In many ways, my life feels like it belongs to a bygone era. I grew up long ago, and my experiences seem distant from the present, as if they’re from another century, which in fact they were.
Over the past 50 years, I’ve witnessed a generational shift.
My mother, once a city dweller with a thriving nursing career, chose to embrace a more conventional life. She married at 27, considered late for her time, and had my brother at 28, followed by me at 30. She left her city life, career, and independence for a small farm in a tight-knit community. Despite her potential for a high-flying career, possibly as a CEO, she fully committed to her new rural life, actively participating in church, school, and community groups.
However, the transition to motherhood was challenging. My mother suffered from severe postnatal depression, treated minimally with Valium. As a disciplined nurse, she cautiously documented each medication she took but still she struggled through our early years. Sadly, she saw her role as a farmer’s wife as temporary, until we were grown.
Our life then was starkly different from today. Laundry day involved a manual process with a semi-automatic washing machine and line drying. We had hot water heated by fire, and showers were strictly in the evening when the water had heated.
My mother, a city girl at heart, never hesitated in her farm duties. She worked tirelessly alongside my father, managing a myriad of chores, from animal care to household tasks, while also engaging in community service.
As a child, I gravitated towards indoor tasks, becoming a second homemaker. I baked, made desserts, and learned household cleaning skills. I also indulged in reading and horse riding but I refused to be sidelined for being a girl.
When I married, I made it clear that I would not adhere to traditional expectations. No permission was sought from my father, I wasn’t “given away,” and I kept my surname. My husband took on the primary caregiving role for our children, allowing me to focus on building a successful business. This role reversal meant navigating the pressures of being the sole breadwinner without maternity leave. Yet, my husband’s presence ensured the family never missed out.
Living a life traditionally experienced by men, I enjoyed a certain freedom and independence, but societal expectations of being the nurturer and manager of family life persisted, adding to the exhaustion of a full work week.
I cherish my life and feel fortunate for my achievements. My journey across two centuries and distinct lifestyles has empowered me to choose my path actively. Reflecting on my parents’ separation and the ingrained expectations of my upbringing, I realize how significantly I’ve deviated from it, becoming fierce, strong, and driven, never allowing my gender to limit my possibilities.
I only wish my mother could have experienced this era of broader opportunities – the world would be a better place if all these women were able to reach their full potential.
I look at my two children, both boys born this century, and wonder what their lives will be like in 50 years time. My guess is that we are in for an even more rapid generational shift and I hope that it benefits everyone.
About Catherine Leach:
Catherine is a lawyer and has worked in Family Law for over 30 years, founding Leach Legal in 2004 and growing it to be the largest Family law firm in Western Australia. Catherine has been a member of the international Entrepreneur’s Organisation since 2013 and is a past president and board member. In 2021, having informally coached clients, employees and friends for many years, she formally started The Legal Life Coach business, which amalgamates her skills as a strategist, business owner, entrepreneur and advisor.
You can view Catherine and her amazing team at Leach Legal