For some people, it is a struggle to raise one child.
Others prefer not to even think about raising more than two.
When it comes to Eugene Mayers, she fought the good fight and raised nine children – three boys and six girls – from womb to adulthood and she did it largely on her own.
“Every morning I wake up I does say, ‘Lord I thank you. The struggle was very hard but I get through’. All of them raised and mek men and women. So I think I do a very good job. All of them working. I proud of them,” she said.
Just a few days before the 2014 Mother’s Day celebrations, the 73-year-old woman, in a relaxed mode at her Bawdens, St Andrew home, reflected on what life was like mothering nine children, giving birth to the first at 20 and the last 14 years later.
“I did some of all kind of things to get my children raise. Them ain’t had no father to help with them. I had nine children going to school, [had] to get something for them to eat and then clothes to wear and different things. It was very hard, it was very, very hard. I come home on evenings sometimes and had to steal time to come home. Get home at four o’clock and make my children right. Get them something to eat. Get their clothes washed,” said the former agriculture worker.
Having no male figurehead in the household as her charges grew, Mayers recalled that she was both mummy and daddy to them. And while she was the calm and quiet mummy, who prepared modest meals and made sure her offspring were clothed and washed, she also played the role of a stern daddy who did her best to ensure that they followed the right path.
“Them use to hear but them ain’t going to hear now,” she indicated.
“When them was children and I tell them do something them have to do it. When I left home and I tell them well don’t leave here, stan home or don’t go no where from home, them got to do it.”
Slightly lifting her frock and pointing to her knees, she recalled: “One evening I remember coming home and when I get close I stan and see all of them above the house looking down.”
I say,‘wait, what happen out there now?’ And when I get home all of them sitting down and one fella cover up with a sheet.
“When I hold up the sheet, piece of here [his knee] chop out. The galvanise drop down and cut he. I had to pick he up and carry he to the doctor. At that time was Dr Smith and I pay Dr Smith. He had to get 19 stitches. Dr Smith tell me carry he home and don’t let he walk on it, just sit down on it.”
Every precious cent Mayers got into her hands was wisely spent as she provided for her children. She said they were contented with whatever she could have afforded to buy or was given to her by somebody in the neighborhood to cook for them to eat.
“At the time you make bake and you used to get limes to make lemonade on a mornings. When you come home on evenings you used to cook a lil something and give them and let them be contended. You could have gone about and get potatoes and stew potatoes in the skin and gave them and them would eat and them would be contended. But now you can’t give the young people stew potato because them ain’t going to eat it. Right now I can’t stew potato and give the grands. Them ain’t gine want it,” the grandmother of ten said.
She is very proud that through her sacrifice and determination, all of her children were privileged to attend school and receive a secondary education.
“Two went at St Leonard’s, two went to Ellerslie, two went to Community High in Barbarees Hill, St Michael. One child went to Combermere and the other one went to Alleyne. At that time, $5 was paying for books. Each book was $5 and would last them for a year. I used to prepare for it. When them get vacation I would prepare . . . until everybody get books. Actually, [they] all went to school in [Errol] Barrow time.”
Mayers explained that though she laboured to raise her children and always strived to have the best for them, she was often critized for having so many.
Sometimes when she walked the road with them: “You gine hear people say, ‘Wait where she going with all of them children?’”
But she never responded: “At the time I didn’t know better [but] to get all of them children. I didn’t expect to get them but I get them. You used to think about them things, yes, but I never give up. I couldn’t give up because I still got them to give something to. I couldn’t give up.”
Sitting upright, holding her walking stick firm and steady in front of her, she had some advice to share with young people – the same advice she gives her own children:
“Don’t get so many children. I does tell my children don’t get so many children because the times real hard now to raise children. What I raised one child with in my days, you can’t raise one with now. I got three girls,two of them got two and one got one. I tell them from early, don’t get so many children. Sometimes you can’t find nothing to cook for them because sometimes these young people don’t want no rice, you must have some kind of meat to give them.”
Now that her days of raising children are up, Mayers sometimes spends time with her centenarian mother whose lives closeby. Or, to keep herself busy at times, the elderly woman who suffers with arthritis, gets up on mornings, does what little house work she can, reads her Bible and simply relaxes for the balance of the day.