The influence of working mothers – A few childhood memories of my working mum.

My mother worked part-time throughout most of my childhood and beyond. For many years she was the manageress of a small local launderette. I have very fond memories of her taking me to work which she did quite often. I loved it!

It was great fun helping with little tasks, and chatting to staff and customers who Mum knew. As a treat she’d send me to the bakers a few doors down the road to get potted beef, bread cakes, and iced finger buns.

• Cups of tea and lots of chat!
• ‘Cashing up’ – it was my job to put coins in little piles of equal value making is easier to tot up the total takings of the day.
• Being shown how to fold sheets – the easy way and more fun with a team of two.

Mum had an amazing head for numbers. I remember her totting up her shopping bill and knowing exactly how much she had spent before arriving at the till. Embarrassing as it was for me, it seemed she was often disputing discrepancies with shopkeepers or assistants, but she was always spot on and accurate!

When I had children, myself, she strongly encouraged me to continue work – preferably part-time even. Being a good mother and also having an independent spirit was important.

In her teens she was expected to go work ‘in t’ mill’ like other women in her family. She was more ambitious and preferred office work – rising to chief cashier at the local Woolworths, and training staff at other branches. Her own mother and some other family members thought her to be a bit too hoity toity. However, her dad saw potential in her and at some point-in-time she told me he had offered her money to get her started in her own business. She always regretted not having done so – she was afraid of losing his hard-earned money. (He was a Yorkshire coal miner, supporting a big family).

As was expected Mum gave up work immediately on getting married. I was her youngest child. As I recall she was working again (part-time) by the time I was about 4 years old.

It seemed fitting that I used some money Mum left to me, to set up my own business, in 2013.

When I had mentioned the idea a few years earlier, I remember her saying, ‘Wouldn’t you really like to run your own café?’

So, how did I become a scientist in cancer research and a specialist in Life Sciences? Well, that’s another story of many…

Nevertheless, I learned so much from my smart working-class mother. Her influence made me grounded but also ambitious in good ways, I think. We were similar and different, as well. She was not perfect, but because of that I think she was indeed perfect. I continued to call her and visit her frequently to the end, and always valued her straight talking and insightful advice. This piece touches on the influence of working mothers. Mum taught me many things, but I think her most precious legacy is her values.

We have the choice to emulate the best bits from our parents – and this is what I tell my own children. Mum was always telling me she was ‘very, very proud’ of me. I tell my children the same and use the same words.

by Dr Julie Charlesworth 21/03/23


[This post follows on from my previous ones on International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day 2023 in the UK.]

Fancy a cuppa tea? ☕️

Made in Manchester, but Yorkshire – born and bred 😊.