Yesterday was International Women’s Day, celebrating the strength and achievements of women. There are several inspirational women in the public eye, who encourage me to believe that I can achieve whatever I want to, but there is one lady in our family who has influenced me and my choices more than any other : my Mum: In her parenting of me and my sister she showed us how to be good mothers ourselves. She was strict but loving, so we never wanted to disappoint her and tried hard not to let her down. She encouraged us to go to University and that we could get any job that we wanted. My mum worked part time while we were at primary school and dad would take over on the weekends when she had to work, but she showed us that combining work with parenting was possible, in the 1970s when part time work was less common than it is now.
But for me, it was her example as a carer that has touched me most. Over the years that my father had vascular dementia, she cared for him tirelessly at home. She protected his dignity , attended to his every need and selflessly dedicated her life to his care. It was only in the later years of his illness, that she organised professional carers to help her and to allow her some brief respite from her responsibilities. Even when the end came, none of us wanted to leave his bedside and we camped out in hospital for about a fortnight, ensuring that he was never alone, but that right until the end he knew that his family were there for him. Even during that emotional time, she taught me an key skill that I have used ever since in hospitals : to learn and use the christian names of nurses and support workers, so that you make them feel important and familiar too, so that when you need something , they are then more likely to help.
Mum is more organised and definitely tidier than me, but in my parenting and caring of Joshua, I have tried to follow her lead. I am Joshua’s advocate, as Mum was for dad and we have both been determined to fight for what they deserve. I probably learnt my skill at writing a letter of complaint from Mum too, as we both make it known when something has gone wrong , as we have needed to be the voice of our husband/son. However I do also like to give praise where it is due too, so I probably send as many thank you emails as complaints and often these have more impact, as I think that sadly, they are more rare.
Mum and I both cry at the drop of a hat, but that does not mean that we are weak, it means that we are emotional and empathetic in my opinion. I definitely blame Mum for passing on the family crying gene, but it is not a bad thing to be able to release emotions in that way. Through all of our ups and downs with Joshua, Mum has always been there – my parents appeared on the day he was born, were staying with us at the time we got his diagnosis, looked after him for us while we took weekend breaks or when I was working sometimes and continues to be a strong support when we have bad times and celebrates with us the pleasure of good times.
So, Thank you Mum, you have taught me so much and have always been there for us, so nobody could wish for a better role model.