Sunday 20 July 2014

29: Valerie

Portraits - the Motherhood series.

Valerie invited me into her home this morning. We sat down to a fresh pot of tea and plate of sweets. She offered me my first taste of Indian sweet meat, picked up on a recent trip to Sydney. She's quick to smile and her laugh is infectious, lighting up the room around her with her warmth and down to earth nature. 

Mother to grown up children Natalie, Paul, Jacinta and son-in-law Damien, grandmother to Isabelle, Harrison and Ruby. Valerie married at 24 and welcomed Natalie two years later. In 1975, the young family emigrated from South Africa to Australia. Valerie trained and worked as a general nurse, midwife and operating theatre nurse, however as their family grew she made the choice to stay home with her children until they had all started school. Valerie was fortunate to have a strong maternal influence in her life. Her mother was a dedicated teacher who worked tirelessly for her students. Setting an early example to Valerie of the commitment required when choosing a profession in which people depend on you. Since her mother worked full time, Valerie’s grandmother was her primary carer until she started school. She was a strong and independent woman and they shared a close connection. Despite having lived through two world wars, the Depression and being widowed at 36, she was always able to see the good in everyone. Valerie describes her as the first feminist in her life. Warm, creative and socially aware, she worked actively for various charity projects within her community throughout her whole life. She was humble lady too, Valerie laughed telling me of the time her grandmother was recognised at an event for her efforts but refused to go up on stage to accept the award, instead preferring to downplay the attention.

Valerie is truly the embodiment of these two incredible women. Her global and social perspectives and deep sense of responsibility drives her continued involvement with charities. Fundraising, volunteering and supporting medical teams that are making significant differences both in her local community and in countries like South Africa and India. I could tell from our few hours together that she would make the best kind of friend and colleague. But it’s her insights on motherhood that really moved me. She tells me how grateful she is to share a close relationship with her children. She believes that children are a gift to be loved but never owned. That from the from the day they are born we have to let go a little bit every day because an overprotected child becomes an under prepared adult. That all children need is love and your time. 

I asked her about the most surprising thing she has experienced as a mother -

"The best and most surprising thing I have experienced was on the saddest day of my life. It was at my husband"s memorial service. Not only did all three my children and my granddaughter surprise me by standing up and paying tribute in front of a few hundred people but the sentiment and love and admiration they expressed blew me away. I did not realise until then how appreciative they were of the upbringing they had had. We had done something right.”

Indeed. Valerie and I spent a few lovely hours chatting and sharing stories, as I left I felt grateful to have met this fascinating, endearing and remarkable woman.

You can view all of my portraits from 2013/14 by clicking on the Portrait Series links in the right sidebar of this page. In case you're wondering about the inspiration for this year's Motherhood portrait series, you can read more about it here.

Belinda x


  1. What a fabulous role model to women of all ages....the world is a better place for strong women like your new friend. X


Thanks for your comment, so nice to hear from you. Belinda x

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