When The Bar Is Set By Your Mum – It’s A Tough Climb

I’m going to start and finish this conversation with the same question:

Is it Nature or Nurture?

My mother isn’t mainstream, never was. She’s the result of a war, a family who shipped her off to another country at 15, had no real education (barely 3 grades) and was effectively kept as an indentured slave for the first few years of her arrival from Greece in Australia as an immigrant.

It’s a story both her and I can’t talk about easily, not even to each other. She doesn’t want to expose me to her rawness and honestly, I don’t want to deal with it that much either. I know I’ve never been hungry or desperate or alone. She has.

Her arrival in Australia in the 60’s was a consequence of her own mother explaining to her that she could not feed all the children in her family, so as the eldest she needed to leave. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision for my grandmother to make – sending her eldest daughter away to a foreign country with no resources or family. But my grandmother wasn’t only going to lose a daughter, she was also losing a worker. It was a typical small village in Greece where they grew their own food, harvested and sold what they could to earn a living

– if you could call it that. So, my grandmother was left with very young children who couldn’t contribute, but the hope was for my mother to earn a living in another country and send back money.

Millions did this around the world after WW2.

Im going to fast forward to the “good news” because I’m very sure mum would NOT want pity for her life, but I do think she feels underestimated and probably unappreciated. That’s a mum’s job, right? LOL

Before she even had me, she was a successful business owner. A young, vibrant woman who also bought 2 investment properties and was one of the FIRST woman in Australia to get a loan from the bank WITHOUT needing a man to co-sign it.

Let’s think about that for a minute. It wasn’t really that long ago.

She had a business – cashflow, but she didn’t have a husband. So apparently, she would have been considered successful but just not responsible to manage a loan without a man. I’m not man bashing here, I’m just painting the picture of the woman and what she was up against. No real language skills, no family, no support network. And no respect or rights to manage her own financial path.

It’s important to note though, that it was a man – the bank manager, who approved the loans for mum WITHOUT requiring a man to co-sign. Why? Well, the bank was next door to my mum’s shop, and he was a customer. He witnessed firsthand what she accomplished everyday and that was good enough for him.

Hard work + commitment + never give up = MY MUM

My mother came to this country – Australia, because she had to. It wasn’t a choice. She left behind the only people she knew and a home that had almost nothing. She was 14 nearly 15. She couldn’t really even read or write in her own language let alone another. She came from a village without indoor plumbing or electricity and arrived in a country that had an abundance of everything. And she ran with it.

My mum is my superhero. She is brave and smart and defines achievement in my eyes. And resilience.

So, her business instincts seemed to have awakened the day she arrived in Australia. She downplays the early days of loneliness and fear, the fridges that were padlocked to stop her eating more than her “share” and the deafening noise of not understanding the language and customs. She jokes that she was so sick on the ship voyage (we share seasickness) coming here, that it motivated her to succeed in Australia and use that excuse to never go back…. I think it’s because she never felt wanted.

Mum knows business. She knows the ups & downs, the pitfalls and the inevitable exhaustion. She had already been ringing the bell of success before I was a twinkle in her eye, and before she met my father.

I mentioned the Nature Vs Nurture at the beginning, and I’ve briefly described my mother. And I have to say that I’m on the fence (maybe). To define her life recipe as nature or nurture baffles me a bit because inevitably I compare myself to her. We are much more alike than she admits, and I deny. We look very similar, have the same short temper and don’t require hugs unless they come from little humans. And we both know how to work 50 hours a day.

I wonder where I get it from….

I don’t think mum ever thought she had anything she could teach me or that I could learn from her, I’m sure she felt that she just did the best she could (seriously, I scream on this part) – which she did, in spite of the challenges. But I did learn. I learnt more than she will know, but I will now make a point of telling her every day and then some. It was in her nature to overcome…or did she overcome her nature?

My family has been successful, Im grateful for it every day. We did it and do it together. We are a team. That’s what mum didn’t have but that’s what she created, and we have followed through on. Her nature was to lead by example – something she never had, and she nurtured us that way.

My father – now that’s a whole other story.