 REPLY
    • No not at all. I had my son in 1969 no grand parents to look after him while I went to work to support him. Everything is handed to this generation today and baby boomers are accused as being a burden on aged pensions. We at least worked and still work in many cases to foot the bill for the free handouts paid to today’s generation. I wonder how many of you will work for 50 years and more.

    • No, no support whatsoever My Mum died when I was 14..I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I married at 19. No relatives & no friends to turn to. As others have said, one just got on with life without all the gadgets & gizmos of today. I raised 5 kids practically alone & away from any cities or large towns…no buses,trains a car etc. We knitted,sewed & recycled every bit of clothing,preserved fruit,made jam,baked etc.We knew how to survive on “fresh air” when we had to.

    • No I wasn’t that lucky Noela, even when I returned to England apart from a brief spell when we lived with parents we were on our own…sometimes you learn faster that way! Mum used to arrive with a ‘food parcel’ of baking when she could visit though!

  7. Similar experience with my first child. But that was 1971 and we then had Family Benefit which went into my own bank account. Allowed me to buy our lawn mower!

    7 REPLY

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *