As the world celebrates International Women’s Day, Jack Viney sat down to reflect on the women in his life, and how they have shaped the person he is today.
Growing up, we were a family of mostly boys. There was my dad, Todd, my brother, Max, and me, who outnumbered my mum, Meg. This carried through to my extended family, whereby I had many more male cousins than females. I did, however, have strong role models in my grandmas, on both sides. The biggest female influence would have to have been my mother, though. All my memories from early days are of my mum.
When my dad retired from playing footy, we all moved up to Echuca. He soon got a job back in Melbourne, so the two-and-a-half-hour trip became the regular for mum, driving us kids down to visit dad and to our sport on the weekend. She was working as a receptionist for some real estate companies in Echuca and still managed to help us with whatever we needed. I was always thankful for this, but I suppose I didn’t really get the full understanding of how much she sacrificed for me until I got older. Even since having a child myself, I have continued to gain more and more appreciation for what my parents, and particularly mum, did for me growing up.
I think back to my younger years, where there would be trouble in the schoolyard or issues at footy training. Mum was the one who, when we sat down at the dinner table, would give me feedback and advice. She helped me work my way through things, shaped my mindset and supported me, no matter what. There was never a time when I felt she wasn’t in my corner. Sure, she may have been disappointed if I got up to some mischief – and trust me, there were a few times – but it was always coming from a place of love and care and knowing that I could be better.
Mum’s always been strong too – I really admire that in her. She’s never let things get to her. As a child, that always gave me the confidence to go out and explore and take risks. If for whatever reason, things didn’t work out, I knew Mum would always be there. She just has unconditional support and love for her family.
I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by this even more now, with my wife Charlotte. We first met at school, and she has been my best friend ever since. We have grown so much together over the years, and the thought of our future together excites me more than she would probably know. She makes me smile – she’s funny, but I don’t always tell her that – and reminds me every day of how lucky I am. Charlotte has always had a caring and selfless nature and she’s very committed, to whatever she sets her mind to. She’s also always known what’s made her happy, which I’ve always respected. I certainly don’t think I would be able to do what I do or be the person that I am today, without Charlotte.
Our start to being parents was pretty rough. We had to go into the hub, back in 2020, when Mila was just nine days old. It was obviously all new to us, being our first child, and we were navigating this alongside the uncertainty of the season and the pandemic. I think back to that time – Charlotte was having trouble feeding, Mila was losing weight and we obviously didn’t have any family support up there, so it was stressful. The amount of strength that that required from Charlotte, to overcome that, is something that I will forever be in awe of.
We found out when Charlotte was 12 weeks pregnant that we were having a girl. In all honesty, I was super excited. Having come from a family of mostly males, the opportunity to raise a female was special to me. I never had a sister and, as I mentioned earlier, I only have one female cousin. In that sense, boys were more familiar to me, and while I knew the experience was going to be different, it was such an opportunity to learn and grow. Charlotte and I went into it just embracing the new chapter and the highs and lows that were likely to come along with parenthood. We talk now, if we’re lucky enough to have another girl or a family of all girls, we would be super stoked.
I can already see characteristics in Mila that are similar to that of her mum. At just 20 months old, she’s making us laugh and lighting up a room with her smile. She has a hell of a personality, which is flourishing as she’s getting older.
I’ve had a little bit of a think about the future and the world Mila will be growing up in. From a career sense, I think if she was to go into business or down a corporate path, she would likely come up against some challenges. This is obviously a few years away, and hopefully we can continue to progress, but there are some things I think about. I feel she would have to be pretty strong and bold, while being confident in her beliefs and her ability. I know there are some industries that are more male-dominated than others, and the road to success is tougher for females, but I want her to know that this doesn’t limit her. She can achieve whatever she sets her mind to, just like her mum and my mum can. She can be anything she wants to be. All I want to do is be her biggest supporter and make sure she never doubts herself.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us all to reflect, whether that’s on your upbringing or the inspirations around you today. We’ve come a long way as a society and, while we have plenty of growth to go, it’s something we should be proud of. I remember playing footy around 12 years old and there was one girl in the rep team who was super dominant. She was a really good player and could’ve beaten the lot of us. I’m pretty sure after the rep team she had to stop playing, simply because there was no pathway. Even if junior girls wanted to keep playing, it was a case of ‘bad luck, go and play a different sport’. For me, at the ripe age of 12, that was a pretty big eye-opener that there wasn’t a pathway for females in football, at all. I’m so glad that if Mila wanted to follow in the footsteps of her dad and grandad, she’s able to now. There’s opportunity.
Change creates opportunity, so it’s up to us all to embrace this – as fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, teammates, colleagues, friends.