David Stedman (79), and Carolyn (76), have been married 54 years. They have six children and 26 grandchildren. In the last 40 years, they have fostered more than 70 infants. Both were presented with the Order of Australia earlier this year.
Carolyn: We met at a birthday party when I was 17. Roger, a charming man, took me along in his Bentley. David was my first impression. He kept asking for my phone number and, eventually, I gave it to him so he’d go off and not cause any embarrassment. He continued to ring me up but I was a bit too social and kept missing his calls. In the end, my mother said, “Carolyn, this lovely young man keeps ringing. Please talk to him.” The rest is history.
He’s gentle, very affectionate – always holds your hand, gives you a cuddle, which is lovely for a woman. He’s also the most forgiving man. If ever we have cross words, he’s always the first to apologise. This is something I could have learned from. He’s a maintainer, David: he maintains our property, and he maintains our marriage. He’s not a fantastic communicator, but he has a go. He’s totally loyal: I would never even think of him having an affair. Both of us live happily in the [Anglican] church, which is important – it gives us a lot of strength.
One month after my 22nd birthday, we were married. My sister, who was a avid reader and was not from a large family, was unable to be there for me. And I thought, “I want a big family.” I don’t remember talking to David about it, really. I do remember we bought a Kombi after our third child, and David said, “Now don’t see this as a challenge, Carolyn.” And I said, “Oh no, David, never.” Then along came Sarah, then Matthew, then Kate, and that filled the Kombi. My leg became thrombotic and I was told by the doctor that it would not be wise to have another child.
“I do remember we bought a Kombi after our third child, and David said, ‘Now don’t see this as a challenge, Carolyn.’ And I said, ‘Oh no, David, never.’ ”
Foster care was something I heard about when my children were three and five years old. And I thought, “I like staying at home with the kids. That’s something we could do.” When David came home, I told him all about it – I was very excited – and he didn’t say no, so we did the training course and got started. And we’ve been doing it ever since. The longest we’ve had a child is two-and-a-half years. It was a difficult separation.
David was always very interested in his children. He worked his hours – 5am to 3pm – around the family. He was always available to bring the kids to soccer and netball, which was a great thing. He’s much more involved with the foster children now he’s retired. We’re a good team. He goes to bed early, I go late – it’s a wonder we ever had any children! But I’ll do the last feed at midnight; then he’ll get up at 4.30 and do the first one. And he’s as good at changing nappies and taking a grizzling child round the block as I am.
Because he comes from a broken home himself, I think David’s heart really goes out to them. Actually, that’s true for both of us: I came from a family with a beautiful, loving, wonderful mother, and a father who was very difficult. When I began my search for a husband, I set out to find someone not like my father. David is quite unlike my father. He thinks I’m the most competent woman in the world. He’s always been my greatest support – always.
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