My mother is a strong woman. Now in her seventies, she negotiated great difficulties in her life that would have floored many other people. She and my father divorced in the early 1960s when divorce in a small seaside town in England was a dirty word. Then she brought me up on her own while holding down a full-time job. Familiar enough these days, but the obstacles back then were huge.
- No home – my father sold our house, leaving us homeless, penniless and reliant on friends and relatives. She’d picked me up from my grandparents after work and, as we walked around the corner, there was a ‘For Sale’ sign outside our home. In those days, only the husband’s name was on the deeds.
- A small income – there was no equal pay back then, and her wages as a bookkeeper were a pittance.
- Hostility – that ‘D’ word followed her around like a curse.
- A difficult child to raise – I can’t say I made things any easier; I was a demanding kid.
- Constant tiredness – our diet was dreadful; temporary accommodation and lack of money ensured we lived on tinned food and toast for almost ten years.
We survived, and, eventually, thrived thanks to my mother’s indomitable spirit. She worked hard and never, ever claimed welfare. We moved to another part of the UK, another country in fact. She married a second time for security, had my half-sister and divorced again, after realizing that the price of that security was too high. She always worked full-time, got promoted, bought her own house and married for love in her late forties. They are still married.
Looking at her now, I recognize that her unique set of characteristics made her a strong woman. Here are 20 positive traits that my mother shares with other determined women.
1. She views negative circumstances as challenges. I don’t ever remember seeing my mother cry when faced with challenges. Even when we had to leave whichever temporary home we lived in. Even when her own parents refused to take her in because of the shame of her divorce.
2. She understands that she creates her own opportunities. My mother knew that if she worked hard, and was a loyal and reliable employee that doors would open for her. She had to make significant sacrifices to succeed but succeed she did.
3. She knows when to ask for help. She also knows when not to. Rarely would my mother ask for help, but sometimes she had to. She never asked anyone to lend her money, but she would ask for help looking after me, such as after-school time.
4. She is aware of her own value – took many years for this to sink in. My mother never put herself first, but now she’s got it; her needs are just as important as anyone’s. During her second marriage she morphed into a bit of a doormat until one day, realization struck, and she threw my step-father out. And never looked back.
5. She is lovable. She’s warm-hearted, generous of spirit and wonderful to be around. She always has a smile and a welcome for her family and friends. Her inner being shines like a beacon.
6. She knows her own strengths and weaknesses. This was a biggie for her – she could have easily taken a wrong path when she was younger. The drink and drug culture in the sixties and seventies were seductive, and she knows she has a bit of an addictive personality. However, her strength in resisting temptation was unbreakable. When she sets her mind to something, she sticks with it.
7. She has learned to use past negatives as present positives. Although she loved her own mother dearly, she knows she was treated quite poorly as a child and young woman. She made sure that my sister and I never experienced rejection from her. She learned fast how not to do things.
8. She may feel fear but moves through it anyway. As she grows older, my mother faces the fear of ill health. Some days she has a lot of pain due to spinal problems. Others might be tempted just to stay in bed, but she never has. When younger, she, understandably, had a fear of insecurity, but her drive and determination helped her face it down.
9. She understands she is the sort of person who needs friends, fun and nights out. My mother finds a lot of relief in relaxing with her best girlfriends. She doesn’t drink but gets drunk on friendship.
10. She loves to laugh, especially at herself.
11. She appreciates the people around her. She tells my sister and me how much she loves us every time we see her. And we her. She’ll moan about my lovely step-dad, but we can see how much she cares for him.
12. She doesn’t put up with bullies or fools. Never has done, never will.
13. After many years, she has learned to forgive herself as easily as she forgives others.
15. She takes care of herself: hair and weight, etc. My mother was about 30 pounds overweight in her forties. She went to a slimming club, lost it and never regained it. I’m very jealous.
16. She is generous to a fault. She would help anyone, and does. Her generosity is one of her most defining characteristics.
17. She can tell us when she is in pain or unhappy – something she would never do when younger.
18. She knows that no-one, including herself, is perfect. I didn’t see my father for five years after they split up. Not once did she ever bad mouth him to me. Even now, she has completely forgiven him for abandoning us.
19. Her expectations of herself are high.
20. She follows her intuition. My mother has excellent intuition, and it has stood her in good stead throughout her life. Yes, she made mistakes, but overall her instinctive judgment and common sense has helped her greatly.
Thank you for reading this far. My mother is 77 years old now and still full of life and energy. I hope that some of her positive characteristics have come my way, and I hope that you share some of them too.