When reading Lean In on my recent trip to Leeds I found myself welling up*. Sheryl was describing her mother's achievements over the course of her life. It wasn't her mother's life itself that had me teary, but the way in which Sheryl described it with such pride and adoration - I wasn't in the slightest bit surprised when she said her Mum was her role model.
I've always counted my blessings for the parents I was gifted with. My mother (and grandmother) trained as nurses. At that point it was that or secretary college unless you were very, very intelligent. After many night shifts and a back injury my Mum retrained as a health visitor, before pursuing a career in teaching when my brother and I were young. I remember when I was ill (one of the many times I was ill... my tonsils were eventually taken out at 5) she would take me in to sixth form to meet her students. Stacey was my favourite and she painted me a giant Winnie the Pooh which was stuck to the side of my wardrobe for years. I really appreciated not having to go to summer camps for my six-week summer and being picked up from school most days. She was a constant part of my life and it's no wonder that we're still close. When my brother and I grew up she moved back to health visiting and mentors students. My Dad got diagnosed with epilepsy when I was 8 and she took some time out to regroup and enjoyed being a 'lady who lunches' for a few months, but soon got restless and went back to health visiting. The second time my Dad's health shook things up she went up to full-time, did a masters and a management course, but she did what she perceived as the best thing for her family. I'm hoping she'll retire this year and treat herself to a trip to New Zealand - the only place in the world I've heard her really get enthusiastic about.
Why on earth am I telling you all this?
Well I never want to take it for granted that I not only have a mother, but I have a mother that I am so very proud of. We're an affectionate family and I tell her a lot that I love her, but I rarely tell her how proud I am of her tireless effort and hard work. I wonder where I would be without a mother that I was proud of?
For those who lack this role model who do they look to? Perhaps if they were taken in to care they may look to their social worker, but as one of the latest episodes of Silent Witness suggests the job is often thankless and fraught with tension. Some may look to teachers, but what child past the age of 7 thinks anything about school is cool? This article entitled "10 women who are great role models for my daughter" seems to give a good list of women we can look up to, but I've only heard of 4 of them. This is one of the key reasons why every women needs to step up and be a leader - girls might not have heard of Caitlin Moran, but they will know their neighbours' daughter, their first manager or the Head Girl at school. Every female (and male) out there can be a role model and help support the next generation. Lean In demonstrated to me exactly how and why mothers and role models are so important.
So this Mother's Day tell your Mum why you're proud of her as a member of society and think how you can reach out to someone who may look up to you.
*IF we're being open, this isn't entirely unusual for me, as my tear ducts are well exercised and I find myself welling up pretty much every other day.