Some people were probably unaware that October 28 was Grandparents Day.
But it was an important day for Dorothy ‘‘Mardi’’ Nash, who on the day won the carer category of the NSW Grandparent of the Year awards announced by the Minister for Ageing Andrew Constance.
A few weeks before that she was named Grandparent of the Year by the unrelated Grandparents Day Magazine.
For Mrs Nash, of Kogarah Bay, the two awards were not about trophies, but about recognition of what many grandparents did and their need for support.
‘‘Grandparents as carers are increasing by the day,’’ she said.
Mrs Nash, now 88, was 71 when she became the sole carer of her three grandchildren, Annaleigh, Chris, and Liam, then aged 1, 2 and 4.
She had just returned from a couple of months overseas where she had gone to recuperate after the death of her husband and her father, both of whom she had nursed through illness.
‘‘I thought, ‘well this is wonderful; I can now go wherever I want and do whatever I please’ — then I came home and got the kids,’’ she said.
She had known her son’s marriage had problems but she didn’t quite expect the children’s mother, who struggled with drug and alcohol addictions, to abandon them.
After the father couldn’t raise them alone and terrified the children would be separated and placed in foster homes, Mrs Nash rolled up her sleeves and returned to parenting.
This was the third time she had raised children, having stepped into the mothering role at 12 when her mother died.
She stayed until all four of her brothers and sisters had left home or married, before heading off into a life of her own, a marriage, one child and various small businesses.
Being a parent to her grandchildren came with all sorts of problems: legal ones concerning the children’s mother and financial ones because as a self-funded retiree, Mrs Nash had difficulty getting any government help.
There were also emotional problems as there was some inevitable resentment from the children who felt singled out at school for being different and social isolation brought on by the fact that many of her friends couldn’t cope with young children and drifted away.
But she threw all her energy into the day-to-day stuff: picking them up from school, taking them to the park, soccer, cricket and swimming, attending school functions and generally ‘‘being on tap 24 hours a day’’.
‘‘You tend to overcompensate because you feel sorry for them and a little bit to blame, so you want to love them more and protect them more,’’ Mrs Nash said.
A grandparent support group helped her through the hard stuff and made her realise she was not alone and that carers like her were on the increase.
And she never felt like a victim. Raising the children was a rewarding experience, she said, and her relationship with all of them was excellent.
‘‘This is how life is,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s not all froth and bubble — it’s hard.
‘‘You take the hand you are dealt with and give it 100 per cent.’’
A MUM AND DAD IN ONE
Mrs Nash was nominated for the awards by youngest grandchild, Annaleigh, 18, who is studying law at Macquarie University and plans to practise family law.
She said her grandmother was a role model, mentor and best friend.
‘‘She’s been dad and mum and always there,’’ she said.
Filling two roles: Dorothy Nash with her youngest granddaughter Annaleigh Nash. Picture: Chris Lane
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