Driving forward: An ode to my (super) mum

How my Mum turned a regular favour for friends and family, into a thriving business. IQRA SAEED writes

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Eleven years ago, my Mum started her own driving school business.

She would drop my siblings and I off to school at 8:30am, a 40-minute drive that was often littered with tantrums and sibling rivalry, come back home, do the housework, and leave again at 2:10pm for a swift pick-up.

When we came home, there would be hot dinner on the table, two different dishes in case one of us (normally the youngest), turned our nose up at it and refused to eat. Magically by the next day, our uniforms would be cleaned, dried, and ironed, and she did it all over again the next day – for years until we were old enough to catch the train independently.

Though she never sat down to have dinner with us because she had to go and do her new, second job – the first of course, being a mother. Until 2006, the Australian census overlooked this job that a lot of our mothers inherently have: unpaid domestic work.

The 2016 data showed that 60 per cent of men did ‘nil or less than five hours’ of unpaid domestic work per week, compared to 36 per cent of employed women.

Now multiply the responsibilities of running your own business and raising six children, and in my eyes, you have yourselves a hero.

It’s easy to forget just how much our mothers sacrifice for us, when they seem to have perfected their schedules to suit their children. My Mum, Kamal Kanti, was only 23 when she left her family, her own mother, in Fiji to pursue what many migrants are familiar with: ‘A better life’.

Working as a nurse’s aide at the St John Ambulance Association in Fiji did not translate as enough qualification for the Australian workforce, so for her livelihood, she landed a job at her local Sizzlers.

Years later, now with a family of six, her new business venture started out as a favour to friends. She noticed that a lot of her friends, who were also mothers, did not have their driving licence. For them, short errands and trips were either turned into long journeys, or just not an option for them where they waited for their husbands to come home.

Driving was a form of agency that my Mum believed every woman should have at no cost. She would sit with many of her friends, all of my Aunties taking turns behind the wheel of my family car for a few hours a week, until they would come back months later with gratitude, a wide grin, and mounds of mithai, with their Red P plates.

For some of them, they would already have their P1 Provisional licence, but just not the confidence to drive on busy roads, so she would tag along in their cars and support them whilst they ran errands. Again, she did not see this as work, and did not accept any fees because her friends getting their license was payment enough.

After some nagging from her friends, and the realisation that this was her niche, my Mum worked up the confidence to return to school, having left in Year 10, and successfully completed a TAFE course to become a professional driving instructor in her 40s.

What started off as a small favour for friends turned into a flourishing business, where she just keeps driving forward.

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