• Helen Ferguson

Nicola - Travel and Family

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

I’ve been looking forward to introducing Nicola to you all.

Her photo and the first impression that it gives you, is exactly what you get when you meet her face to face.

She looks you in the eye, she smiles, she welcomes you with a cheery comment, and then you’re off…....no shyness, no hierarchy, no game playing; just conversation, questions and anecdotes.

You are going to get along fine.

I first met Nicola when we were both volunteering at our kids school.

We worked well together, and we had some giggles whilst doing the dirty work that Mums get used to being allocated when they answer the call for help.

Over the period of 3 or 4 years we found ourselves rostered on together for most of our sessions, and month by month we built a friendship.

We became invested in each other's kids, offered practical help when we were expected to be in two places at once, and provided gentle support when life threw a brick through our metaphorical widows.

When I asked her if I could interview her for ‘Her Middle Age’, her immediate response was

“You know I’m not that interesting!” followed seconds later with

“sure, I’m happy to help in any way”.

There you have it.

Nicola in a nutshell.

So we agreed a time to sit down with a coffee, and I started from scratch with my shiny new list of questions:

Where were you born and raised?

New Zealand, born in Auckland on the North island, it’s one of the biggest cities in the country. We moved around quite a bit because of Dad’s work though.

Auckland, New Zealand

What was your family structure, growing up?

Up to the age of 12, we were very normal: Mum, Dad and 3 girls.

If that’s normal?

We are from an English heritage with very traditional family attitudes. From a religious point of view we were Anglican, I guess.

After I turned 12, I am the eldest child, it all changed; we became just Mum and 3 girls.

My parents divorced. I didn’t really see it coming to be honest.

It was all done very quickly.

We were told that they were splitting up and almost immediately, within a couple of weeks, Mum moved my sisters and I out of our family home and back to her hometown of Motueka on the South Island, to live for a short spell with Nana.

We became estranged from our Dad, and for many years to come we only saw him sporadically, maybe just once a year.

Even though we were used to moving around, this was a big change.

We went from having our own home, to being in my Nana's house.

Mum sold the family Station Wagon so that she could buy us a family home. We didn't have a car for a few years after that, so that made us really dependent on Nana in so many ways.

My Grandmother became a huge influence in our lives. She was always there, physically and as a support person for us.

My Mum was a Nurse and she worked permanent night shifts in Geriatrics, so that she was available for my sisters and I during the day if we needed her.

In reality she slept all day and worked all night, and we understood how important it was to let her sleep, but if we needed her, if we were sick, or school called, she was able to be there for us.

She was always tired. For 30 years.

It was only later as I matured, that I realised how much she sacrificed for us.

Were there any other female role models for you, growing up?


We had 3 single Aunties,who all lived in Motueka, and they were very present, every day.

They were strong women, with opinions and ideas of their own.

Sometimes they were strict, but we knew that we could always go to them for absolutely anything.

As we grew up they became more like adult friends.

We remained in touch with Dad’s family too; sometimes more than with Dad, and we had a number of supportive Aunties on that side of the family too.

They were interesting in their own right as well.

One was a teacher, and an artist. Even now, if they come to Australia, we still catch up and spend time together.

I really had a wealth of strong Middle Aged Women around me as I was growing!

What was the attitude towards, or expectations of women in their middle age within your community?

Well it was a small community, around 5,000 people, and everybody worked.

All of my Aunties worked, and they chose their own paths too.

They were Nurses, Dog Breeders, Business Owners; two had been in the Air Force.

They changed jobs too if they felt the need, or if an opportunity came along.

I don’t remember any expectations of them.

If you want to look at strong women, look at my Mum and her sisters.

Then my Mum raised 3 more!

My sisters and I are all very strong; and in my sisters' cases, they are both highly focused Career women.

Their husbands are supportive of their choices and share the load with them when it comes to raising their families and running the home, and they have to be, it wouldn’t work otherwise.

What about you?

I always worked hard, at school and in my career before children, but then I flipped everything.

I knew that I wanted to be at home and available to my children when they were young. I was in a position where I could make the choice to be an At Home Mum. That was always my goal, and it was a decision that we made together before the children came along.

I do 95% of the care-giving and day to day business of the family and the home.

The other 5% has to be him! He brings the Maths, English and the Sciences. Thankfully!

Other than your Mum and your Nana, who have been the ‘Leader Women’

In your life?

When I was about 25, I worked as a Nanny for a family in Double Bay, NSW.

Even though the Mum in the family was only perhaps 10 years older than me, she was amazing.

She did it all; she worked in an important role, she was raising 4 lovely children, they had a gorgeous home. She was so strong and could cope with anything. I really learned a lot from her.

In my younger years though, the Leader Women would definitely be my Aunties.

When we were kids they were all single and working. They had relationships sometimes, but were unmarried. One of them married in their later years.

What about Celebrities or Sports Women, any role models there?

No, not at all. I’m not that type of person.

I don’t read magazines, I was never really that interested in TV or Radio, so those women didn’t hit my radar.

Sport was always a pass-time that I loved, still do, I’m still actively involved in sports as a player and a volunteer organiser. Sport simply wasn’t an ambition or obtainable as a career for me.

Did your Mum encourage your sport?


Mum never came to any of our sports games when we were growing up, but she paid for it all!

She came to one of my Hockey matches here in Australia, not too long before we lost her.

It was cold, and running behind time, and that was it, she wasn’t planning on coming to any more!

She loved coming to watch the Grand-kids in their shows or their games though.

What was the conversation around ‘being a woman’, since your family was predominantly women ?

Well I remember when I ‘became a woman’ and got my first period, Mum gathered my Aunties and I onto the porch for a cup of tea!!!! It was a big deal, for my Mum most of all, it was a rite of passage.

I don’t recall the same fuss being made for my sisters though!

I don’t feel that there were any limitations placed on us because of our gender.

No ‘girls can’t do that’.

If we had the grades and the talent, there wasn’t a barrier, but there wasn’t a predetermined path for us either.

Our future was ours, whatever we wanted to do was our decision to make.

Mum just wanted us to be happy in our work and happy with the partners that we chose.

So what was your path?

I went to Polytechnic College (Tafe), to study for my Diploma in Family Care and Home Management, as it was called then. I did that in conjunction with a Diploma in Nannying too.

I knew as early as 14 that I wanted to work with children, and this Diploma was the way forward.

I was always driven when it came to my education and my future, I knew I wanted to achieve certain benchmarks. I won an award at High School, most exciting, it was the Bursary awarded for ‘Most Likely to Succeed at Chosen Career’.

In all I spent 12 years as a Nanny, and traveling around the world for that work.

Those years were divided between just 4 families.

What were the Highlights and Disappointments of your work?

The highlights, I’ve got 4 of them: the families that I worked for.

I am in touch with them all to this day.

Some of ‘my babies’ now have babies of their own.

I consider them my family.

I loved the opportunity to travel too.

I worked as a Nanny in New Zealand, London, back to New Zealand to Nanny for the sister of my original N.Z. family, and then my final Nanny role was in Australia.

The disappointment was that I would have liked to have stayed in England longer than I did, but if I hadn’t left, I wouldn’t have met my husband. He’s also a Kiwi.

If I hadn’t met him, my life would have taken a very different path.

Everything happens for a reason.

When I was working in Australia, it was important to me that the family I worked for knew my husband, and trusted him, and were comfortable with us as a package.

How did you view Middle Age from your youth?

Well I thought all Middle Aged Women were single!

Because all the middle aged women in my life were….except for my Nana!

I just thought that you either got divorced or widowed, but by Middle Age, that was it - Single!

And more to the point I just assumed that I could do it, I had no qualms about it because I’d been shown my whole life that women can have a good life, on their own, and it’s ok.

I always knew that I wanted children though, that was never in doubt.

And how does that differ from your reality?

Well I’m not single and I am VERY family focused!

And I'm not planning on being single either, I must add!

What age were you when you realised that you were Middle Aged?


Not 40, definitely didn’t feel it at 40, at 40 you are still winning, but something changes between 44 - 45 and it’s a big difference.

I cried when I turned 45, because I thought there were limitations; not that I would put on myself, but in how others might think of me….such as still playing sport. I still wanted to do all of my activities but wondered if people would judge me.

photo by marty southwell on unsplash

My kids want me to play sport with them, so I still play.

My youngest isn’t allowed in the same competition as me for another 3 years, so she keeps telling me that I’ve got to hang on in there.

I’m still playing Hockey, but I might be in goal by the time she turns up!

I want to show them that you can still do all of the things that you love.

Are you living the life that you imagined when you were 20?

No, not at all.

I think you have a fantasy life when you’re 20 because you haven’t really lived.

You don’t know what life is at 20.

You don’t know where you might travel, you probably haven’t met your significant partner.

All of those things shape you and change you.

Each time you change job or move towns, it’s all going to change your view of the world in some way.

When I think about moving away from the very stylish, wealthy suburbs around Double Bay, and coming to live in the small, quieter town that I’m in now, that had a deep impact on me.

I think if I hadn’t made that change, I would possibly have ended up back in New Zealand, looking for the quieter places.

I’m living in a more truthful way, for myself now.

I had got caught up in trying to keep up with people, trying to be thin, keeping extra fit, and that just isn’t me.

We moved here when I turned 40, it was a pivotal point.

I got here and just felt as though I had found ‘my people’, now I’m really being me.

We bought our house, I stopped worrying about that shit, and I allowed myself to eat cheese and drink some wine for God's sake!

There has to be a point in your life when you say enough is enough.

That’s a head-space that I don’t want to go back to.

Since becoming Middle Aged, what do you count as a win, and what is a loss?

I lost my Mum 4 years ago. That’s my loss.

I wasn’t quite middle aged, but it did make me the matriarch of the family!

It was really tough.

Not long before Mum passed, we also lost our cousin, very unexpectedly.

We had always been close and it came out of the blue.

It did make us all pull together and get closer.

It made me value my friendships, especially with friends who also don’t have a lot of family close by.

It’s made me face my own mortality.

My wins are when my girls achieve things.

When they’ve set themselves up for success.

That’s a definite highlight.

But what about you? A win for you?

Oh, I have no idea!

Getting my Australian Citizenship, buying our home and putting down roots.....

Ok, also I’ve coached sport this year for the first time ever.

I reckon a win is just being able to live your life the way that you want it, setting your own rules.

Everybody should aim to be truthful with themselves.

OK, so you’re 47, what are you looking forward to?


50 has got to be better than 40.

I’m looking forward to going through menopause and getting rid of all this nonsense.

What are you glad is in the past?

I don’t think I’m glad anything is finished, everything continues, maybe just along different paths.

I did get sad when my eldest daughter finished Year 11, that meant she only had 1 more year of High School.

What else are you looking forward to, bigger picture?

I generally like to let life just unfold, plans never work out exactly how you wanted.

I would like to do more travel….if we’re ever allowed to open back up.

I just want to try to live the best life possible.

I’m looking forward to seeing what type of adults my kids grow up to be, see what lessons they’ve learned. I want to see which parts of what my Mum gave to me, show up in my kids.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my relationship with my husband develops once the kids are grown and out doing their own thing.

It will be like a new beginning for us in our marriage.

That’s coming in the next 10 years, that’s the 50’s.

What advice would you give to 20 year old Nicola?

Study harder!

Possibly drink less (collapses into a fit of giggles)

Travel more

Save more!....every penny I earned I spent on the next trip, and the next trip.

If I knew then what I know now, I may have taken a different career path.

I think I would have gone and trained as a Teacher, because, even though I loved Nannying, it’s a very limiting career.

You can’t really do it when you have your own children, so your career is either over or indefinitely on hold.

I don’t think you’re ever too old to study or retrain, but life does get in the way, and you feel as though your own life is always waiting.

You’re looking for the nugget that is just yours, what are you going to do?

Next thing you know you’re 45, what have you been doing?

That was a big thing for me between 40 - 45.

Maybe 50 is going to be huge for me!

I hope it’s going to be huge for me!

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