Time has always been the most precious thing Pippa Wetzell and her mum Carol can give each other. Both have super-busy lives. Pippa is mum to three young children and co-host of TVNZ 1’s Fair Go, while Carol is a top real estate agent on Auckland’s North Shore, as well as being a grandmother of nine.
So, carving out moments to spend together has always been special and important.
“My whole family is incredibly close,” explains Pippa (40). “We’ve developed some lovely traditions. One thing I do with my mum and sisters is an annual girl’s trip to Australia. Those weekends are so much fun; we always end up in a crazy fit of giggles and sort of revert back to how we were together as children.”
Part of the reason they are such a tight unit is that for much of their childhood, Carol (69) was a single mother to Pippa and her sisters Anya and Kylie. Having separated from their father Clem when the girls were still young, she combined raising them with a job running a singles club.
“Mum was amazing,” says Pippa, who is a mother to Brodie (10), Cameron (8) and Taj (6).
“I’m only just now getting to the point where I appreciate the kind of mother she was. She really struck that balance between being our mum and being our friend. I guess you put the hard yards in when your kids are younger and then reap the benefits later because now we’re such great friends.”
Carol remembers those early years as very happy ones.
“We all got on well,” she says. “I was a little bit strict but the girls were pretty well-behaved.”
Pippa, the middle child, was a quiet one. “I always thought of her as an old soul, she was wise and never seemed to feel as if she had to go along with the crowd,” recalls Carol.
“When everyone else was getting their ears pierced for instance, she didn’t need to. She always had lots of friends but was also happy to have time by herself. And she was studious, she’d read her school book as we went round the supermarket after school.”
As an adult, Carol thinks her daughter has that same quiet strength.
“She’s very calm; nothing rattles her. You never go to her house and find her screaming and shouting at the kids. She’s a very unruffled person.”
Pippa’s enduring memory is of having a mother who was always there for her family.
“She was the one who helped out with school trips and things like that. I remember clearly it meaning a lot to me as a kid so I’ve tried to become a mother like that, to be present, to help coach sports teams and be in my children’s lives.”
She also recalls her mum having a lot of faith in her daughters.
“There were never any curfews,” says Pippa.
“She always used to say that she would trust us until we gave her a reason not to. We might be out late but Mum would never wait up for us. I remember once asking why and her telling me: ‘I always figure if anything does go wrong I’m better to be well rested’. She has a fairly pragmatic approach to things!”
Pippa reckons they have many characteristics in common.
“Mum is very outgoing and I think I am too. She’s fairly relaxed and doesn’t dwell on things too much. Those are traits I’d like to think I have. My sisters are the same; we’re all very similar.”
Carol has also been a great role model to her daughters. Life hasn’t always been easy and she has risen to some pretty big challenges. Sixteen years ago she embarked on a new career as a real estate agent after the sudden death of her then partner.
“Mum reinvented herself,” tells Pippa. “She was in her fifties and it was such a gutsy thing to do. She works really hard at it; long hours, evenings and weekends. But she’s a very committed person and when she puts her mind to something she does it well.”
The importance of having a strong work ethic is just one of the values she has learned from Carol.
“Mum is also very compassionate and generous. She has a really good heart and always helps other people. Hopefully, I’ve picked up some of those traits from her.”
Pippa’s sisters both have three children of similar ages so their get-togethers are noisy and fun. For Easter school holidays, they all headed to the Coromandel for a short family break. Plans for a Mother’s Day catch-up involve some rather more laid-back girl time.
“Usually the day starts with a cup of tea and breakfast in bed,” says Pippa, whose children like to bring her home-made cards and gifts.
“And then a relatively new tradition I’ve started is that I take Mum somewhere on Mother’s Day afternoon. We’ll have a massage, then go for dinner, so it’s a bit of a treat for both of us. We’ll continue the tradition this year, with one of my sisters who is now living in Auckland.”
Then there are those annual girls’ weekends in Sydney or Melbourne when they all enjoy shopping and relaxing together.
“One of the highlights is waking up in the mornings and piling into bed together to have cups of tea and chat,” says Pippa. “Everyone is so busy so it’s nice to have a chance to take a breath and just catch up. I’m very lucky to have a family like mine. I feel completely myself around them and it’s really relaxing.”
Carol always hoped that her daughters would grow up to have a strong bond and loves to see them together, swapping clothes and exchanging parenting advice. She’s very much a part of their lives, often catching up for a quick coffee or family meal.
“This is a wonderful time of my life. And the girls are a huge part of it,” she says.
Neither she nor Pippa claim to be experts when it comes to creating a close mother/child bond but both are pretty sure of the importance of plenty time spent together.
“I think it comes down to communication and making sure you enjoy each other’s company,” says Pippa. “I’ve got one daughter whose interests are not what I expected. Brodie is a ballerina. That’s never been my thing at all but I’m embracing it and finding ways to be involved. I think if you can spend time hanging out with your kids that’s hugely valuable. My kids and I have a laugh. We tease each other and I embarrass them.”
Carol sees life as so much busier nowadays than it was when her children were small when there were no smartphones or internet demanding your attention. Finding time to be together can be harder, but it’s always worth it.
“It’s all about sharing the moment,” she says.