In honour of Mother’s Day this month, we decided we needed to chat with Jacqui Jarratt, an incredible local woman who has experienced motherhood in many different forms. Jacqui has three biological children, two of whom are adults with children of their own now, and one who is just six years old, and she also opens her home to foster children in need of care, support and love. So as someone who has been mother to young children, mother to adult kids, grandmother, foster mother, mentor/mother figure … we felt she was the perfect person to ask about what motherhood means to her and why it’s such a special and important role.
Hi Jacqui. Can you tell us about your connection with the Coffs Coast?
Firstly, thank you for asking me to speak about being a mother for your Mother’s Day May FOCUS Edition.
After a holiday to Coffs Harbour visiting my brother-in-law, Glen, my husband and I decided to move to Coffs about 12 years ago from Canberra. We are both in the fitness industry and have worked in many areas of fitness, health and wellness in Coffs Harbour over these years as employees and also business owners, so we feel very entrenched in life in this beautiful location.
You are a foster carer and have taken in a number of children; what made you decide to apply to become a carer?
I first wanted to do fostering in my 20s, but at the time it wasn’t a reasonable option. About 10 years ago, Glen and I spoke about fostering and felt it was an opportunity for us to give back to the community by offering our home, short term or long term, to children in need of somewhere to find some stability and sanctuary. During our initial training I fell pregnant with my third child, so we all agreed to hang off in completing the process, until our child was at least two years old.
What was the process like?
The people involved in all the training we received (and still receive) were/are incredibly supportive and very dedicated in their pursuit of getting the right people on board to be carers. The process is long and very thorough, and we have learned a lot about ourselves as individuals, as a couple, as parents, and developed understanding and working with the challenges in family dynamics when children come in and out of our home. I believe it is an ongoing evolution, as everyone has different needs, and no two children are ever the same or have the same story.
What are some of the challenges of caring for kids in out of home care?
Being aware of their pain, their confusion, their frustration, their stories, and rolling with it all. Not judging their behaviour, but instead being there for them and knowing that if they’re having a bad day/week and their behaviour could be deemed as inappropriate, not to take it personally, as it is their way, and their need, of expressing their situation.
What do you find most rewarding about fostering?
The cuddles or acknowledgement that you have made a difference in their hour, their day, or their week. Just those little subtle confirmations that for that time, that child felt happy, valued, safe.
You also have your own biological children. How do you manage different combinations of kids and ages, especially when for some it’s their permanent home, and for some it may be a temporary placement?
My biological kids are great humans. My big kids (as I call my first two) are very compassionate people who never seek to judge the situation of others, but instead see a situation for what it is/was. My littlest munchkin seems to have a great ability to understand that he is here, and we made him and that the other kids need to stay with us for a time, and then they may move on. He too is very kind and often surprises us with his caring nature towards others.
Don’t get me wrong though; there have been some challenging times juggling everyone’s needs and the family dynamics, but if you think fostering and juggling your own children is ever going to be easy and smooth sailing, then you may want to rethink your decision to do so.
There’s also a considerable age gap between your own children, and quite a remarkable story around your youngest child; can you tell us about that?
I did chuckle when I read this question. My first born just turned 32, my second child will be 30 this year, and my littlest has just turned six, so yes, there is a bit of an age difference. My husband, Glen (who is 14 years younger than me) and I always hoped that I would fall pregnant naturally and after a couple of miscarriages, we were over the moon to find out I was pregnant when I was 50. Flynn (my late lamb) was born when I was 51. I also have three incredible grandchildren, who take delight in calling my youngest their uncle.
You have experienced motherhood from a number of different perspectives; what does being a mother mean to you?
I genuinely, really love children. I’m also very lucky to be involved with children in my working life with my little yoga kids or my pole fitness girls and even in the past, my aerobics kids, so sometimes I feel like a bit of a mother to them all. However, the day I gave birth to my first born, was the day that I truly understood what love was. That unconditional love and care that I feel towards my children (my own, and the others that come into my world) really resonates with me. I truly feel fulfilled when I share time with any of “my children” – I feel having children in your life is a privilege, and one that isn’t always possible for everyone.
After all your experiences as a mother, what advice would you consider most valuable to pass on to other mums this Mother’s Day?
I found this a hard question, because mothering is different for everyone. I do feel though, no matter in what capacity you have children come into your life and therefore, the opportunity to be a “mother”, that we need to take the time to be truly present for those children. Children learn from their environment, and we are their environment, so as we can teach them, so too they can teach us … to be better people.