As loving and friendly atmosphere greets those at Tatura mother Sandra Dodd’s home where 12 children have grown up together with the constant support of their parents.
Bringing up a family can be challenging with so many children to feed, clothe and educate but Sandra wouldn’t change a thing.
“It’s a lot of fun, motherhood to me is just being there for the kids all the time, it’s never been a hassle,” Sandra said.
“All I ever wanted to be was a mother. Some people have aspirations to be a doctor, I just wanted to be a mother. “I was one of eight and Tony (Sandra’s husband) was one of nine but we didn’t think about it too much, it just worked out.
“I love babies, as anyone can tell.” The girls outnumber the boys seven to five and there is a 24-year age gap between the eldest of her children, Rachelle Moon, 35, and the youngest, 11-year-old Jorja Dodd.
Only four of Sandra’s children live at home now so the family dinner time is pretty quiet — but there are still many big family events to look forward to and now 24 adoring grandchildren coming around to visit.
“Any event we have is massive, we had 36 people or more to Easter lunch, that’s just a normal event. In the past few years everybody brings something to share the load and it makes it a bit easier for me,” she said.
Sandra said it surprised her but everyone looked forward to any family get-together.
“They all get on so well, everyone seems to get along, whether I did something right I’m not sure, I can’t take all the credit,” she said. “They are good kids they’re the ones that make it easy.”
Sandra said her relationships with her children had changed as they had grown older.
“When they come over now as adults, you sort of have to remind yourself they’re your children. It’s a different relationship, you are now like a best friend to them which is good but I miss when they were all young,” she said.
“I miss it being a full-time job.” When their four-bedroom house in Tatura was full of family members there were three rows of bunk beds in one room and two rows in two other rooms, and being a savvy shopper was important to enable the family to get by.
In one day the family would go through nine litres of milk and six loaves of bread and the art of making a good birthday cake was perfected by Sandra.
The clothesline was always full with four daily loads of washing required to keep everyone’s clothes clean.
“Hot water off the combustion stove was used for everything and chopping wood was a daily task,” Sandra said.
“You just make different choices to make it all work.” Getting around required a 14-seater minibus that Tony had to get a truck licence in order to drive.
The children were also home- schooled. Sandra is the go-to for advice for her children for anything to do with being a mum. “We appreciate Mum has been through so much with us, that parenting advice-wise she is on the ball,” daughter Rebecca Dodd said.
Daughter Kaitlyn Dodd said Loving life as a mum she loved the big family. “It’s helped me in my life, even in working life, because you learn how to deal with many different personalities, it’s comforting that when you’re fighting with one there’s another to chat to.
“There was a birthday party every weekend almost between us and our cousins,” Kaitlyn said.
Sandra said she loved her role as grandmother now. “I enjoy having the cuddles and I would be happy to keep them,” she said, laughing.
“I’m supportive of the mothers if they need a rest, although I think they take after me and are pretty tough.”
Sandra enjoys looking after children so much she now provides after-school care four nights a week and is also a well known helper in the Shepparton Gators basketball community.
Sandra said the family had kept plans for this Mother’s Day secret but she knew one thing, and she was adamant on this — she won’t be cooking.
What makes your mum so great? Let us know in the comments below.