I was born in a council house and there were quite a few young families on our estate and in our road. Next door there were 6 children, three older and three younger than me, three doors up there were two boys whose Mum used to cut everyone’s hair in her kitchen, and round the corner another four, all boys and little terrors as they were always getting into trouble.
I remember ‘aunties’ popping in for coffee or tea, or Mum going round once a week.
I suppose in a way it was the same as young Mums meeting up at various coffee houses on the High Street today, though I know my Mum and her friends wouldn’t have been able to afford that on a regular basis.
Mum had to go into hospital when I was about two and during the day, I was left with an ‘aunty’ who lived across the road. I guess my sister being five years older was at school.
Aunty smacked me because I didn’t get to the bathroom on time, though she was actually cleaning the outside toilet and I couldn’t climb the stairs to use the one indoors. It was the first thing I told my Mum when she came out of hospital so words were said, and luckily their friendship didn’t suffer.
Several times Mum would return the favour for others, though one in particular took full advantage, dropping her child off an hour or so before lunch and not collecting her until after 6.30pm, knowing Mum would have fed her two meals when our family ate. Whether this was because money was short in that household or the Mum liked to be free to enjoy herself was never clear, but my Dad put his foot down as it happened too often and we didn’t have a lot to spare either. That friendship died and the family later moved away, especially when the mum could find no-one to mind her child for her Me time.
Times have changed though haven’t they. Childminders are expensive, though I understand there is financial help available from the government, but these days, everyone seems to have to be vetted when it comes to childcare and red tape prevents Mums doing each other little favours so that others can work part time or attend appointments etc as they did when I was a child. People now seem to keep themselves to themselves, and community spirit in a lot of places is a thing of the past.
Our neighbour was a godsend looking after Maggie when Hubby had his assessment. It was such a hot day, we could not have left her in the car for the duration, neither could we have left her at home on her own for several hours as she’s not used to it and howls.
When we were on the boat, the community spirit was like nothing I had ever experienced. It restored my faith in people after so called ‘friends ‘ we’d made when in the cottage didn’t have a good word to say for us after we’d been unable to be a convenience to them due to other commitments. The word No cost us a lot, especially in self esteem, but in hindsight, the problem didn’t lie with us but the fairweather people we had mistaken for friends.
We had several offers from people regarding Maggie, especially with our heart scares, my nose bleeds and later Humphrey, though I realise getting someone to look after a dog for a few hours is different to looking after a child.
But what happens to us in older age? Times when we need help in an emergency. Our neighbour has no family locally, and it was pure luck that she picked up the small card we had given her with our phone numbers on it. When her husband was rushed into hospital over the Whitsun Bank Holiday, she rang us and we dropped everything to go to her aid.
Since he passed away, we have continued to offer support and be on hand should she want company. She doesn’t drive, so I take her shopping should she need anything bulky (or I get it for her) and if we’re going on a field trip which doesn’t involve vets, doctors or dentists, we invite her to join us.
It’s just the way we are, but there is similar support around us which I think in today’s age, is wonderful.