Life, love and laughter from one of the Australian Women's Weekly's most adored contributors, Pat McDermott - 30 years and still going strong!
'Children between the ages of 12 and 25 find parents embarrassing 95% of the time. Any younger, and they're so uncritical they think you look good in swimmers. Any older, and they drop in just long enough to leave their laundry and borrow $50. If you want to embarrass your kids, strike when they're teenagers" – Pat McDermott
For 30 years, Pat McDermott's much-loved -Family Matters' saga has unfolded in the pages of The Australian Women's Weekly. Her hilarious observations on her own family (five kids!) and their dramas, from toilet-training to weddings and beyond (grandchildren!), her long-suffering husband (MOTH, the Man of the House), a succession of beloved and badly behaved pets and just about every situation a couple or family can find themselves in, have kept readers amused and entertained every month since 1984.
Now, eager fans can relive all their favourite moments in Family Matters, a collection of Pat's much-loved columns, while new readers can be charmed by Pat's warm, laugh-out-loud anecdotes and confessions.
This is the perfect book for every imperfect family – a treasure trove of wisdom, love and laughter from one of Australia's most adored chroniclers of family life.
Pat McDermott was born in Ottawa, Canada and graduated from Carleton University. She worked as a newspaper and magazine journalist in Canada, London and Sydney. Pat was Assistant Editor and Senior Writer of the first Cleo Magazine, before becoming a Feature Writer and Columnist for The Australian Women's Weekly – a position she's now held for 30 years. Pat's husband, Dennis, is known to AWW readers as the MOTH – the Man of the House. They have three daughters, Reagan, Flynn and Courtenay and two sons, Patrick and Rowen aka -Ruff Red'. For 15 years, in tandem with writing -Family Matters', Pat was Corporate Communications Manager at Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney.
Allen and Unwin
Author: Pat McDermott
Question: What originally inspired your column, Family Matters?
Pat McDermott: I was a journalist before I became a columnist, first with the Daily and Sunday Telegraphs in Sydney and then as Assistant Editor (and writer) of the brand new Cleo Magazine with Ita Buttrose. (Yes I was one of the mad characters on Paper Giants.)
Just after I had my fourth baby I was offered and accepted the opportunity to write a light-hearted but truthful column in the Australian Women's Weekly about raising a family in Australia. It was one of the best decisions in my life. I even went on to have one more baby – the wee boy known to AWW readers as -Ruff Red'. And through it all I wrote.
I wrote the gentle, funny truth about parenting. No preaching or rules or advice and no over-blown comic stuff. I didn't write be funny or outrageous or shocking. There's more than enough of that to go round. I wrote life as it happened.
When I started writing the column I had a houseful of big-eyed babies and toddlers with chubby cheeks who liked nothing better than to lie on their backs wearing a big smile and not much else while carefully examining their toes.
One day I turned my back to hang out some clothes and everyone grew up.
They moved out and in and out again. Other people joined -the firm' and the membership grew. Before I knew it there was, once again, a high chair in the kitchen and a travel cot in the study. The roller coaster ride goes on.
Question: How did you combine 30 years of this column in one book?
Pat McDermott: I spread 30 years of Australian Women's Weekly's all over my study floor. Then I asked my wee granddaughters to stop tramping over the top of them while sucking yoghurt from a tube. I moved the 30 years of magazines to the dining room table.
I spent months picking and choosing and then placing stories under chapter headings. It was difficult. I felt I had been asked to pick my favourite child – when I loved them all!
I chose ones from the past and ones from this year to ensure a good mix. I chose stories that covered all age groups – babies, school kids, teenagers and young adults, husbands and wives, weddings and funerals.
There are also stories about parenting and grandparenting, pets, Christmas, lingerie, Donatella Versace and what makes raising a family in Australia special. Whether you are a dedicated reader or new to -Family Matters' – there is something for everyone!
Question: Have you featured new stories in the book, Family Matters?
Pat McDermott: Yes – there are ones from very recent issues of the Australian Women's Weekly and some from quite a few years ago that younger readers and parents would never have seen.
Question: Why is it important that you write truthfully in Family Matters?
Pat McDermott: When you invite others to share your experiences being less than truthful is simply dishonest. I don't enjoy wildly exaggerated writing on family life. It simply feels -over-cooked' and unbelievable. The reader thinks….'Naaah - that never really happened.'
I look as honestly as I can at my own experiences and borrow from the dramas of family and friends to convey the realities of parenthood. My family doctor once said he liked the way I made -something out of nothing' every month. I told him it's the little -nothing' moments, the frustrations, the small tragedies, the sound of 4000 plastic building blocks hitting the floor, flooding washing machines, parent/teacher nights, cake stalls and graduation balls that makes family life so rich in experience, love and tolerance.
Let's face it…family is why most of us get out of bed in the morning.
If I ever write a great novel it will be about family. All the greatest novels are.
Question: What lessons do you hope families take from this book?
Pat McDermott: I don't give lessons. I share my life. And families around Australia and New Zealand share their lives we me. I receive letters from readers about family experiences and they reassure me that I'm on the right track. I keep the letters and always answer them.
'Your articles take the sting out of the hard and the mundane," one said. Another person wrote, 'It was like you knew what was going on in my house. You shine a light and remind me to look at the bigger picture – thanks."
I always reply – 'No. Thank you!" We're in this together.
Interview by Brooke Hunter