Real Life

How I Live: I’m a single mum of seven sons’

Jenny Beck lays down the law in her boy zone!
Jenny Beck and her seven sons

“I’m a 56-year-old lawyer from Dunedin who gave birth to eight boys. That’s right – I had eight sons! They are Graham, (33), Jonathan (32), Michael (28), Daniel (23), Adam (20), Isaac (18) and Zak (14). Joshua, who would have been 16 now, died when he was four months old.

The lives of my children and I were changed forever when Joshua died and my marriage ended before my youngest son, Zak, was born. I was left to raise my seven remaining sons by myself and work as a lawyer to make ends meet.

My ex-husband, who is also a lawyer, and I moved to New Zealand from South Africa when I was in my late twenties. He got a job as a law lecturer at Otago University. At the time, we had three sons.

I studied for my law degree after moving to New Zealand. It was a complete revelation for me, just the right job for my personality, involving lots of client and people contact.

I am helping people often at the most difficult time of their lives. I can make a difference and bring them cheer and optimism, and I really like that.

Jenny runs her own law practice, which focuses on family law.

Today, I run my own law practice, which focuses on family law. Raising all boys certainly makes life very interesting. People say boys are easier to raise than girls, especially en masse. My sons, who were born over 19 years, are all very loving and respectful towards me.

When my husband and I separated, the older ones helped parent and shape the behaviour of the younger ones. I’m really grateful for all the love and care from the older boys because the separation was very hard for all of us. But we were resilient and had to carry on. I had to continue working; they had to keep following a strict routine. All of that was comforting for me, and we established this wonderful closeness.

I found being a solo parent very scary, especially when my ex-husband moved to the North Island. I had to make day-to-day decisions by myself, so the older ones ended up cooking meals and passing the mantle from boy to boy over the years.

They would babysit for me when I was forced to work, juggling roles.

There’s a part of me that carries a huge burden of guilt, but I had to provide for my sons. And although I wasn’t confident as a single mother to seven boys, having to follow a routine and go to work every day helped me get over the hump.

Having a sense of humour is a wonderful thing. That, and my faith, helped me through the tough times. Raising my boys and being a lawyer is what I was put on this earth to do. I had a strong calling towards both roles.

When all of my sons were living at home, they took up every inch of space there was. One day, they were all in the living room with their long legs extending out of the couches into the middle of the living room, and I had to tell them to put their feet away to make some space for me!

Jenny says a sense of humour and her faith got her through some tough times.

Today, only two boys live at home. Two are overseas and three are flatting. My second son is a lawyer based in London. It’s great to have another lawyer in the family.

I’d love to have more, but your children need to do their own thing, without any pressure.

I would have loved to have a daughter, but I have two very wonderful daughters-in-law, and two of my other sons have girlfriends. The family is increasing with these delightful girls, with whom I can talk to about clothes and other girly stuff.

Despite not having a girl, I wouldn’t exchange my sons, or my life, for anything.”

As told to Aroha Awarau

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