Three Minutes With… Jenny Whitehouse

  • 23 February 2022
  • Sari England
I grew up in … Surry Hills. My parents ran a boarding house – we used to have seven tenants all male living in our home. I remember there were hardly any children around. I was very lonely, and my best friend was a book. There were a lot of homeless men on the street, and I was particularly scared of those who walked around with a bottle. 
My mother … used to work in the factories. There was a blanket factory, Smiths Crisps, HPM. My neighbour who was Portuguese worked in the garment section next to Central Station. 
I now live in … Surry Hills! We moved back to my family home three years ago to help look after my mother. The suburb has changed a lot. There used to be a lot of delicatessens, butchers and hardware shops. Now there are restaurants and bars, and it is busy all the time. Our neighbours used to be migrant families and single men who lived in boarding houses. Now our neighbours are architects, designers, artists, QC’s, property lawyers and everything in between.
The most challenging thing about growing up as a child of immigrant parents was … their barriers with language, particularly my Mum. From a young age I had to care for my parents and translate for them. I found it hard to form friendships – in high school you were either an “Aussie” or a “Wog”. I was born in Australia to parents from Eastern Europe. To qualify as an “Aussie” you had to essentially be Anglo Saxon. To be classified as a “Wog” you had to be either Greek or Italian. By year 9 I eventually found a group that was like me – didn’t fit into either of those groups. I was always a bit outside the square.
As a child I dreamed of being … I’m not sure – maybe it was a librarian. In high school I wanted to be either the wardrobe person for a band, an interior designer or a counsellor. I ended up being an Executive Assistant primarily in the finance industry. Although funnily enough when I talk to my friends and give any advice/make comments I usually get “you know what, my psychologist told me the same thing. I should just come and talk to you!”
The best device I own is … my mobile phone! I love talk-to-text as I text a lot! I talk to my friends as I’m unpacking the dishwasher or folding the clothes. I make calls whilst I’m driving and email myself reminders.
The first music concert I went to was …Bon Jovi! I absolutely loved them. I think I ended up seeing them three times. It was a big deal. 
The best decision I ever made . . . was to marry Brendan and to have children. I was petrified about being a mother but didn’t want to be controlled by my fear of not being a good enough parent. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my children. They have taught me so much.
I first came to St Michael’s … as they agreed to marry Brendan and me! They didn’t care that Brendan didn’t go to Church. I am of Orthodox heritage but couldn’t connect with the Orthodox Church. A few years before getting married I had wanted to join a church, but it was frowned upon in my family, but getting married at St Michael’s allowed me to join a Church. It took a while but after attending regularly I plucked up the courage to attend morning tea and the rest is history. St Michael’s is my family now. I have so many beautiful memories and have formed cherished friendships. St Michael’s has been with me through my highs and my lowest lows.  Their care for me has helped sustain me.
I wish I had learnt earlier … to drive! Thank you Matthew Hyder for forcing me to learn. 
Currently I am reading …  The Fossil Hunter which was a Christmas gift. I recently read Still Life and The Paper Palace, and I absolutely loved both of them. Real page turners. 
My number one favourite activity is …. swimming at Neilson Park. I also like to read, talk to my friends, catch up for coffee/lunch, Pilates, scrapbooking, making cards, travelling, going to the movies, visiting art galleries and restaurants and experiencing new things.  
The best advice I ever got was  …. take a deep breath and allow space between you and the situation. Sometimes you have to sit with that email before you hit send. Sometimes you have to excuse yourself from a situation and resume the conversation another time.