This site is about celebrating parenting, so I can’t let Mother’s Day go by without celebrating some of our finest. All mothers are amazing. There’s nothing easy about this job; the pay is pretty poor, the co-workers can be noisy and belligerent and the enormity of the task can be overwhelming. While this could be an endless list of awesome women doing incredible things as well as being great mums, I had to choose just six.
What’s particularly inspiring about these mums is that they are leaving their mark on the world their kids will inherit. If I was to choose a list of women for my daughter to look up to, these women would without a doubt lead the charge.
Megan Darcy is a new mother, an entrepreneur and a survivor of extreme prematurity – and she’s also legally blind. Megan has a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity, (ROP, the same condition Stevie Wonder has), due to being born at just 6 months gestation. This article is partly about women I’d like my daughter to celebrate as she gets older, and in Megan’s case this is particularly pertinent as Lucy was born at a very similar gestation, (26 weeks). And like Lucy, doctors didn’t expect Megan to survive.
Until only recently, 26 weekers were given very grim odds of surviving and were often over ventilated and given too much oxygen therapy due to limitations in the existing technology. Essentially, too much oxygen in her humidicrib resulted in disorganized growth of retinal blood vessels which in Megan’s case resulted in scarring and retinal detachment. Today, the amount of oxygen titrated to newborn preemies is closely monitored and laser surgery is available for babies that begin to show early signs of ROP. For Megan, however, the result was 5% vision. Pregnancy also made her cataracts grow more and surgery is not an option. Megan has no peripheral vision and very little central vision, so it is sort of like looking through letter O.
Megan recently gave birth to a little girl and started her own business making decorative canes to suit the personality of the vision impaired. Drawing on altruism as well as an individual love of fashion, (especially boots), Megan began the business because of a beautiful almost white coat that clashed with her stark white cane. She recalls:
“As I stood in front of the mirror one morning, mid fashion crisis, all manner of clothing strewn across the room, multiple shoes at my feet, and on the verge of a meltdown regarding what to wear, because nothing I tried made me feel pretty, or confident, or dignified, or any number of emotions I was trying to evoke.
Suddenly it struck me; Why not match the cane to my coat, and turn it into an accessory rather than a mere tool for accessibility? “
This is the aspect of Megan’s story I like the most because it challenges our very notion of what beauty feels like. We think of beauty as what we can see, but Megan’s story defies that assertion. Though Megan can see very little, she has a keen sense of fashion and beauty and the way it makes her feel. The stark white cane didn’t fit in with Megan’s sense of style but she couldn’t live without it, so rather than changing the style, she changed her world. This gave her untold confidence, and out of that emerged a bigger picture. Megan says:
“The fact of the matter is, it has always made me feel disabled, deeply ashamed, and conspicuous for all the wrong reasons.
Over the years my cane became the outward symbol of everywhere I have been made to feel inadequate, less than, limited, discriminated against, left out, powerlessness, ignored, a burden, a problem, disfigured, diseased, ugly, or unlovable.
Clearly, something had to be done, because I couldn’t keep living with this insidious resentment and bitterness poisoning who I was, and who I wanted to be.”
This inspires me, not just as a mum of a premmie who may yet face challenges we are not currently aware of, but as a human being living in a world that is staged for the able bodied. I hope my daughter is capable one day of changing her world as it needs to be changed, and challenging the perceptions around her in every way. I hope Megan’s daughter follows in her mother’s footsteps and becomes a game changer too.
What hasn’t this woman done? She has been a photographer, doula, junior creative in an advertising agency, business owner, volunteer and CEO. Perry founded Find a Doula, a directory for childbirth partners and self published ‘Cheers to Chilldbirth’, a book for expectant fathers, giving them specific details on how to help their partner have a faster, easier birth. She also founded Beer + Bubs: childbirth education for men at the pub, which boasted presenters such as boxer Danny Green, radio presenter Adam Spencer, champion surfer Mark Occhilupo, news presenter Mark Ferguson, neurosurgeon Charlie Teo and Olympic rower James Tomkins. In 2014, Perry was named in the world’s top 30 social CEOs in the charity sector for her strategic use of social media. She raised $6 million dollars in two short years for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia and this year was named as a finalist in the NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards, which she won.
Talk about a role model. This lady does good for the planet while achieving just about everything possible in her chosen fields. A rule breaker, ideas maker and communicator – and did I forget to mention, she’s a mother of three?
This year on International Women’s Day I asked Perry to give me one of her famous ‘Top 5 Tips’ for girls in Making It Happen. Her answers are below.
- Offer your skills. Whatever they are, offer them to organisations that need them. We have a woman that gives conversational French classes for a small fee and donates the proceeds to Hamlin. She donates enough to pay for two fistula surgeries each term.
- Consider yourself equal. You are just as awesome as anyone else. My son is an awesome singer. People have asked if he has lessons. He hasn’t had lessons, but I tell them no-one has ever told him he can’t sing.
- Master your craft. Pick something and plug away at it. That’s exactly what Dr Hamlin did and it has changed and bettered lives.
- Pick your battles – ignore your critics. To quote Winston Churchill: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”
- Have fun. As long as you are still having fun, the joy you get out of what you do will sustain you.
My own Lucy was lucky enough to meet Ms Perry too. Her advice to a four year old girl dressed in a pink super girl cape and faux riding boots? “Girls can change the world, don’t forget that.”
In a world with preconceived ideas about children that don’t fit the norm, Kylie Ouvrier is a passionate advocate for the autism community. Raising awareness is often not enough. Kylie, (a volunteer for ASPECT Australia and a nominee for the David Foster award)e wants to change attitudes and perceptions within the greater community. With a passion for special needs education and two boys, both on the autism spectrum, Kylie has made it her mission to bust open the ‘Rain Man’ stereotype.
“What people don’t realise is that these kids spend so much energy understanding our world and keeping it together at school, that they appear ‘normal’. But then they break down at home. Often, its about self preservation, and not seeming different to everyone else. “
She’s fighting for schools to be more accountable, better systems and better checks and balances for where government funding is directed. She wants people to understand that children with autism have a lot to offer, but they don’t react to their environment in the same way as other people do. Anxiety, depression and a lack of resilience are just some of the challenges they face. Understanding non verbal communication cues, (which make up 80 per cent of our communication) is also difficult.
Though the plight of autistic adults is nothing to dismiss, the stereotypes and misinformation surrounding autistic children can be incredibly damaging. Small children with autism are at a greater risk for conditions such as anxiety and depression, conditions which are challenging for adults to contend with let alone young kids. Its easy to see why Kylie advocates so passionate.
Most of all, Kylie offers support for many parents of autistic children. She wants the greater community to understand that unexpected behaviour from a child is not necessarily about ineffective parenting. Sometimes, like any parent, the challenges an autistic child faces can overwhelm a parent. This is not uncommon in any family, neurotypical or otherwise. Judgement has become somewhat of a blood sport in parenting, but for parents of non neurotypical children whose behaviour is not considered to be ‘normal’ by many onlookers, the sense of alienation is heightened. Thankfully, mums like Kylie that speak out and on behalf of children and adults within the autism community these attitudes are gradually changing.
My Mum and Her Mum.
I know, that’s two incredible women in one go, but it’s difficult to separate the two women who have had the most influence on my life. I’ve included my Grandma, (Ma), partly because the direction my own mother took was directly affected by her mother; there is something so inspiring about the generational nature of mothering. but she is also an amazing human being in her own right. She has been to the Antarctic, climbed the harbour bridge, been on joy flights and ridden a Harley – all since her 80th birthday. At 98 she may be slowing down a little, but she’s still one of the most fearless women I know. And she does it all without being outspoken, (like me), but with kindness and respect. She has always been part of my life in a very big way – and she always will.
My mother said to me a few weeks ago that she was proud of what I’ve accomplished and wish she’d accomplished more in her life. It shocked me that she would think of herself that way. She was a working mum at a time when women had very few choices. She raised two daughters with plenty of bumps along the way, meanwhile for most of my early years she ran her own business in an industry largely dominated by men. She didn’t burn bras or join a revolution – and thank God for the women that did – but she was one of the mothers that did what they wanted despite the challenges. She made me feel as though I was capable of anything because she lived it every day. Not to mention, she ferried us around to our numerous extra curricular activities, sat through every school concert, worked crazy hours and still held it together. If I accomplish nothing more than that I will be very satisfied.
She may not have changed the world, but she changed my world and I am certain I am a better mother because of it. If my daughter can have the same experience I will have achieved.
Happy Mother’s Day to Every Mum
I started this story because I wanted to celebrate mother’s day by inspiring my daughter. She’s so capable and fierce and full of potential, and I wanted her to know that great things are possible. That one ordinary person can change at least a small corner of the world. The thought of encouraging her to take on the world never crossed my mind, but I was thinking too small. I often feel impotent to be part of the change I want to see; there are so many dark places in the world, so many winless circumstances. But speaking with such incredible women I have come to know this: one person cannot solve all the problems in the world but they can make it a better place. Through kindness, community spirit and a genuine interest in other people we can make a difference. Having the tenacity to follow through on world beating ideas, piece by piece, we can change the world.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the mums out there that make the world a better place, however they do it.