This month's feature mum is one of my nearest and dearest, and I am so looking forward to you reading about her. Meet Marcie McGowan! She works for The Foster Care System in NSW, otherwise known as the Out of Home Care System as well as a busy mum of two beautiful girls and a lover of sport, wine and chocolate! When we moved to Sydney I was in desperate need of some or at least one mum friend. I asked a mutual bestie of ours to introduce me to someone that I could form a long lasting friendship with as well as our kids, and this is where I met Marcie. We clicked from the first moment, although we would both agree we are completely different in personality! However, that just makes life all the more entertaining for a good laugh and the perfect support for each other when in need.
Marcie is married to Geoff, one very cool primary school teacher and together they have Camila 6 and Imogen aka Mogsy 2. They are our family here in Sydney and I couldn't imagine life without them in it. I hope you enjoy her story because she is one of the most amazing mums I know and apart from her incredible fashion style and a wardrobe that I get to shop in regularly, she is hard working and so inspiring for other mums juggling work and family, while still being one's self.
Apart from being a mum, what do you do with all the free time that you
I must admit, I'm pretty fortunate when it comes to free time in the grand scheme of things (grand scheme of things = working mother of 2 little endearing monster-monkeys. And yes, monster-monkeys is a thing). Having a hands-on father around as well as local parents has essentially meant that I can enjoy elements of my pre-parent self during this crazy parenting season, a luxury I realise not all mother’s benefit from. My most favourite things to do for myself, in no particular order, are drink wine/coffee, clothes shopping/dressing up, read trashy magazines & watch reality TV, play touch football and spend time with friends (I am a raging extrovert). As you can see I am a very deep, well rounded and informed individual.
Tell us about your work in the Foster Care System
The Foster Care System in NSW is often referred to as the Out of Home Care System (OOHC) and includes all children that are living in alternate arrangements to living with their natural parents, where the government has had involvement in making decisions on behalf of that child. It includes children living with foster carers, kinship carers (blood relations), and in residential facilities.
I have worked in the OOHC system for over a decade in various roles including as a youth worker in a residential facility, a foster care caseworker, recruiting, assessing and supporting foster carers, and most recently in managing a foster care program. It’s difficult for me to sum up the OOHC system, or my experience working in it in any brief way, as the system is exceptionally complex and the stories of my experiences are endless. Instead I will share three points about the most important things I have learnt.
1) Foster children are not average children. Their experiences are very far from average. They are special, unique and challenged by life in a way that humans never should be, particularly children. 2) Foster carers are superstars! Any person raising children understands that it will likely be the most challenging role they will ever undertake. Foster carers raise other people's children. Damaged children desperate for adequate care, love and protection. By all accounts, the role has significant rewards... However I'm not confident I will ever have what it takes to do that job. It takes VERY special people to be foster carers. Like I said- SUPERSTARS. 3) I am very passionate about what I do. Statistics that reflect outcomes for children in care can be discouraging, the system is far, far from perfect, but I have hope for these very special children and young people.
How did you see yourself as a mum before you became one?
I was never overly eager to be a mother. Not to say I didn't want to be one, I guess I was always focused on other, egocentric, things. Camila was an, errr, lovely surprise, which is lucky because I’m not sure I would have ever woken up one day and felt ready to have a baby. In many ways I could have stopped at one, however we wanted Camila to have a sibling. Deciding to get pregnant with our second was terrifying for me so it took me a little while to get around to it… Imogen was born a little under 4 years after Camila. I feel I am probably a lot like the mum I thought I would be; not overly affectionate or ‘motherly’, a bit silly, often inadequate, frequently worried, requiring lots of support and breaks, totally thinking that my children are at least a bit better than any other child ever born on this earth in the history of humanity, and constantly trying really hard to do things right for my kids.
Can you give us three rules you made pre-mum that you have now broken? Have
you stuck to any?
My expectations of mothering were always quite realistic. I was always aware that the journey looks different for every mother and that there is no set path, nor sure guidelines for how to do the job right. The one thing that comes to mind is that I was resolute about staying ‘relevant’ to what was happening in my children’s worlds. You know? Being a cool mum (think of that mum in the valour tracksuit out of the movie ‘Mean Girls’). My daughter is all of 6 years old, and my sister kindly pointed out to me the other day that I already failed this goal when I came completely undone trying to buy her a birthday present. Freaking Shopkins… If tiny pieces of rubber cakes is what floats my daughter’s boat… we will never relate.
What do you love most about being a mum?
I love the investment I get to make into my daughters’ lives. An investment made possible by my own mother who gave endlessly, graciously and lovingly to me. I am a strong, confident woman who loves life, because that’s what I got to watch growing up. I hope I can empower my girls, even in part, as my mother did me.
I also love dressing them up in food and animal costumes.
I love lots of other things too, but I shall bore you no more!
What are some of your challenges as a mum?
Where do I start… The challenge of separating my own ‘stuff’ from being a mother and providing my children with what they need as opposed to projecting any of my own gear on them. The challenge of trying to overcome my own ‘stuff’, whilst in the midst of mothering madness, so that I can be a better mum. The constant challenge of sacrifice (my body, my sleep, my career, my time, my hobbies, my SANITY!!!!!). The challenge of remembering to stop and enjoy my children when everything around me threatens to take priority due to stress and lack of mindfulness. The challenge of feeding my children nutritious food and maintaining a hygienic environment (you heard me right- I’m not talking tidy, or even clean… I’m referring to a bare necessity- hygiene!). The challenge of not engaging in the most immature, irrational and frustrating of 6-year-old back chat…. I could go on…
Who are your mum people and how have they influenced you as a mum?
I think I already mentioned her… my MUM!! Her influence has been profound. Otherwise I appreciate the fact that I know many mums from different walks in life, all with individual strengths and journeys that I can learn from. Each of my mum friends teach me something different, whether it be about practical skills, patience, tolerance or attitude.
What are three tips you can give working and or studying mums to help
organise your week and day?
Don’t ask me for tips on organising anything. EVER. you should know this Kell…
Tell us a mum moment of yours (funniest, grossest, sweetest etc)
Funniest: Toooo many!!! Most relate to Camila’s uninhibited, quirky commentary on life. I’ll give you a quick one from the other day when we were in the car and pull up at the traffic lights next to a motorbike:
Me: Cami, how cool is that girl on that bike?!
Cami: That’s a boy Mum
Me: No, it’s a girl
Cami: Girls can’t ride motorbikes
Cami: because you have to steer and stuff
Me: Why can’t girls do that?
Cami: Because they’d see a clothes shop and crash
I have to admit, her primitive sexist view has some merits based on the behaviour she has witnessed from me veering into things whilst distracted at shopping centres. I’ve never crashed a motor vehicle though!!
Grossest: catching poo in my hand
Sweetest: Imogen saying “thank you Mumma” to absolutely everything I do
How do you separate your life at home with your family and what you see and
experience in your work?
In my industry I had to learn long before I had children, to leave work at work, just to survive. Given I had already acquired this skill, when I returned to work after my first daughter, I managed to mentally separate my roles quite easily. My latest role in managing a foster care program has challenged me in this regard the most. I find I am so mentally exhausted at the end of a day that I have to be very mindful about the attitude I bring home. I remind myself often of how blessed I am to raise my beautiful children. I also try to remember that this stage of neediness is very limited, and one day when it is gone, I will feel the loss. I remind myself of what my priorities are, and that despite my career ambitions and passions, nothing can compare to the privilege of being Mum to my daughters.
Focussing on fostering, what are some positive rewards or experiences for a
family fostering a child or children and for those that go into care as
A foster family has the capacity to make a profound impact on a child or young person who otherwise might have very little chance at finding a meaningful life for themselves. Whilst a foster family can never completely replace a natural one, there is sooooo much impact it can have. Foster carers, with the support of a foster care team, have the capacity to heal deep wounds and promote children and young people to become healthy, happy adults.
Many children who have been removed from their families and placed in the OOHC system will struggle to find peace and joy. The ones who do have been part of foster families who have struggled through the challenges and not given up. These foster families have tenacity and commitment. The carers have placed a high value on the foster children which is undeniable even to the young person who loathes themselves. The family has encouraged that child to find their true selves, given permission to them to establish meaningful relationships with their birth families if they choose and treated that child in the exact same way they would their kin.
Who can become a foster family?
There is no equation for the perfect foster family! You can be a couple or single, old or young, unable to have your own children or already have a full family. Motivations, attitudes and capacity are all taken into consideration when recruiting and assessing carers, but there is no black and white manual for who makes good foster carers. It is not a one-size-fits-all model!!
If any of our readers were interested in becoming a foster family, where
could they turn to for information and advice?
I hope you enjoyed Marcie's story. Stayed tuned for more blogs coming up soon and so you don't miss out, make sure you subscribe to The Realistic Mum xx
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If you love children’s books then I have written a lovely little book on clouds changing into different shapes that you can find on Amazon and iTunes. Look for the title Look At The Clouds, What Can You See?