My personal story

I: Ok, anything else that you thought about?

R: It is difficult to think of things on the spot. I was thinking about my parents. Although they both worked, my mother was still the one who was doing the shopping, doing the cooking, doing the washing, my father was never involved in that at all. And he'd go off and do his hobbies and have time for himself and she would never have time and looking back I think: 'how did she cope with 4 children? Doing that and working?' It was quite difficult!

I: I think it was quite typical at the time, not to expect men to be involved? Is that different now in your own situation?

R: Slightly different. It is, you know, we do help each other and do other things and, but there are no 'divine tasks' that we do. But because my husband works nights so it is a bit different, so he's not around when the children need feeding, for the shopping, etc. And as I'm not the one who is working full time, I just do it. So, one of my sisters - the one who has got three part time jobs - her husband always does the shopping, because he says: ‘when you go shopping you spend too much money’. So he always does the shopping. He will always let the dishwasher. He says: 'you don't do it properly', he's very tedious, he wants things a certain way so he will do the cleaning and they tend to share the tasks more.

I: Do you think, in general, nowadays people share tasks more than how it used to be?

R: I think, yes, yes, that is not unusual. At the school there are quite a few parents where the fathers look after the children, so it is becoming more common.

I: And it is socially accepted as well?

R: I think it is more, so and certainly you get more fathers involved in... you see more fathers at the school gate and taking their children to school. Whereas when I went to school, it was always the mothers. So, that's good.

I: And so you said (earlier) that also in the upbringing of your sons you try to involve them as much as possible.

R: Yes, and make big attempts to do things as a family which I think, I think our generation is more aware that everything has to be, everyone has to be involved in things and that it is simple to have family time. So, sometimes I can remember, I used to go to bed after, we had a television and after 'the magic round' finished at 6 o'clock we used to go to bed and this man came home and for years I didn't know who he was. Seriously!

I: So your father was very absent?

R: Yes, he was always very busy...

I: And not really joining in the family stuff?

R: No, because he'd go off sailing in the weekend and leave us with our mother. He'd see us during summer holiday and think: 'oh!' It wasn't all that bad, but it seemed like that.

I: And so your husband is much more involved also in doing family stuff together?

R: And also because we have lots of appointments (for their 2 disabled children), he's also involved with the doctors and consultancy things and that is good. And sometimes they listen to him more than they listen to me. If I want something specific, I send him. I say: 'Can you make sure that they listen to you?'

I: So, he's got more power there as a father than as a mother?

R: I think the mothers, I'm the carer, I'm seen as the carer, and I think a lot of parents of disabled children find this that you are seen as just the carer, not the expert on your child. And you know how your child is reacting to things and they should take that into account. I think things are changing, they are gradually learning but it is taking a while.

I: Is it a physical or a mental handicap that your children are suffering from?

R: Physical.

I: Must be hard to be the mother of 2 disabled children!

R: Lot’s interesting, but I suppose also discipline wise. I know I'm very soft and I listen to my children and I will tell them off and, yes, I shout at them, I think most parents do, but I don't... I think my husband is the ultimate threat. And I think my father was too, if we did anything wrong it was: 'wait until your father comes home'. And I suppose because my husband is bigger and stronger, if they're doing anything wrong, he will take things away from them, he will discipline them.
(…)

R: And talking to him and thinking of my own upbringing, his upbringing was the same as: 'wait till your father gets home'. We were all scared of our fathers. That's it. But I think that the boys have a very good relationship with him, they can tell him anything and they do lots of things together, so it is good.

I: Okay, thank you.