Real Life

A country Mother’s Day: 6 mums living in rural Australia share their family traditions

Home is where the heart is.

Making cards from treasures collected in paddocks, little fingers attempting to bake, gathering the generations for a long country lunch and remembering mothers who are no longer here. In the lead up to Mother’s Day, six mums who all live in rural Australia share their family traditions with The Weekly.

Hayley’s favourite part of Mother’s Day is the notes and artwork she receives from her daughters, as well as treats from the garden. (Photo: Clancy Paine)

Hayley Milner

Sweet notes & drawings

Sometimes Mother’s Day is just about joy, relaxation and being spoiled. In Hayley’s busy household, it starts at the break of day when her daughters, Marnie, Florence and Bonnie, excitedly prepare the house for a celebration.

“I just love that they’ll be whispering, and I’ll be lying in bed, and they’ll go pick some flowers,” Hayley says. Once the girls are ready, Hayley will come up for breakfast and find the table laden with things from the garden, and “sweet little notes and drawings that I love”.

Mother’s Day often falls on her mother-in-law’s birthday, “so, I get the morning shift and then quick, it’s Possie’s birthday, so we’re off!” The special Sunday in May is always preceded by a flurry of creativity. It’s the original artwork that Hayley loves most. “A little drawing of me – their take on Mum.”

Hayley and her husband, Robbie, raise cattle and sheep, and grow corn, and wheat on their farm in Geurie, just outside Dubbo. For Hayley, Mother’s Day marks a change in the season, when the oppressive heat of summer gives way to the cool of autumn.

“I just love those cooler mornings when it’s not hot anymore and it’s all cosy, and there are different flowers in the garden. There’s always a rose or something they can pick, which is cool.”

Barb Scott, tending to her calves, says she doesn’t need a fuss this Mother’s Day and would be happy with a kiss from her sons.(Photo: Clancy Paine)

Barb Scott

Acts of service

“My father said to us when we were little, ‘Wear a flower in your buttonhole on Mother’s Day for your mother’. Well, I tried to get my family and the men to do that but of course that didn’t happen,” Barb chuckles.

She and her husband raised four boys on Tanbar Station, a huge cattle station in Queensland’s channel country, south-west of Windorah.

These days, society does a better job of acknowledging mothers, she says.

“Mothers are more to the fore today than they were. They were always terribly important on the stations, but terribly much taken for granted. You couldn’t be done without, and they did appreciate you. But you had your job. You were very busy all the time, a woman on the station.”

Now Barb lives in Thylungra, west of Quilpie, near two of her sons. There are more women around, but she still doesn’t see the need for Mother’s Day.

“I don’t think you need to make a fuss. I don’t need a false appreciation. I never felt that. Don’t get me anything for Mother’s Day, just give me a kiss,” she says. “I’d rather they do something for me that I can’t do, like build a fence here to stop the poddies [bottle-fed calves] getting in.”

Emma Barrett, with sons Ted and Stewie, is looking forward to a long lunch with family. (Photo: Clancy Paine)

Emma Barrett

Gourmet treats

Pavlova or chocolate brownies made by her boys, Ted and Stewie, toast and tea in bed, a bonfire and a glass of wine as the sun goes down, Emma has always loved Mother’s Day – and encourages her boys to get involved.

“They certainly try and bake a dessert,” Emma laughs. She also has a special book that she gives them to write their Mother’s Day message in, so that she has a compendium of all Mother’s Days and birthdays from over the years.

“I get them to draw in that and do their card as such and then we’ve got a rolling [record of] birthdays, Mother’s Days and those sorts of things.”

Then it’s outside, to their property in Narromine, for lunch. Traditionally, the long lunch has been just the four of them, but in more recent years, Emma’s sister-in-law Holly and her three kids have been joining them. Holly’s husband died tragically a few years ago, and so the day is now also about cherishing that special cousin relationship between the kids, and celebrating family.

“That’s the beauty of living so close. We’re just one family. We’re very lucky,” Emma says.

“I grew up with lots of cousins and it’s just a non-negotiable friendship. Usually, the cousins have wild activities. The boys ride their motorbikes. After the summer of snakes and droughts and all the fun stuff, the autumn weather is a nice reprieve.

“It’s usually followed by a fire pit in the afternoon, and marshmallows and some nice red wine.”

Clancy will celebrate the bonus “mums” that rally around her and her children, including her own mother, Jillie. (Photo: Clancy Paine)

Clancy Paine

Celebrating the ‘tribe’

Clancy was born on Mother’s Day in 1985, an extra special gift for her mother, Jillie. But since that one exception, Mother’s Day hasn’t really meant much to her, or her mum, she says.

“I don’t like a fuss. Mum doesn’t like a fuss,” Clancy says, adding with a laugh, “There’s other days in the year that I celebrate myself.” What she likes to do on Mother’s Day is think of the women who help her be a great mum.

“Mother’s Day is a reminder to stop and celebrate our own mums, and that goes outside of mums. My sister plays such a big part in the lives of our children. That’s Molly. I wouldn’t be the mother I am today without my mum and sister.”

It has long been drummed into Clancy that acknowledging carers, and supporting carers, is important every day. Jillie leads by example, always keeping a close eye on her girls.

“My mum always says, ‘Who’s caring for the carer?’ My mum’s always really good at identifying when the carer needs some care. I’m so blessed to have my mum so close, and also so close to be able to identify when I need a bit of love. She can hear my voice on the phone and if my voice is a bit flat.”

Clancy’s children – Dolly, Daisy, Trader and Hardy – all benefit because of the bonus “mums” that rally around Clancy.

“I am a great mum because of those people that hold me up,” Clancy says. “And those people that show up, and all of those people outside of me that fill my cup, my kids benefit from their mum being in a good place, right. A lot of outsiders contribute to the wellbeing of our kids, our family, and Molly and Mum play a big part in that.”

Jess (second from right with sister Kate, mother-in-law Bernadine, and Bernadine’s mum, Elsie) will remember her own mother, Maureen, this Mother’s Day. (Photo: Clancy Paine)

Jess Waterford

Honouring those we’ve lost

For Jess, becoming a mother was a complicated collision of grief and joy. Not long after her first daughter Elsie was born, Jess lost her own mother, Maureen, to lung cancer.

Postnatal depression took hold in that sleepless fog of newborn-nights, sharpened by acute grief and the isolation of her farming town, Warren, in NSW.

When her twins, Audrey and Eliza, arrived two years later, Jess found herself once again brought low by depression. It was her community, and her garden, that helped her claw her way out. An army of country mums rallied around Jess, and she will spend Mother’s Day this year celebrating them all.

“We go to the cemetery in the morning, we go to the pub for lunch. We’ve always really incorporated our mother’s passing,” Jess says. It’s important to her, and her sister Kate, to “make sure we don’t let the kids forget about their grandmother”.

The afternoon will involve lunch with her mother-in-law-and-best-friend Bernadine, and Bernadine’s mum, Elsie, who Jess has known all her life.

“Now I’m so lucky to call her my grandmother,” Jess says. Elsie, after whom little Elsie is named, ran the coffee shop next door to the local supermarket. “My whole childhood was at that coffee shop, with Elsie,” Jess says.

Elsie loves to take the girls to their ballet lessons, or for walks in the gardens. “She’s 84, and she’s just been the most beautiful, caring, nurturing person in my life since my mum passed away,” Jess says. “I’m so lucky to have her. I always call her my mother from another mother.”

Jaye, with daughters Isla and Thea, has a greater understanding of her mother’s past struggles now that she is a mother herself. (Photo: Clancy Paine)

Jaye Darcy

Gratitude & homemade gifts

For mother-of-two Jaye, Mother’s Day is about gratitude. She was mostly raised by her father because her mother left when she was young, but says becoming a mother to Isla and Thea has enabled her to empathise with the woman she wanted to know better.

“My mum had me at a very young age, at 20,” Jaye says. “She was adopted herself, but ended up leaving my brother and I to go and find her birth mother.”

At 15, Jaye moved to be with her mother. “I wanted to know more about her, and I’m glad I did because I got that time with her, to get to know her,” she says. Jaye had her first daughter, Isla, but then struggled with infertility for several years before Thea arrived. Shortly after Thea’s birth, Jaye’s mother died.

“So, Mother’s Day is bittersweet in that I don’t have my own mother here, but I have two daughters to celebrate me,” she says. “When I think of Mother’s Day I think of homemade cards, homemade everything, the girls just loving on me all day. It’s just a beautiful day and probably one of my favourite days of the year.”

She likes to take time out of the hectic tumult of daily life to celebrate motherhood, “and just the fact that I have the opportunity to even do that to begin with. Because a lot of people don’t,” she says.

“I’ll never take for granted the messy water bottle drawer and the shoes by the door and Bluey playing in the background. They just grow so quickly.

“I hold no resentment to my mum for leaving her own children behind. I didn’t feel that way until I had my own daughters. I just love them so much I could never give them up. It must have been this extreme force of emotions to leave your children behind to go and find that for herself,” Jaye says.

“When my mum passed away, she left me a letter. It said that she was sorry she left me, but I was her first unconditional love. That should come from a mother, and she didn’t get that. She wanted to find it.” Jaye says knowing that her own mother felt there was something missing from her life makes her appreciate all of the simple things in her life, like the fact that she gets to watch her daughter play netball.

“It’s just amazing and I never take it for granted. I could never resent her for wanting to feel that feeling of having someone unconditionally love them.”

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