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Three generations. One family story

Mieke De Vries  |  08 August 2019

Family life today is much different to what it was in the past, particularly when it comes to the choices available for women. One of our young writers interviewed her mother and grandmother and learns that some of their choices and experiences continue to influence her life today.

Over the past century, families have transformed in so many ways. From my grandmother’s childhood in the 1940s, to her time as a parent in the 1970s, and through my own mother’s experiences of childhood and family – each generation of women have carried some of their old traditions while also forging new pathways for women.


In order to understand my own family’s story, I interviewed my mother Donyaele and grandma Faye about their stories, and what family means to each of them.

My grandmother, Faye, said her childhood in the post-war world of the 1950s had its hardships, but also had a beautiful simplicity. She recalled her childhood experiences with her extended family despite her grandparents passing away at a young age.

‘Every weekend on a Sunday you would have a family outing and go and see your grandparents and have afternoon tea or get together on a family picnic. My aunties were also very important to me; they introduced me to theatre and sporting events and they would take me on wonderful days out.’

She reflected on her own parenting choices, including her decision to return to work when her youngest child, my mother, was five years old.


‘It was a good time when I went to work’, she said. ‘I really loved it. I always wanted to go to work because it gave you a bit of self-pride that you were working.’

I asked her what family means to her. ‘I think it embellishes your life when you’ve got people to care for and people who care for you’, she said. ‘It creates more interest in your life.’

My mother believes her upbringing influenced her views and choices when it comes to her family.

‘I think you always take the good things from experiences, and always have a desire to improve. For me, I had the ability to stay home longer due to my situation, and that was something really important to me.’


Reflecting on the world we live in today, she described how stereotypes in regards to families have become less rigid over time compared to the segregation of the 1970s.

‘When I was a kid it just seemed to be really stereotypical, like the dads did this and the mums did that and there were really defined roles’, she says. ‘Nowadays anybody can do anything and there are no real limitations if you don’t want there to be.’

My mum described her relationships with her grandparents very simply; ‘I had a great relationship with both grandmothers and grandfathers… both my grandfathers were step-grandfathers and I didn’t meet one until I was about 10.’

When asked what she thinks makes a family, Mum said, ‘Family is a group of people who collectively care about each other and look after each other and genuinely love one another.’


As I interviewed them, it struck me how similar their responses were and the way they acknowledged the dynamic nature of families in the 21st century despite their very different childhoods.

For my grandma, the dynamic nature of family has allowed for more freedom these days. ‘We just sort of all thought “oh no you’ve got to get married”. It was almost shameful if you didn’t get married. What was once the norm is old-fashioned now.’

The impact of family on an individual is one of the most profound influences throughout our entire lives. No matter what generation you are born into, there is no denying our innate need for human contact and a sense of belonging.

Mieke de Vriesof Avila College, Mt Waverley, was a student guest editor of the 2019 Australian Catholics Spring edition.


Topic tags: familylife, vocationsandlifechoices

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