VIP Mum Georgie Somerset

georgie somersetWhen Georgie Somerset started her family a little over a decade ago she lived an hour drive from the nearest town on a cattle farm in rural Queensland. But the mother of three believes isolation in mothering is not so much geographic as mental. As such she has been working with the National Foundation for Australian Women (www.nfaw.org) to promote and protect women's ideals Australia-wide. As well as her paid and not-for-profit work on company boards Georgie also helps out on the family cattle farm in southern Queensland. Georgie lives with husband, Robert and children Ben, 13, Mac, 12 and Gemma, eight.

You live on a rural Queensland property an hour from the nearest town. What are the challenges of raising a family in such a remote area, particularly when they were babies?

Living an hour from town you become very resourceful, as I think most mums do! The challenges when they were babies were moments when we had to ask ourselves “is it serious?” and wondering if the hour’s drive may be more stressful than the fever they had! As they grow up, it is always a juggle as to what you can be involved in as it is an hour to sports or music lessons, and you seem to get busier! When they are babies you create a community where you live and we did a lot together at our local playgroup and in our homes. This continued as they grow up.

Your eldest son, 13-year-old Ben, started at boarding school this year and 12-year-old Mac is away next year. How difficult was it to 'let go' as a parent?

It is really hard to ‘let go’ when your eldest heads off to boarding school. After being so involved in every aspect of their lives (especially in a small school with only 35 students), you all of a sudden find yourself several hours away. It also seems very quiet at first, and setting one less place at the dinner table is one of the things that often caught me out! You also know they are not finding it “just one big sleepover”, so that’s hard, but you have to let them go through those stages to come out the other side and be part of boarding life. On the upside, we are the good guys, as we are not the ones chasing them to clean up, do homework, or hurry up! We get the love on the holidays and Ben really appreciates home cooking!

You are on the board for the National Foundation For Australian Women. What kind of work does this organisation promote?

The foundation is dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests of Australian women and ensuring that the aims and ideals of the women’s movement and its collective wisdom are handed on to new generations of women. I am a great believer in women’s rights and I also appreciate the enormous corporate knowledge the wise women in our community have and am keen to see this preserved for future generations.

One of the things you have been advocating for is paid parental leave. Can you see this battle being won anytime soon?

We are finally discussing the topic of Paid Parental Leave and we need to maintain momentum. There is a view that is it an expense we may not be able to afford but in fact we really cannot afford not to support our parents in their role. I believe we all need to be involved in advocating for this and not rely on others to fight for what you believe in.

How will you celebrate Christmas in the country this year? How does a country Christmas differ from a city one?

Family is the most important thing for us at Christmas – this year we are home on the property with family coming to stay with us. We’ll enjoy all the usual things, but we have to plan well ahead – we will go ‘to town” in the week before but as it’s an hour’s drive, if we forget something, we won’t go back to town for it! I try to keep the food simple but with an 8 year old girl in the house, the essence of Christmas is kept well and truly alive and she will ensure we are all very Christmassy in the coming weeks. She loves the countdown to “Jesus’ birthday” and we all join in, her brothers a little reluctantly!

What is it that you love most about being a mum?

I love being able to give. I find myself reflecting on my childhood and creating traditions and opportunities for my children as my parents did for me. I love the love we all have – the more hugs you give, the more there are to go around! There is something very special about your teenage son signing off phone calls and emails with “love you”.

You work in both paid and not-for-profit roles away from your cattle farm. How well do you juggle your work/life balance?

If anyone has perfected the work/life balance please let me know! I try to be 100% where I am – when at work I am at work, and when with the kids, with them. It is really hard when a deadline is looming but it is my aim! I really love working at a strategic level and doing board work it gives me an opportunity to do that. I try to explain what I am doing and why I do it, so they understand a little more. I think our life is richer for the work I do.

Who does most of the domestic chores at home? Is your husband Rob ‘hands-on’ around the house? What chore do you simply despise?

I am away for work quite a bit so my husband and the kids do a lot around the house. When I am home the balance swings back to me, but the kids are very capable of doing washing, sweeping etc and they do. Similarly, they all pitch in when we are busy mustering or working on the property - we try to encourage teamwork at every opportunity. I don’t despise any chores but I have fine tuned procrastination when it comes to most housework!

Life on a remote farm must be challenging at times. Do you find it easy to ask for practical support from family and friends?

Support from family and friends is absolutely critical for me. My parents in law help out a lot and I have some great girlfriends who share the L plate of parenting with me! Our children are all at home in each others homes and these support mechanisms are critical. We love a chat, good coffee (or champagne!) and chocolate! My sisters are on the end of the phone but I really miss my mum at times. I don’t find it easy to ask for help but I have learnt to, and you do develop coping strategies, and Rob is my greatest support.

What has been your greatest personal sacrifice since becoming a mum?

Being a mum has given me far more than I could ever have dreamed for… it has not been about sacrifice for me. My life is so much richer as a parent – perhaps we’d travel more or some such thing but the rewards I gained are far more than any experience money could ever buy – who would swap one of those bear hugs for the world!

How often do you take time out for yourself?

Books are my escape and I am the queen of the sneak read! They have kept me sane through so many times of challenge and when the drought seemed endless I could disappear into another world through fiction. I also love to walk and try to do this often, wherever I am. It is wonderful to empty my head of concerns and plan my day.

What's your top tip?

Trust your instinct. As a mum I think you know what’s best from newborns to teenagers, and trusting your own judgement sometimes takes courage in the face of popular opinion. Your gut feeling about your child’s needs is often spot on.

Can you tell us about the last time you shared a laugh with Ben, Mac or Gemma?

We often have a laugh – usually at ourselves, but I did chase a very grizzly bear off Gemma’s back on the weekend which always ends in laughter. I am a great believer in humour and not taking yourself too seriously.

If there was something you would change if you had your time over as a parent - what would it be?

To worry less about what I “should” be doing and just enjoy them while they are enjoying me!

If you had just one wish (no matter how fanciful) to change something in Australia to better support being a 21st century parent, what would that be?

Self awareness and communication training for all new parents so they can understand where they are coming from and how they relate to others, including their partner and children. Communication is such a critical skill and one we learn so little about.

 
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