Here’s To Strong Women

“Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them.” – Unknown

Mum, from day one you’ve never stopped working. Some of my earliest memories of you are being dumbfounded by the work lingo that came out of your mouth, your work phone practically glued to your ear. You don’t take no for an answer, anyone who’s tried to get in the way of that quickly gets shut down and shown why that isn’t a wise idea. You sat on our kitchen floor, scissors in hand and chopped your hair off, simply because you “were bored of having to do it all the time”, a mentality that has stuck with you since.

You’re small a mighty; a feisty Scottish woman (minus the accent) packaged up into a 4ft-something human that shouldn’t be messed with. You appreciate the small things in life, insistent on caressing every item of clothing in Next and humming along to The Greatest Showman on the radio before belting it out for us all to hear.

You avoid giving into your own emotions but empathise with any and every problem I break down to you with. It’s because of you that I’ve learnt to appreciate the body I’ve been given, and whilst behind closed doors, you’ve expressed your own insecurities, not once were we exposed to it as children as to avoid passing that mentality down to us. Granted in my case that didn’t 100% work but it’s because of you that I appreciate what others would consider my flaws.

You’ve dealt with my awkward teenage phases, heavy liquid liner and backcombed hair in tow; been there for me as I cried over boys; driven me to and from school/Southampton/work/unnecessary (but totally necessary) trips to Primark and proudly adjusted my cap and gown for my on Graduation day. You barrage me with questions about money, living in fear that I’ll slip back into my student ways and despite constant reassurance from Connor and me, Nova won’t scratch your face off, she’s adorable.

Your unwavering strength has carried with you throughout my lifetime and I pray that I can be half as independent, resilient and inspiring as you are. And let’s be honest, you’ve put up with Dad’s humour for 20+ years, that deserves a medal alone.

Em, as your sister I’d be lying if I said that you and I have always been close. Growing up, we found it difficult to cope with the other’s personality; mine, annoying and whiny and yours, playful and headstrong. Stubborn teenagers, we fought for the attention of our parents, arguing that our (definitely not that important) issue was more important than each other. I remember feeling intimidated by your out-going nature, something that – apart from with my closest friends – I didn’t possess.

It was when I went off to start university that I felt a shift and we learnt to appreciate the aspects of one another that used to infuriate us as children. I learnt to accept that I can’t always be the ‘strong older sister’ (lord knows I’m too emotional for that) and that it’s okay for you to step in a take the reigns once in a while.

Throughout life we’ve taught each other different lessons; me quite literally with your Maths/Textiles/English homework, and you with helping me to step out of my comfort zone, pushing me to do bigger and better things. You might not have mastered fake tan just yet but you’ve taught me to appreciate it. You give me hair envy on the daily and through nabbing the clothes from your wardrobe I learnt to explore clothing, choosing dresses and skirts over all-black ensembles every once in a while.

We bond during the quiet moments, as I’m plaiting your hair or once Connor and Fred have walked off talking about cars and work, and drift into conversations about the boys, or life, or the latest Netflix show we’re obsessed with it. While we don’t outwardly express it – a mere nod of acknowledgement has and probably always will do the job – there’s no doubt that we’d be there for each other if needed.

Meeting your boyfriend’s mum is always a daunting experience. You panic, questioning whether or not you should stay yourself and let them see your true colours, or try your best to be your best, hiding behind a front in order to not appear like a massive weirdo. With Judy, Connor’s mum, however, I needn’t worry. Pleasantries out the way, we seamlessly slipped into taking the piss out of Connor and his questionable hair-dos gone by and it’s been the same ever since.

From scarily similar backgrounds, I feel at ease when I’m around her (and the rest of his family), never once worrying about how I should be presenting myself or whether I have to suppress any part of who I am. She’s headstrong yet warm and with open arms, someone who will (literally) shelter you from a storm but always encourages adventure. The values instilled in have been passed down to Connor and his siblings, from which they conduct themselves with passion, never wanting to back down from what they believe in.

Judy, if you’re reading this – which knowing Connor, he’ll make sure that it happens – thank you. You brought Connor into the world, welcomed me into the family and reminded me of just how fab Duran Duran are – for that, I’ll forever be grateful.

My beloved Sophie. When planning these posts I knew you had to be included and despite you being a constant source of inspiration for me, it didn’t feel right to include you in Monday’s post. You’re more than just someone who inspires me, you’re my friend. We bonded over 5SOS at the Ravens taster day and from that moment on there’s been this unspoken ribbon that keeps us as one. Artisan Fridays, questionable lecturing from Jerry and Jane and getting to see each other graduate, there’s no doubt that my time at uni (and life in general) wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t have met you. You teach me to be strong, to give 100% to everything and that I’ll never truly be content with life until I have a pen selection as extensive as yours (seriously, I think about it at least once a week).

It’s a crime that we a) don’t have photos together and b) live so far apart but you’re my gal – may we continue to long for The Artisan to be in every village/town/city we ever visit, fangirl over Doctor Who (and Harry Potter, Flash, DCOMs, Musical Theatre, Zac Efron, Carrie Hope Fletcher the list goes on) and take over the world.

I’m ending this post on a somber note. Nan, you’ve been gone now for 18 years but your presence and impact is still felt today. Dad’s the same as he’s always been, he doesn’t talk about you often but when he does, it’s always with warmth in his heart, a story about an adventure you went on when he was a kid, or your take no crap way of thinking when he was being, well, Dad. You taught me to love banana sandwiches and custard creams; you were never seen without a smile on your face and good god the family nose is still going strong and being passed down to us all.

I wish I had the chance to get to know you better, to introduce you to Connor (you’d love him, he’s pretty great) and to tell you about all the exciting things that have happened since you passed.

I hope one day that I have the same impact on my child(ren) as you’ve had on Dad and just know that no matter what, I’ll look after him for you.

Here’s to women. All women. Those in my life who have have helped to shape me into who I am today and those that will be a part of it in the future. Today is a day to celebrate you and appreciate the light and lessons you’ve brought to our lives – Happy International Women’s Day. 👩🏻👩🏼👩🏽👩🏾👩🏿