Mother’s Day Feature :: Sarah’s Mum Di

May 9, 2020 | Sarah Schoeller, TVM Hearts

To celebrate Mothers Day, TVM co-founders Marissa and Sarah have interviewed their own beautiful mums.

Words by Sarah about her Mum, Di.

Growing up on the farm, either surrounded by animals, in the garden, or cooking with the on the weekends with music blaring in the background, or being at the beach or river over the road from Nan and Pops are some of my earliest and fondest memories. 

Our childhood was a balance between beach and bush and its something that, as I grow older, am so grateful for. Growing up on the farm, we’d always be climbing trees, camping out, riding our bikes down the dirt road or generally just being wild. You taught all of us to cook, sew, garden, raise animals and importantly to dream big, constantly reminding us that we could do anything. 

With a deep love for your family and friends, a wicked sense of humour, a complete love of entertaining and cooking (and bubbles!), my Mum is happiest when surrounded by her family (three children and ten grandchildren). Actually I think the grandkids my have taken #1 position in recent years, but watching you with my children and the love they have for you, is by far one of the best things in life. 

Sarah and her children, Arki, Posie and Lola and her mama, Di

You’ve always been my biggest inspiration but your childhood was pretty different to mine, so let’s chat about why after growing up in Sydney, you decided to head North to raise your family. 

What appealed to you about raising your family in Northern NSW on 18 acres when you came from the big smoke?  

I wanted to have spirited children that had a zest for life that were also very competent. From an early age I loved animals and one of my best presents ever was a dog when I was eight years old.  I had been asking for years. I think raising animals teaches you about responsibility and kindness and how to care for something.  I had also developed an interest in self-sufficiency and was concerned about the chemicals we were being exposed to so growing our own food including meat and dairy goats was very important.

How did having three children under three change you?  

I don’t think it changed me but it did help me to understand myself much better.  I reflected on the things that I wanted either to continue or discontinue from my own upbringing and made me much more aware of the influences on my life.

Di and Sarah, 1984

Did you adopt a particular parenting style or go with the flow?  

I had some very particular ideas about no physical punishment, breastfeeding and also allowing each child’s personality and individual characteristics to shine.  I was also aware of birth order and the impact on each child and worked hard to moderate that influence. 

Having worked in a male dominated industry in my first job and experiencing discrimination in the workplace, as well as having limits placed on me through my parents expectations because I was female, I was certain I did not want this for my daughters and I wanted my son to respect and value women.

I’d say you and Dad had a very free thinking, liberal parenting style. As we grew older, you always said that the most important thing was if we told you the truth and this trust formed a large part of our relationship growing up. Why was this so important to you as a parent?   

I always wanted to be available to you and for you to know that no matter what I was there for you.  There were so many taboo subjects as I grew up and I ended up keeping secrets from my parents which made me vulnerable and also harmed our relationship.  If there was truth between us I felt we could deal with things together and you wouldn’t be forced into making poor decisions.

Early on, you worked at home in your accounting business and Dad stayed home with Sam (my brother). This would have been rather unconventional in the 80s, but is testament to you and Dad’s ability to adapt to situations and open minded thinking. Why this decision?

I am not sure we planned anything just responded to life which as I age I find quite difficult as I feel the need for certainty.  Hans and I grew up in a very fortunate period where jobs were plentiful and I think we always felt that we were good at what we did and could always get a job.  I don’t think that is quite so applicable these days.   The world is rapidly changing and we need people to be quite flexible and innovative and often create their own opportunities.  I think your upbringing actually helped all of you in this regard as all three of you are very competent at what you do and have a good bag of skills.

An accountant by trade, you decided to return to uni after having three children to study a Bachelor of Teaching (early childhood) and later on your Masters. What inspired this later in life?   

When I saw you at preschool and learnt so much about how important the early years are I really wanted to be part of that.  I wanted to make sure that children everywhere grow up strong. It was a much more fulfilling profession than accountancy.

Di and Arki

You’re the most passionate early learning educator I know. You started our local preschool, a founding member of the North Coast regional group and previous President of the Early Childhood Australia NSW Branch. What fuels this devotion for raising children?  

The early years are where education and care can have the most impact and young children need great advocates. It has been a constant battle to have people and governments realise the importance of the early years and that Australia’s and the worlds future depends very much on ensuring that every child is provided with their basic needs which includes opportunities to play and learn within loving and nurturing relationships.

Most of my earliest memories include Nan. She was always with us and as I grew older, although close growing up, she become like a best friend to me. She was a determined and strong woman who was fiercely independent and left school at 12 years old to raise her five younger sisters. What traits do you think you inherited from her?  

My relationship with my Mother changed dramatically when I had children myself.  It was then that I saw just how well she had provided for us and the sacrifices she had made not only to raise her own family but her sisters as well.  She ran a very effective household often on her own as my father was sometimes away for months on big jobs.  I never heard her complain. 

I still cost out most meals in head as I serve them up and get a buzz out of feeding a crowd on a small budget.   I reuse, recycle and not much goes to waste all lessons from my Mum.  I cooked, sewed, grew our food to ensure my family were healthy and happy and this all came from the foundation my Mother provided.

Way was the wisest piece of advice she gave you?   And how did this shape you as a mother? 

Mum often made some very astute observations of people and in her own way was quite broad minded. My best friend in high school struggled with her sexuality and at a time when homosexuality was never acknowledged or discussed and Mum told me to just be a good friend to her and let her sort things out. She also wanted me to be a teacher, so I could work but still look after my own children.  I initially rejected that but I now recognise that choosing to have children means raising them has to be paramount in your life.   

You’ve always told us that we could do anything and have been our biggest cheerleaders in life. What are your proudest moments as a mother?

There are so many but every day I am proud and grateful that I have three absolutely wonderful caring responsible adults in my life that just happen to be my children.  I watch you with your children and often have a quiet cry as you are all wonderful loving parents and great friends, all with many longstanding friendships that were formed at primary and high school, which is testament to the type of people you are.  I also know that you would all stand up for people if you felt that they were being bullied or disadvantaged.  That makes me so proud. 

I know there have been many a challenging moment (still are!). What would you say would be the hardest thing about being a mum?

Watching you face challenges and knowing that I had to be there but let you deal with it yourselves.  Trusting you to make wise decisions and learning from your mistakes. Sometimes just the sheer physical exhaustion and catching yourself before you repeated something from your own upbringing that is embedded and difficult to shake off.  And working as a team with your father making sure we didn’t contradict one another. And you never stop worrying, now I have grandchildren to worry about as well!

And lastly, impart some of your wisdom on us. What, if anything, would you tell mamas today? 

Enjoy your children because the time flies so quickly.  Slow down, don’t get caught up in the ‘having it all’ mentality, get to know them and cherish every moment.  Children won’t remember the furniture, clothes, expensive holidays etc. they will remember the time you spent together. Whilst your career and assets are important your relationship with your child will be the most rewarding and wonderful thing in your life.

Thanks Mama x

All images by Kirra Smith.