A tribute to all the mothers and ‘other mothers’

Sunny Grace (left) pictured with her mum.

On Mother’s Day 2022, Sunny Grace pays tribute to mothers – and ‘other mothers’: the various women who help nurture, care, teach and encourage.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, especially when there is an absent father, like I had. I was fortunate to grow up with what I like to call my ‘other mothers’. My mum was well before her time, and we lived in share households with other women to share the costs of living. The single mother’s pension, while a welcome new addition to mother’s options in the 1970s, was not enough to live on. Especially if the father wasn’t paying child support.

Mum and I shared with various women and their kids over the years, pooling resources such as cars, food, childcare and skills. Bev, an ex-swimming champion, taught me to swim. Lesley, a writer and musician, showed me women could be anything they wanted to be. Jill was literally my teacher when I was home-schooled for a while.

Sunny Grace with one of her ‘other mothers’, Bev.

Other mothers aren’t confined to childhood either. There is Kim, the partner of one of my other fathers. She has been in my life for 20-odd years and is always there for me when I am struggling and when I am celebrating. She has taught me how to soften the blows of life; to make each day a little special with baths, candles and flowers.

And my own mum? I don’t remember observing Mother’s Day when I was a kid. My mum was and still is anti-commercialism. I may have made her cards at school and perhaps breakfast in bed. Sometimes my fingers hover over the phone keyboard wondering whether to wish her Happy Mother’s Day or not. I used to wish her Happy Father’s Day on Father’s Day when I was a kid because my dad wasn’t around, and she did all the work.

Since I became a mum, I do send her a thank you on Mother’s Day or give her a call. She was only nineteen when she became a mum. While I am her only child it was a lot on her own. I am so grateful to her for everything she has done for me and for giving me the gift of other mothers. A gift I have tried to pay forward with my son’s friends.

Sunny Grace (right) pictured with her mum in 1976.

When my boys were little, we met a family through primary school who are now like family, Mrs Elmes becoming the other mother to my boys. We helped each other with the sports ferrying, school pickups, places to stay if the boys needed a break from home.  I have been the other mother to my sons’ friends when their parents were struggling with life and single parenting, or if they just needed a place to stay for a while for whatever reason.

Now due to marriage equality, gender binaries blurring and surrogacy, the concept of motherhood is changing. This is something worth celebrating and will hopefully signal a change in who carries the mental load and domestic labour. According to this government study it is still unfairly on the shoulders of Australian women. 

Which brings me to Mother’s Day gifts. I think mothers just want a day off from doing any kind of domestic labour or having any obligations at all. When the boys were little, I loved the cards they made at school. So sweet and full of unabashed love. As they got older and aware of commercialism, they would buy gifts. But I could take or leave those for the good old cup of tea and breakfast in bed.

Sometimes we just want a day off from being a mother. Because even when they are fully grown, we will always be their mum. Just as my mum is still my mum even though I am 51 and she is 70. It is a role I love and at times resent. I never resent my children – a just the role of mother that occasionally obscures me as Sunny, an individual with her own needs and wants. I realise this makes me less than perfect, but perfection is a myth. We are doing the best we can. Motherhood doesn’t come with a handbook, but it is easier if we share the load and lessons amongst the village and listen to our elders.  

But most of all, we need to look after our collective mother, who has been neglected and disrespected for too long, our Mother Earth! Without her we are literally nothing.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums today. Take the day off and just be you.

Sunny Grace is a writer, producer and director who divides her time between the NSW Northern Rivers and Sydney. Her website is located at sunnygrace.com.au.

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