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01st Dec 2015

5 Mums Reflect On Their Own Mothers’ Best Parenting Skills

Nikki Walsh

Mums, they are truly the best. Nikki Walsh chats to five women as they reflect on the wonderful things their own mums have instilled in them. 

Lesley-Anne, 45, Cologne

My mum was an incredible listener. She made me feel everything I had to say was precious and worth hearing. I think if I have one enduring image of my mum from my childhood it’s this: she is in the kitchen, I dash in the door from school, fling my school bag on the floor (a major hazard) plonk myself on the kitchen counter and start babbling about my day. I tell her every detail, from the mood of the teacher to the exploits of the bad boys in the playground to the trauma of my best friend at lunch who discovered she once again had corned beef sandwiches. It was all critical to me at the time and she made me feel like it was critical to her too. Her quiet demeanour, her ability to listen and to not pass judgement continued into my teenage years. Our connection remained strong and I know I told her much more than my friends were telling their mothers at the time. I have a daughter now too. She loves to chat and I’m not always as attentive as I’d like to be. I stop and remember those days in the kitchen with my mother; I stop what I’m doing and listen. This is the greatest gift you can give someone.

Haley, 35, Nottingham

My mum made me consider with every decision as a child and adult whether I would be making her proud or disappointing her. This helped keep me on the right path… most of the time!

Nicola, 39, Dublin

Fortitude. That’s what I think of when I think of my mother. She raised me and my two other siblings with no support, and she kept going, no matter what. When I was younger it used to annoy me how little she rested or enjoyed herself – I thought she was a martyr – but now I am a mother myself and realise that there is no time to rest, I wonder how she did it. Aside from all of us, there was the family business to run, a chaotic husband to manage, and a house and gardens to keep. Now my husband looks at me in awe when I keep going with a dose of flu and I realise she has helped me more than I could have imagined, for I draw on the strength of her example all the time. I wish I could thank her – she died some time ago – but she probably would have looked at me blankly. Coming from poverty, she thought keeping going was just what you did. You didn’t have a choice. This moves me too, and reminds me of the luxury of my existence.

Lou, 50, Mayo

Lists. My mum has lists for everything to keep her organised and on track while I muddle through, waste time, come home with the wrong shopping, and keep putting off cleaning those windows until I can find the time! Hence the woman the other day in Dunnes who stood by me in the veg section, the two of us staring blankly at the selection in front of us and said to me: “A list is a great thing!” I found an old cookery book my mum used to keep and was amazed at all the lists in the back of it too, not just recipes at the front that she was trying, but a list of jobs for the week.

Things like:

A schedule for the week:

Monday: Clean bathrooms upstairs (we had lodgers) launder sheets, clean windows

Tuesday: Tidy up front garden, leave out bins

Wednesday: Bath and wash children’s hair (the youngest two). There were 5 of us, so seemingly mum could only cope with so much! Hoover house!

Thursday: This was the day of the BIG SHOP! Mum, like most, walked everywhere, but Thursday night Dad would drive to the supermarket, when he got home from work, with the wicker trolley in the boot, for bigger things.

Friday: Wash school uniforms! The big twin tub washing machine was pulled out and hooked up to the taps in the sink! Whites were done first, then the colours.

When we did eventually convince her, in later years to get an automatic, she nearly had heart failure at all the water wasted, as the machine spun, rinsed, drained again, etc. This from someone, while growing up, no doubt like your mum, who had a good walk through fields to the well to fetch water in heavy buckets. Water was precious, ironically in the West of Ireland.

Friday evening: Bathe and wash the remaining three children’s hair!

Saturday: We’d all have our jobs, cleaning the car, polishing the stairs, etc

Sunday: This was a day off, other than Mass and cooking the family Roast dinner. Mum would have a rest in the afternoon and get up before teatime.

Sophie, 45, Wexford

I grew up in a claustrophobic country town that was rife with snobbery. My friends’ mothers cared deeply about what people thought of them and their houses and their cars. My mother thought all of this was hilarious. She talked to everyone and considered everyone her equal. This gave us great freedom growing up – we could be ourselves and we never felt we had to bow to anyone. Now neither I or my brothers have any status anxiety, and I know that’s largely down to her. The other day I went for a walk with her and my toddler son, and she stopped to talk to a homeless man. When my son asked her why he was sleeping on the ground, she told him he was a gentleman of the road. That pretty much sums her up. Pure class.

Nikki Walsh is a writer and editor with a passion for what makes us tick. She lives in Dublin with her husband, her son and a heap of books, mostly on psychology.