Life

Author Cathy Bramely's Mother's Day tribute: My Mum is my biggest role model

Ahead of Mothering Sunday, author Cathy Bramley reveals why her inspiration is the woman who brought her into this world

'The older I get, the more I realise how fortunate I am to have her in my life'

'THE woman who gave it a go'. It's the answer to the 'what sort of books do you write' question I get asked, when people discover I'm a novelist. It's also the attitude that has shaped my life – and it all started with Sue, my mum.

The older I get, the more I realise how fortunate I am to have her in my life. She wasn't simply my role model when I was a child, but she continues to show me the way every day, with her energy, empathy and kindness.

Mum raised me to be a role model and now, as a mother of two daughters myself, it's my turn to do the same.

Aged 30, a single mother-of-two, Mum left her job as a classroom assistant, applied for a student grant and went back to college. She was quietly ambitious; she wanted a career, a profession and she wanted financial security for the future. Only as an adult, looking back at this period in our family life, can I appreciate what a brave decision it was.

To enter student life full-time with two children and a household to run on her own was quite a feat. But even at the age of 12, as I was then, I realised something important about myself: I too wanted to be able to earn my keep and not be dependent on another human being.

Mum persuaded my granddad to build her a desk in the bay window of her bedroom, so she had somewhere quiet to work, and threw herself into her studies. I was already at secondary school at the time and not particularly enjoying it, especially the homework.

But Mum's enthusiasm for education was infectious. Watching her burn the midnight oil to finish an essay after a long day, improved my own attitude to learning. If my mum could do it, I thought, so could I. Our home environment became one in which working hard, making an effort and doing your best became the norm. And before long, my school grades began to improve.

But there was another force at play too; teamwork. My brother and I were given chores to do, from cooking and washing-up, to ironing. Mum's teaching degree would benefit us all as a family and by sharing out the housework, it would lighten her load and free her up to work.

Mum graduated three years later with a first-class honours degree, and so began a successful teaching career. I followed suit a few years later, leaving home to study business, and later setting up my own PR and marketing agency.

I have always worked full-time. Even when my daughters, Phoebe and Isabel, were born, I only took very short breaks for maternity leave. Not through choice, mind you. As a small-business owner, there is only so much time you can be absent before clients begin to make noises.

Five years ago, I made the leap from running my own business to becoming a full-time writer. From having a steady income to relying on the uncertainty of book sales was scary enough. But the idea of depending on my own creative output, day after day to earn a living, was terrifying. It was Mum's experience, her self-belief, which gave me the courage to go for it, as well as the support from my husband Tony, of course.

The career change has been the most challenging and simultaneously the best decision I've ever made, but just like all those years ago, I thought, 'If my mum could do it, so could I'.

Now I work harder than ever, making gradual headway in my new career. And always at the forefront of my mind is the hope that my work ethic is making an impact on my girls. My vision for them is a life in which they feel fulfilled and happy, just as I now do.

Four years ago, our family life changed again when my husband Tony was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. It was devastating. The diary was taken over by hospital appointments and our hearts filled with fear.

Tony's support from the NHS has been nothing less than magnificent and he is responding to treatment. The effect of his illness is far reaching, and our daily life can be a bit up and down. But these four years have made me braver, more decisive, more determined to live life to the full.

I'm constantly urging my daughters to 'go for it' – to make the most of every opportunity and challenge themselves. I've also learned to acknowledge my weaknesses and I try and teach them the same. That it's OK not to be OK. And it's OK to ask for help.

Being a role model as a mother isn't just about inspiring your children to reach for tough goals and work hard. It's about teaching them to love, to be kind, to listen and to empathise with others. It's these traits in my mum which I admire most. Happy Mother's Day.

:: Cathy Bramley's novel A Vintage Summer is published in paperback by Corgi, priced £7.99.

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