As a celebration of International Women’s Day 2020, I decided to write a personal tribute to someone in my own life.
When I think of women I most admire a long list of names comes to mind. A list of women who I think are incredible human beings, for very different reasons.
I have female friends who:
- have overcome horrendous cancer diagnoses
- are bringing up children with very challenging special needs
- are achieving the most spectacular careers despite significant imposter phenomenon
- have retrained and rebuilt their career on the back of devastating divorce
- lost husbands prematurely through illness
- left reliable and stable careers to explore a new lifestyle
- spend their time tirelessly campaigning for incredible causes from helping refugees through to campaigning for the environment
And this is only thinking of a few …
But the one person who has been important to me for the last 50 years, and who I’ve haven’t yet acknowledged for the whole person that she is, is my mum.
Whilst she is many things (mother-daughter relationships can be one of the most challenging relationships we have in our lifetimes, can’t they?), I do believe that she is an incredible and little celebrated individual.
Through adult eyes I now see someone whose own values have had an enormous influence on my own. Values that I have become more aware of as I raise my own children and consider my role as a parent. Values that she lives and upholds strongly of learning; fairness; family and friends; health and well-being… all of which have led to a happy and fulfilled life.
Whilst she has been tremendously supported by my father through an enviable relationship of deep respect, love and enjoyment of each other’s company, her successes are really hers to celebrate.
She was born in 1943 and perhaps benefited from the reluctant post-war acceptance that women could have a career. Her reflections of her childhood make me believe that she was left to determine her own path – her own mum’s focus was on caring for her 7-year younger brother, and her father was either working or enjoying time at the pub.
Mums childhood education was limited. She didn’t make the cut for the grammar school and ended up in a classroom where students were left to their own devices – cast on a heap of “no hopers”. She left school at the age of 14 – with no qualifications – to pursue a career in nursing.
Her school experiences led to her deep-seated belief that everyone is deserving of the best education. My mum loves to learn. Despite the disadvantage of a dreadful school education she can look back at her incredible career which includes nursing; midwifery; health-visiting; lecturing; a degree; trusteeship; authoring 2 books (#3 is on the way); entrepreneurship and more. All achieved through her own self-determination and a belief that we should all be given the best opportunity to learn and grow.
Education is such a core value to her that she was absolute that her children would have access to the “best”. So through a selfless commitment to hard and relentless work she enabled her three children to attend a private school (our local comprehensive was at best failing). Through the years she has encouraged us to learn, to give things a go, to try our best. Without the opportunity or her gentle encouragement I would not be where I am today.
I now share the same belief that education is a gift and enabler. That you should give things a go without fear or worry and that learning should be fun and all about opportunity. I am forever grateful for her commitment and dedication to my education.
Equality and Fairness
It’s true that her treatment at school also underpinned her unfaltering belief in fairness – a quality that myself and my brothers often joke is sometimes over played.
Her “little black book” of who received what from her so that she can ensure ultimate fairness is very often quoted as she “equalizes” the pot of time, money, dog-sitting, roast dinners cooked etc spent between us.
It is because of my mum that I have never felt disadvantaged because of my gender. She has been my advocate and the defender of my choices. She raised me with a strong sense of equality and fairness. She always treated me and my brothers equally – from household chores through to the belief that the world is our oyster and to aim high.
She set me up for success through giving me high levels of self-belief and self-regard. It wasn’t until I started my own career that I became aware of the systemic biases and challenges faced by many. It wasn’t part of my belief system that the world shouldn’t be fair and honest. I trusted the system with my naivety until I saw through it with my own experiences.
Family & Friends
At the heart of everything my mum does is her family and friends. I believe that is her core purpose. My parents house has always been filled with other people. The joy gained from entertaining, caring for and looking after others has been constant over the years. She passed this value onto me. The value of family and friends and the need to support and love each other. Without my family and very dear friends I would not be the person I am today.
Health & Wellbeing
The current state of our nations mental health reminds me of how lucky I was to have my mum values instilled in me. My mum understood how to live a healthy life. The food we ate, the exercise we enjoyed, the state of our minds. Her values around mental health were ahead of her time.
As an adult I thank my mum for holding me to account and making me squirm as she asked what, at the time, felt like personal questions. She has equipped me to deal with life. I thank her for my resilience.
My career as a coach is intrinsically linked to my belief that we all need to be encouraged to be self-aware. To find people we trust. To explore together the many things that life throws at us, and to support and challenge one another to overcome obstacles thrown our way. It’s incredibly tough to be able to do this; I think it’s a skill learned with time and practice.
Above all I admire my mum for being happy with her lot.
I see a lady who has worked damn hard to live her values to the full. She has been uncompromising in her beliefs, sometimes falling out with others who do not have the same lens of the world as she does (and getting hurt as a result). I see a person who has made the absolute most of life even when it was far from a bed of roses.
She has embraced change (finally she’s on WhatsApp. She now needs to leave her phone on long enough for us to message her back)
She has reinvented herself as time has brought new chapters and new beginnings.
There have been many times when we haven’t seen eye to eye, but if I strip out the parent / child part of our relationship I am incredibly proud to have her in my life. I am proud to have embraced many of the values by which she has lived her life.
I only hope that I, like her, have managed to gently gift them to my two children, as they have stood me very well so far in the trials and tribulations of life.
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