They say it takes a village to raise a child..
I wanted to introduce a new series of stories from the women around me- their stories of labour, love and growing their little families. There will be women who have migrated from other countries, women who are in ministry with young families, women who are stay-at-home-mums and mums who run their own businesses.. Mums of twins, mums of boys and mums of girls.. I hope you see the imperfect perfect of this thing we call motherhood in the tapestry of stories woven by each woman..
My first story comes from Nan, my grandma, my mum’s mum. Since going back to work part time my Nan has been an amazing support. From watching Ava one day a week, to making sure we have nappies and wipes.. we are so very blessed. She is the most selfless woman I have ever known..
So.. while there are many stories untold here, you can catch a small glimpse into her life as a woman and mum.
A short background- Arpin (or Nan to us) was born and raised in the city of Mosul, Iraq. At the age of 21 Nan married Dinkha. Side note- her mum married at 12 but didn’t live with her husband until she was 13/14. Nan said she was playing with children at her own wedding.
Also, another side note- a lot of the answers here are about my mum (Jena). Nan’s son Johnny passed away 6 years ago- It is still a very difficult thing for her to talk about.
So Nan, how big was your family? It was me, my mum, father and three brothers. I was the second eldest..and then George and Edward.
Can you tell me a bit about your dad? My father was the best father. As a teenager he sent me to typist school (no one in those days sent their girls to education), he sent me to a dress maker to learn to be a seamstress. He hired a private tutor at home.. he used to buy me gold and clothes.. he preferred me over the three sons. He was the best dad. He moved here to Australia in 1965 and died in 1972. He was a very hard worker.
In those days most families didn’t let female children have higher education. My dad went to the principal and said what do you think- we send our daughters to high school- I was best friends with the principals daughter.. the principal said no.. they are just going to get married..But my father said no.. I will send her to high school.. So I went to high school.
So Nan, how many children do you have? Jena (53) and Johnny passed away 6 years ago- he was 49.
Where did you have your children? Baghdad, Iraq in a hospital.
Did you have a Natural of C-section birth? Natural. When I had Jena, I woke up to go to work that morning and had her later that day.. Jena’s labour was about 6 hours, Johnny was 22 hours..
How was your pregnancy? No problems, very normal.
Did you take maternity Leave? In Baghdad, they give you 40 days with pay, and then you had to return to work. My mother-in-law looked after Johnny and Jena full time after I went back.
Nan and her family moved to Sydney, Australia back on the 1st of July, 1966 from Iraq.
How did you tell the children that you were moving to Australia? We didn’t! Wherever we went the children went.. Jena was 2, Johnny was 5. They didn’t ask anything.. we just packed and left. They just followed.
What was the hardest thing you struggled with being a new mum? Probably the broken sleep, during the night. I remember Jena used to wake up during the night a lot..I can’t remember why, she just would always wake up..
If you could give one piece of advice to a new mum what would you tell them? The first thing would be- show your children lots of love. The second thing would be to take good care of your children. Back in those days I had a very weak heart- I was emotional.. I would worry that they would get hurt..but now I am the same way with my grandchildren and great grand children..
I devoted all my love to my children..
When we moved here, Jena’s dad wanted to go out all the time, after work… but I would always say no, because the children don’t see us all day.. I wanted to stay with them.
My kids were pampered..
Do you have a funny story about one of your children? (I prompted her to tell this KFC story)
I used to work full time, so in those days, the shopping supermarkets were only open till late on Thursdays nights. So on Thursday night I did the shopping, and didn’t cook. I bought take away food. I asked Johnny what do you want to eat? Every Thursday it was KFC. KFC. This went on for a very long time (months and months). One day I said I’m sick of it. I have to do something to change this..So I bought him 9 pieces..9 pieces.. he ate 7 pieces.. After that he never asked for KFC again..
Did you work outside of the home when you had the children?
I wanted to be with Jena when she started school but I used to work full time. I went to my boss, and asked him to
give me part time work- I’ll just work during school hours. The boss said no, sorry we don’t have part time workers. So I left. At this stage there was no such thing as part time work.
I used to take Jena to school and bring her back at 3pm.. After 2 months the company sent after me saying you can come back part time.. there were 2 girls who tried to fill my job but couldn’t keep up with the workload.
So I came back but only worked school hours.. I dropped the kids… and picked them up.. no one was part time in the company- only me..You see how I sacrificed my time for Jena..
After we finished the mini-interview Nan wanted to tell me this funny story:
When I was a littler girl I was religious. By myself I used to walk to church… it took about 20 min.. So one Sunday, in those days there were not many cars.. just bikes.. so my eldest brother had a bike.. The houses in Baghdad where normal in a circle.. in the middle they had a courtyard. I used to keep the bike in the courtyard. So on Sunday everyone was home- I got up to go to church, it was winter- I had raincoat on.. so I went outside, crossed the street, there were two Assyrian men..They asked me “Did your dad give your pushbike to someone?” I said no.. so I went back to the house…I said to dad.. my pushbike is taken.. So my dad came down to go and find the thief.. We asked the men which way did the thief go.. They pointed “this way..” So my dad started running.. I forgot about church and I followed my dad..
So anyone who saw us went with us running and running to find this man who took the push bike, maybe there was 10 people with us running.. they joined the club.. so my dad, had put a new coloured grip on the bike, on the handle.. so as he was going he saw the thief.. he noticed the pushbike with the different grip on it. The thief is standing there putting air in the tyres.. my dad saw the bike and knew it was ours.. he swore at him.. he said.. “where are you taking this bike?” The thief ran away.. My eldest brother had a suit on.. Because he was leaving the house he had to put his suit on..so my dad said “what, after you put your suit then you go to find the thief?”.. here I got the bike, go..
It was a big story in the neighborhood.. Joseph (my father) brought the push bike back.. No one went looking for their push bikes but Joseph did!
We were a group running through the streets.. imagine.. my father first, I was second and all the people were following running.. everyone thought It was something to see.. when they saw it was a pushbike they were very disappointed..
So that day I didn’t go to church..