Mother-figure Marj

A smiling woman wearing a brown shirt and glasses.
Marjorie Flint is a friendly woman, who is always laughing. Photo: Brittany Lee.

I knock on the kitchen door. On a table just outside are rows of pot plants, and a cardboard box filled with glass jars. A short, curly haired woman opens the door. Marjorie Flint, known as Marj, invites me inside. Her crutches lean against the wall just inside the door.

We sit down near Birdie, Marj’s blue budgie, at a table covered with pink and white fabric. Marj has been doing a lot of sewing recently. She makes heat packs, which are sold at her local physio, and scrunchies, which are sold at her local hairdresser. She recently made a blanket and bib for a pregnant woman she knows down at the doctor’s surgery.

Marj grew up on a farm almost 30km out of Corrigin, a time she remembers as the best of her life. She cared for sheep, and the donkeys were her best friends. Sometimes, she would share icy poles with one; a bite for her, a bite for him.

“How unhygienic is that?” she asks.

The geese, on the other hand, were not so friendly. They’d chase her until she escaped to the top of a rainwater tank.

Growing up, Marj always thought she would be a farmer. It was her whole life.

That life was upended when her father died of a heart attack when she was 14.

The farm was sold, and the family moved to Perth. Young Marjorie was shellshocked. The farm had been quiet, and peaceful. The house in Perth was directly under the flight path of planes coming in and out of Perth Airport. It constantly rattled as they passed overhead.

“It was horrific,” she says.

Only three months after moving to Perth Marj’s brother, David, died. He was hit by a car while riding his pushbike.

Following their father’s death, their mother was, in Marj’s words, very sick. So, Marj looked after her younger siblings. Lisa, 11 years younger, remembers happy times with her big sister; picnics, barbeques, visiting their Nana, going to the Northam Show. Lisa says: “Marj is my sister, but she’s like my mum. She brought me up.”

Marj worked at Coles for many years. It was there that she met her partner Mick, a tall, bearded man who, Lisa says with a laugh, Marj was scared of when they first met.  

In 2002, Marj injured her back for the first time. Struggling to continue work, she left her job at Coles, and become a family day carer.

A container full of plastic Thomas the Tank Engine toys.
Marj still has containers full of toys from her time as a day carer. Photo: Brittany Lee.

Marj’s neighbour Toni ran a family day care. On her days off, Marj would stop by and spend time with the kids. She had wanted to work with children since high school. Toni suggested Marj start her own family day care. She showed Marj how to fill out the paperwork, get her house set up, and run the business. Then, when Toni closed her own day care, she referred her families to Marj. “If it hadn’t been for Toni, I’d never have been in it.” Marj says.

While working as a day carer, Marj’s house was full of laughter.

“There’s no words to describe how much love, and entertainment, and excitement you get from kids.”

Marjorie Flint

“Kids make you feel young. Until they start getting old, of course,” Marj laughs. “Then they make you feel really old.”

Phoebe Ho learned about Marj’s day care from a neighbour. Marj looked after her son, Ty Sangthong for three and a half years, and his younger sister Mei Sangthong for nine months.

A young boy sitting on a pony with a woman standing beside them.
Ty Sangthong sits on the pony Fossy while Marjorie Flint holds him steady. Photo: Phoebe Ho.

Marj was looking after Ty the day there was a torrential hailstorm in 2010. Phoebe was meant to leave work to pick him up, she was confronted with a flooded St George’s Terrace. Hail hammered down. She couldn’t reach the train station to get home.

Hours later, drenched and panicking, Phoebe reached Marj’s place. The first thing Marj did was hand her a towel. Phoebe dried herself off, at Marj’s insistence, while Marj assured her Ty was fine, and had already eaten dinner.

“That’s the kind, caring soul of Marjie.”

Phoebe Ho

Around 180 kids come through Marj’s day care. A handful, including Ty and Mei, kept in touch. The day care business lasted nine years, before Marj became a cleaner.

Many cards, including birthday, Christmas, get well soon, and postcards, some bought, and some hand made, spread across a tiles floor.
Marj has kept many of the cards given to her by children she cared for. Photo: Brittany Lee.

While working as a family day carer, Marj took Thursdays off, and did the cleaning. Then, she decided to hire a cleaner. She was not happy with the results. One cleaner would only do half the vacuuming; Marj still found sand from her sandpit tracked through the house. One of them she described as quite good, but slow. The house would still only be half cleaned.

“I decided to be a cleaner to show them how to do the work,” she says.

Another factor in this decision was Mick’s cancer. Marj wanted to spend more time with Mick, and the paperwork for the family day care was piling up. So, she started taking a few days off from day care, and cleaned instead.  When Mick was hospitalised, Marj closed her day care. After Mick passed away, Marj cleaned full time.

Several families Marj worked with as a day carer hired her as a cleaner, Phoebe among them. Phoebe has an Airbnb business, through Easy Home Rentals, and Marj cleaned her rental properties. Phoebe describes her as very reliable.

Marj’s health declined. In 2019, she spent just over six months in hospital. She had three back surgeries, and a heart attack. In 2020, she officially closed the cleaning business.

In 2021, Marj was referred to a pain specialist, then to a rheumatologist. She was diagnosed with psoriasis arthritis, spondylosis arthritis, and osteoarthritis, and prescribed a fortnightly injection which helps with the pain.

Marj now has good days, and bad. Doctors think her pain levels are as good as they’re going to get. She is no longer able to work. It took some time, and the support of her friend Rosalie to accept this.

“Rosalie helped a lot,” Marj says, “I think I might have been in a pretty bad state if she hadn’t helped me come to terms with it.”

Now, Marj does a lot of sewing, and some gardening. She cares for her mother, and talks to Lisa, and Lisa’s daughter Sonia every day.

“I’m the family counsellor,” Marj said.

Marj said she won’t give up on life yet. “I’ve got too many people who still need me.”

Categories: Profile