Culture Street

Pat McDermott is a long-running journalist and one of Australia's most adored contributors for The Australian Women's Weekly. Her weekly column, Family Matters has been running for 30 years. Her hilarious observations on her own family (five kids!) and their dramas, from toilet-training to weddings and beyond (grandchildren!), her long-suffering husband (MOTH, the Man of the House), an endless succession of beloved and badly behaved pets and just about every situation a couple or family can find themselves in, have kept readers amused and entertained every month since 1984.

How do you keep a column fresh over a 30 year period?
Five children x seven days a week x 52 weeks a year x 30 years = endless opportunities for fun, tears, dramas and dilemmas. The trick is to be observant and keep a sense of humour in your handbag.

What was your very first column about? Did it set the tone for Family Matters?
Christmas! And how any parent assembling a bicycle on Christmas Eve only to find two screws left over knows all about peace on earth, good will to men. Yes - that column set the tone for 360 to follow.

How did your children feel about seeing their lives unfold on the page?
Pretty much okay although Ruff Red sometimes wishes people knew his real name (which is Rowen). They were shy when people recognised them and they did let me know if something was 'off limits' but I knew that anyway.

What is the best piece of parenting advice you were given?
Love them most when they least deserve it!

Do you give advice to your children on raising your grandchildren?
Not really - I sometimes tell them what worked for me if they ask. But they are different people and their children are too - they are finding their own pathways.

How will the McDermott family be celebrating Christmas?
Ten stockings are already packed and hanging from the mantelpiece but this year is unusual. Four kids, three children-in-law and two grandchildren are running the show in Sydney while the MOTH (Man of the House) and I spend Christmas in New York with Ruff Red (Rowen) and his partner and her family. For once I am not in charge!

Family Matters is a collection of McDermott's columns and is available now. Published by Allen & Unwin, $29.99.

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