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Raising Women: Abby and Zala

Laura Peppas

Playing on a suburban basketball court as the sun makes its way down for another day, Abby and Zala Bishop could be any other mother and daughter.

We’re often told today’s women have more opportunities than ever.

Unlike the generations before us, we can work, vote and even govern the country. Yet Australian girls and women still face many levels of discrimination: gender-related violence is still dominating headlines, we are underrepresented in the political arena and there is a continuing gender wage gap.

As well, the rise of social media, celebrity culture and cyber bullying present a fresh set of challenges. So how do we raise our daughters to rise against those barriers and become strong and independent? How does our upbringing influence the woman we become? And do we really have it any easier today? We speak to four Canberrans raising little women.

Playing on a suburban basketball court as the sun makes its way down for another day, Abby and Zala Bishop could be any other mother and daughter. Delve a little deeper, and their story is far from typical.

Three years ago, when she was a budding basketballer for the Canberra Capitals, Abby made the life-changing decision to gain custody of Zala – 
her then two-day old niece – after it became clear her sister was not well enough to take care of her daughter.

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Though Abby was just 24 years old and at the height of her calling, she took the role of motherhood in her stride and temporarily put her career on hold, including a stint with the Australian Opals ahead of their world championship campaign.

“It was never something I had to question,” Abby says.

“I was always mature for my age and had experience looking after kids, but it did force me to grow up fast. I didn’t have the preparation a usual mother would, carrying her baby for nine months … Google definitely helped.”

Now playing for the Seattle Storm in the WNBA, Abby has custody of Zala until she is 18 years old and juggles motherhood with her successful basketball career.

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“There are times where I’ve gone ‘far out this is so hard’ and I’ve cried and wondered what I’m doing, like any normal mum, but it’s just at those moments where you’re so tired and overwhelmed when you’re doing it alone,” she says.

“So while there have been those times where I’ve just wanted to lock myself away and cry, there was never a time where I said ‘I don’t want to do this’.”

Growing up on a farm in country South Australia, Abby says she looked up to local basketball legends such as Rachel Spawn.

“I was very much a tomboy and much more comfortable outside, we were
in the middle of nowhere so every weekend we were playing sports,” she says.

“From a young age I knew I wanted to succeed in basketball.”

Abby was just 12 when she moved to Adelaide with her mother, after her parents separated.

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She describes her mother, now a business woman, as influential in her success.

“When I was growing up she always taught me about good sportsmanship and working hard to get to where you want to be,” she says. “Being nice to everybody is another thing mum instilled in me, to be kind and to strike up a conversation. A lot of people say I’m too nice sometimes…I’m very much like my mum.”

Abby says she hopes to pass on those values to Zala.

“I want her to be generous, all those things that make a decent person,” says Abby. “I’d describe my parenting style as quite relaxed…Zala is a bit like me in that she never stops.”

In an age where single parent households are more common than ever, Abby believes it is easier to be in her situation now than it would have been say 10, 20 years ago.

“I hope it’s going to be easier for Zala growing up because people are more accepting than they were before,” she says.

“With my schedule, it’s still going to be hard and there are days where I feel really guilty for leaving Zala [with her nanny] when I’m touring but I guess that’s just part of what I do and what I choose to do. She gets the best of both worlds. I think of Zala as my daughter, and eventually I would love to have more kids once I find the right partner.”

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Abby says her relationship with her sister is on good terms.

“She saw Zala at Christmas and I always send photos,” she says. “For now she is just working on getting herself better.”

I ask Abby what raising Zala has taught her.

“That there’s more to life than sport,” she says.

“Sometimes when you’re playing
 you get stuck in this little bubble, but everything that’s happened with [Zala] puts things in perspective. Our little life together is so much more than anything else.”

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All photography by Lux & Us

You can read this article in full and more in our latest edition of Magazine: Break The Mould. Available for free while stocks last. Click here to find your closest stockist. 

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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