What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve been given?
Hetti: Even when I was a child myself, I was one of those kids that loved looking after the littlies! I feel like I did get some good advice – everything from always keep the baby’s feet warm to don’t use nappy wipes… practical things – but I guess, in some ways, I always felt innately maternal.
When I was growing up I felt very strongly about what kind of life I wanted for my children. I really wanted my kids to grow up in Sydney (where I moved to for university), to experience the multiculturalism, the plurality – the best of Australian society… The excitement and creativity of a city like that with all its beautiful natural attributes, a very strong Aboriginal community, and a fabulous LGBTQI community.
But I’ve also very strongly felt that parents actually need to earn the love and respect of their children. It’s not something you should take for granted. I don’t believe in any sort of physical punishment or anything like that; I think it’s much better to try to get kids on the same page and to achieve a balance. You know, happiness is really the most important thing.
Maddy: Yeah exactly, I think you lead by example and that’s the best way: showing by doing and putting in the hard work… like the extremely hard work of raising four kids by yourself! Kids make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, but I think the important thing is to hold yourself accountable. Do you take responsibility for that behaviour? Do you grow from it and learn from it, and go ‘Ok I’m not doing that again’? I think that’s a really nice aspect of how you have raised us to behave.
Hetti: I think some kids, when they really muck up or go off-the-rails, are hurting themselves but also punishing people as a way of hitting back. It’s an interesting one.
Your father, Lee, passed away when you were six, which seems at odds with saying you had a great childhood. But you’ve always had loving family around you.
What do you think you’ve learned from your childhood?
Maddy: I think it was definitely a very tough year for us because Pop passed away and then Dad soon after. But I think from those moments, that were obviously very hard, we now know how to deal with grief well. When you have Earth-shattering, soul-destroying, ‘How do I get back from this?‘ moments, you remember you’ve always got each other. I am so blessed to have that reassurance that our family can all band together and keep going.
It’s also a reminder of how you stepped up, which was huge: you were the mum, the dad, the best friend and everything. I think it’s a massive testament to you as a person, and to our Grandparents on both sides.
I remember how Nanny Lil (Dad’s mum) said, ‘You just have to keep going, lots of upsetting things have happened in our lives and in our collective past’, (referring to growing up as a black woman, and the really tough things she faced). She added, ‘Grow from it, get strong from it. Life goes on and so should we’. Now I feel that anything life kind of throws at us, we will be able to get through it.
Hetti : I think it’s important to have that security because it gives you confidence. I also think of your grandmother Lily and how she relates to her grandchildren. She has taught me a lot. She’s one of those people that really laughs with you, and that’s a beautiful thing too. You say I stepped up, but I did so because I was supported to step up, and we all knew we had to keep going.
In many ways, the world is quite different from the one that I grew up in. To me, you are someone who is very social-media savvy, articulate, and seem to enjoy the opportunities that being online gives you, especially to engage with others.
What are your thoughts on the pros and cons of the social media world?
Maddy: I love that quote by RuPaul, who has been a massive idol and inspiration for us. She says ‘Unless them bitches payin’ your bills, pay them bitches no mind.’ and I think that is the best approach to have with the haters. The negativity is always going to be there and sometimes social media makes people think it’s ok to behave in certain ways when it’s not. Online bullying is awful, a kind of a silent killer.
But I love the opportunities social media gives me, and by that I mean the art, the cute videos and funny memes – that’s what I get out of it! I took a break from social media (Instagram and Facebook) for three months and it was really good for my mental health. I felt less anxious, I was on my phone less, I was only caring about people who I actually care about. Then I got back on it and I just did a big cull on what I was seeing. Social media can be fantastic for raising awareness for good causes, getting people power going, and building momentum for movements. I’m really grateful for that too.
Hetti : Yes, when it’s used for good, not evil, it’s brilliant. There is a risk, but you know what, in every generation, there is always something that people are rolling their eyes about or freaking about. It used to be about watching too much TV!
Maddy: We have all grown up to be very connected to the outdoors and involved in the community. I volunteer with Seed Mob, an indigenous climate action group, and we’re all genuinely concerned because we can see the impacts now. A lot of women around the world are going on birth strikes because they don’t want to raise children in a world that’s essentially dying, as world ‘leaders’ stand idle.
Hetti : I can understand that. I think it is responsible parenting to think about what our children will inherit, whether in their local community, or the wider world. Do I want to bring a child up in an apocalyptic world? This threat to our beautiful creatures, plants, rivers.. the list goes on. And it’s because of one thing and that’s us: humans. The decisions that are being made from the Adani Coal Mine to the fracking in the Northern Territory to Oil prospecting in the Great Australian Bight make me feel extremely anxious and also furious. It’s all about the short-term and votes – no taking responsibility, making quick decisions to get the quick bucks and support, pulling the wool over the eyes of the community, and branding anyone who is a dissenting voice as Lefty-latte sippers!
Maddy: or calling them green-collared criminals! Even saying that to kids, who go on the school strikes, when their parents have said, ‘No you go out there, we support you to fight for your future’. And that’s a privilege you have given to us; always supporting us to go out there stand up for what is right, for our future, and people who can’t stand up for themselves.
What does Mother’s Day mean to you?
Hetti: There is a very conventional sense of what ‘Mother’s Day’ is. Obviously, we celebrate it – because we’ll take any kind of excuse to give presents and get together. Doesn’t matter what the cause is, we’re there!
Maddy: [laughs] Yeah, I love Mother’s Day, it should be Mother’s Day all day, every day, 365! It’s a moment where we can all just really celebrate the people in our lives, whether they are our biological mothers or people who have inspired us or anyone who has given us love or guided us. It’s a wonderful day to say thank you and make those people feel lovely and special… and have cake! We all love having a celebration at our house.
It’s nice how you always raised us to be affectionate and loving in that way, because it feels like that door is never closed, you know. I think It’s really important to show children that you love them, have an active interest in what they are doing, and that they have done a good job. This comes back to that leading by example; I think that is the best thing a parent can do!
Hetti: Beautiful… Well, that seems like a good spot to conclude this wonderful discussion – maybe one day we’ll look back on this one as another of our highlights!