The first of a series, Nannas: Reflections on Motherhood features wonderful Nannas and Grandmothers who share with us their thoughts on the way they mothered and how we mother today.
This week we feature the wonderful Helen Sonnenburg, 62 year old mama to MamaBaker, Karen Trenorden.
How many children do you have?
Two. Karen, born 1975 and Gregg born 1977.
What were the main challenges for you raising your children?
First, breastfeeding, then keeping them safe once they were mobile, then learning to let go once they needed their independence. Not sure I have mastered that yet!
How did you overcome the challenges?
By reminding myself I was the adult. I also read a “breastfeeding”, “child behaviour”, “relationship”, “parenting” type book every few months (if one came my way) and this boosted my conviction that I could do it.
How do you think things are different for mothers today?
I believe the single biggest difference is money pressure. It takes a lot of their mothering time. Most other things are the same.
What do you think are the main challenges for today’s modern mother that you have observed?
The preceding generation has raised young women to know they are entitled to careers, marriage and children. Endeavouring to meet these expectations of themselves, they are stressed as they juggle their time, financial demands and relationships. Considering the above, they do a pretty fantastic job!
How do things differ now compared to when you raised young children?
Most friends at the time, and I, were fortunate to have husbands in secure jobs. We had all the time we needed to enjoy our children. I realise “lots of time”, does not necessarily mean “quality time”. We used play days, playgroup, children’s theatre, picnics and other outdoor activities to expand their horizons. Learning tools were usually homemade and often home invented. Mums achieve all of this today, with more time constraints, but at least have a plethora of stimulating educational material at their disposal through lending libraries, or for purchase. They also have access to information we would have died for.
What do you think could be done to make things better for the mother today?
Free child care perhaps. More real rest after childbirth, especially after a second child. Having a social media free day once a week.
What did your community look like when you were raising small children?
Few Mums in our street worked, so there were always children playing in yards, on footpaths, or parkland nearby. I always had friends with children close by if a diversion was needed on a whingy day. Otherwise we relied on a quick phonecall to save our sanity.
How has community altered for mothers today, do you think?
I can only speak about the community of young Mum’s I have the pleasure to know, and I think they do an amazing job at networking, supporting each other via social media. They stow their offspring in cars with complicated restraints, wrestle enormous prams and strollers, and still dole out love, understanding and firm management where needed.
I do, however, feel sad that this generation of parents is so bombarded by bad news stories that they tend to be overcautious with their children.
What was the number 1 priority to you as you were raising your children?
To know that there was a community of people who cared for their wellbeing almost as much as their father and I did. The value in this has been brought home to me so many times throughout the years, and particularly now, as my adults are producing their own children, and still that community of family and friends wishes them every happiness, every day.
How did you manage the domestics and child rearing back in the day?
Apart from some unrealistic expectations of my own, I was fortunate to have no pressure on me to be the perfect housewife. Nothing domestic ever really came before the kids, and that was probably obvious.
One gem of wisdom you would like to pass on to 8,000 mothers to make their lives easier?
The gem is: trust yourself. It is your child, and your instincts are worth following. And remember you are the ADULT in any confrontation!
What was your family’s favourite dinner as they were growing up? And can we be very cheeky and request the recipe?
Early on, Spag Bol (or ‘spag bog’ as one of the kids called it) was a favourite, and every family has their own version of that. Zucchini Slice was pretty popular too. Their Dad loved to produce healthy pancakes and scones, and they were a big success for special occasions. I will however share with you a simple Yoghurt Chicken recipe which has been received with great enthusiasm for many, many years. My children loved to help me prepare this. They took great umbrage years later when they discovered I actually had their help so I didn’t have to get my hands messy. Horrible mother!