Sunday, May 11, 2008

Slide night :: one wage wardrobes

Here's a photo of my Aunt Leona, my mother, my Nanny and my Grammy. I was thinking about the incomes of these women who raised families on a single wage, but it's not so simple as that. Leona and Nanny married farmers, and as farmers' wives contributed to the household income as much as their husbands did. Grammy married a salary-man turned small business owner; she worked in the shop and raised money through her chickens and eggs. Mum was the only one of these four who was a SAHM not directly bringing in an income, and that was until we kids were in primary school when she went back to work as a librarian. We were poor - not eviction poor but money was tight enough that my parents relied on credit, help from their own parents and a big veggie garden to keep the household going. On one memorable occasion they scraped up spilled rice from the side of the road, and we were picking grit out of the fried rice for about two years. Something to look into, I think: how hard was it for our own parents to make ends meet?; what were their expectations?; and what did they do to make the daily juggling of money a little easier?

Regardless, these women knew how to get maximum colour and pattern for their dollar - a lot of bang for their buck:


Ingrid said...

I think that one impact of the hard times of my parents was making sure that I wouldn´t go through the same thing. I saw the stress and constant tension from my mother who went to work at night as well as during the day to make sure that the family had enough as my father didn´t earn much. She made sure that we had the basics required. But as result we lost our mother. We still don´t have much of a relationship. I made sure that I studied enough to make sure that I would always have a decent job which will enable me to be there more for my children.

ps, love reading your stories

Bird Bath said...

I remember my mother struggling as a single parent...It was her long working hours I remember more than lack of material things. Today I try to give as much time as I can to my children, but exisitng on a single wage means we are very careful of how we spend our money.

tamara said...

Really interesting thought. (and great pic, too!) I think sibling birth order has something to do with it too. My partner is the 3rd child, and remembers only affluence, whereas his parents struggled for the first 7 years of having kids before he came along. At which point things got easier financially. So he is really frustrated with the small children/reduced income equation.

My love of op-shops comes as much from my grandmother and mother's necessity trips as for the great retro and nostalgia bits and pieces they bring...

Victoria said...

They were tougher than us for sure and knew how to do more things for less cash. I love that photo they look sylish and capable. Also, love how you planted a little bit of a Vita Sackville-West/teen angst tribute.

meggie said...

Lovely photo. It is really interesting to learn of the hardships endured by some of our forbears. We think we have had hard times, but they were nothing compared to our grandparents.

zose said...

in 1983 my parents routinely fed 2 adults, 2 teenagers, a preschooler and a toddler on less than $20/week.
things were always tight but they often did big sell-offs to give us experiences.

my older sister believed she had missed so much as a child due to lack of money that she only had one child, thinking that
one child=less spending=everyone happy.

ironically, the one child is miserable that there are no siblings and my sister is in so much debt she is on the brink of bankruptcy.

I think back to when i was in first year at uni, i had no support from my parents, minimal austudy and i lived on about $30/week (most of that bought ciggs and booze, yuck!)

years later when my mother asked me why i had never had the phone connected, i told her it was because i had to pay the uni to have it put on and i could never afford it, so i used to walk to the uni shop in the dark freezing cold and put coins in the payphone till it ran out.

i realise now that i was miserably depressed, poor, lonely and homesick, but my parents were so far away and busy with their own jobs that my situation wasn't visible to them.