I am honoured to be here, but it surprises me that you think my story is worth sharing. All I did was go on a ride and I didn't quit. I have been asked to share my story in the context of your study on the challenges facing senior women in Canada.
To offer an honest reflection of my life now, it is important for me to reflect on the journey that has brought me to where I am today. We don't become seniors overnight; there is an entire life course that needs to be considered.
My father died when I was eight, and I never thought twice about doing jobs that some people would label as a man's work. If I saw something that needed to be done on the farm, I did it. If the cows needed to be brought in from the field, I brought them in, even though I was afraid. Fear and inability were not obstacles that would hold me back.
When I was 17, I got married. It was a challenging time. Our faith in God and searching to understand our purpose in life has helped us through the difficulties. In the beginning, I thought that when I got married I was going to have a Cinderella story and that my knight in shining armour would come along on a white horse and swoop me off my feet. But I soon realized that where fairy tales end, real life begins.
As a young newlywed I never could have imagined the journey I was heading on; in my mind, I would be a stay-at-home mom and eventually find a conventional job. As my children grew older, I found there were unique opportunities as a stay-at-home mom. I had found my place.
Being at home was meaningful to me, and I knew there was value in what I was doing and whom I was reaching. I loved raising my babies, and by the time I was 24 we had four children. I was there to participate in the growth of the children through the stages from baby to childhood to adulthood.
Kids don't always see the sacrifices a parent makes, and some of those years were harder than others. Often a mom is left cleaning up the messes and preparing the meals while the rest of the family is out exploring the world around them. At times I wasn't even aware of the sacrifices I made. When I did recognize them, I felt that it was a hard and thankless job.
I was happy to be a stay-at-home mom. It allowed me to send my kids off to school each day and to be there for them when they arrived home. I was not only present in my kids' lives, but also in the lives of their friends. Often, over a fresh plate of cookies, I would find teenagers opening up about their lives. One girl came to me in her twenties to thank me for being a listening ear. She told me that I was a lifesaver for her at a time when she felt there was no one else she could talk to. Our door was always open. Some stayed the day, and others stayed the night. Our house was a home away from home for many. There are countless stories I could tell about the people who came into my home. I hold each person and their story near to my heart.
When my children were teenagers, I thought I would like to try working outside the home. I worked some part-time jobs, but I found they interfered with our family's priorities and weren't as satisfying as I thought they would be—but I had some extra spending money. At home I found myself busy sewing, cooking, baking, cleaning, canning, doing yard work and gardening. No task was too big for me, and when my husband and I decided to build some houses, I was actively involved in the process. I worked like the man and loved it. The physical activity was rewarding for me.
In 1991 we purchased a broiler farm. We raised up to 30,000 chickens at a time. This meant that I was a full-time farmer making sure equipment was functioning properly, and I became the chief problem-solver. I took care of the chickens and did much of our yard work. Much of the work was mine, since my husband was employed full-time in the city. We stayed on the farm for 10 years.
For 20 years my mother struggled with severe health issues, and I was very involved in her care at her home, in our home and ultimately in palliative care. A few years later, we were providing the same care for my in-laws, and in more recent years we helped provide care and support to our son along with our daughter-in-law. It was important to me that the people I loved were able to die with dignity.
I wanted to be there for my children as they raised their children. I was not one to parent my grandchildren, but I wanted to support them and help them feel loved. We have always been there for our grandchildren, offering them love and support through the good and the bad. Even now we support our grandchildren as they raise their children.
Throughout my husband's career I have had many opportunities to volunteer in our community. We have hosted and supported a variety of events. Even after my husband retired from his position, we have continued to be involved. Throughout my life I have accomplished many things, but it was nothing that I did alone. My husband of 57 years has always supported me. He recognized my contribution to our family and encouraged me. We have worked side by side to achieve great things together. Through the many thankless, messy, hard times, we worked tirelessly to overcome many obstacles.
Something we wanted to instill in our children is that determination to work through obstacles is important: don't just give up. We wanted to teach our kids to be independent thinkers, to be people who sought truth and who in finding truth had a solid moral foundation and value system. For my part, I had four children, and it was my responsibility more than anyone else's to raise them. That was my choice.
For women who make this same choice, respecting their choice is important. Family income-splitting is important. Letting women keep more of their money by decreasing taxes is important, and financial support for seniors who haven't paid into CPP is important.
Looking back on my life, I can see the great impact I have had in the lives of family, friends and community. I was once asked whether, if I had the chance to do it all over again, I would. Yes, I would.