A tribute to the significant females in our lives
By Mary Bart
Our close connections with other women are a godsend. They know instinctively how to support us when we’re down, give us encouragement to rise up and they share their wisdom to help us succeed. And yes, our sisters, mothers, friends and colleagues are the ones that hold our hands when we face challenges and day-to-day realities. As business, not-for-profit and government leaders, women provide wisdom, inspiration, guidance and direction in corporations, charities and public sector organizations.
Certainly, the women in our lives wear many hats and play a variety of roles with significant responsibilities. Let’s take a look at how important they might be to each of us:
“Sisters make the best friends in the world.”
– Marilyn Monroe
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a sister and not all sister relationships are great. But for those us who get along with our siblings, here’s what experts suggest about the differences they can make.
From an early age, having a sister helps us develop our communication and social skills; specifically, our ability to nurture, compromise, negotiate, resolve conflict, and speak up for ourselves. Sisters are instrumental in helping us boost our self-esteem and, according to a Brigham Young University study our sisters help prevent us from “feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful.” The same study showed that having a sister encourages us to be a more empathetic, giving and kinder people.
British psychologists also demonstrated that women who had sisters were likely to be more ambitious, independent, and compassionate than those who had just brothers. In addition, after parents die, it’s the sisters who have been shown as the ones who work the hardest to keep extended families together and stay in contact with each other.
A mother’s love
The dynamics between mothers and daughters can become complex. Sometimes the relationship evolves and improves over time, sometimes not. Needless to say, many women become strong, determined mothers who care for, support, protect and coach their children. They lead by example, help heal wounds and try to teach their youngsters right from wrong, among other daily life skills.
Women as mentors
Experienced women who take us under their wings and show us the way, stay forever in our hearts and minds. While they weren’t always called mentors, many women in the local communities have supported their younger family members and friends and given them advice in years gone by.
Today, mentoring relationships are more formally encouraged in business and higher education settings. Just as you might benefit from a mentor relationship, you too might find yourself in a position to mentor and support other women. Mentoring is all about being open to learn from those more experienced and teaching others who might not yet have your skills and success. As a newer version of an old saying goes: “Teach a man and you teach an individual, but teach a woman and you teach a nation.”
We’re the caregivers
Everything we’ve seen and read shows the pivotal role that powerful and caring women play in looking after others. From managing or providing daily care for young children or elders, it’s women who take the lead in most families. Women reported experiencing a variety of employment impacts as a result of their caregiving responsibilities. Incredibly, statistics show that aside from all of our other responsibilities, 72 per cent of women work and care, many women also provide care for 20 or more hours a week.
“Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave, and impossible to forget.”
For some of us having friends can be more precious than having family. A mom or a sister may find things out on a need-to-know basis, but friends are kindred spirits who can tell each other anything. The sisterhood that friendship brings is especially important as we age. Having a friend to chat with, share a cup of coffee, talk about life changes and share common interests is one of the greatest joys.
Grandma knows best
When a child is born, so is a grandmother. In 2020, being a grandmother might not look quite the same as it used to. Some Oma’s are zoomers who continue to work, travel and have multiple interests of their own. They may or may not participate in their grandchildren’s daily lives.
In other families, Bubby lives-in or acts as a trusted babysitter. She helps with caregiving, school and afterschool activities and keeps the youngest family members in line.
Regardless of whether they’re near or far, our female elders watch us grow, develop and mature. They are our willing supporters, have great expectations.
More than “just” a girl
Think of interesting stories of independent Canadian women heroes like Florence Nightingale, Roberta Bonder, Jane Goodall and Margaret Atwood and raise a glass to their success. Consider all the amazing women who have helped form, shape and make you who you are today, and those to whom you’ve been daughter, a mentor or a friend. They’re your rocks, your guides and your source of love and inspiration.
So, take moment to pick up the phone and call one of them. Thank them, tell them you love them and ask if there’s anything at all you can do for them right now. As women, being there for each other is what makes all the difference.
I have the best sisters in the world. When someone asks, “When was the last time you spoke with your sister?” my answer is always, “What time is it?”
Elizabeth, Susan and I communicate with each other, all the time, regardless of the time zones we are in or the distance we are apart. It’s not unusual for us to talk or chat on social media several times a day. Here are the four over-arching reasons that my sisters make such a difference in my life:
Blood is thicker than water. The three of us have a unique history together with shared memories of growing up, our parents, grandparents, extended families and friends. Our sisterhood made us who we are today and it can’t be duplicated or replaced by any other relationship.
Always the truth. Sometimes it’s painful to hear, but we can count on each other to always be brutally honest and tell the truth. Elizabeth and Susan’s unfiltered, brutal comments are always given with love and often with a sense of humour, as are mine.
There for each other. Our relationships are free of rivalry, conflict or competition. Through thick and thin we’ve got each other’s backs and hearts. During a family crisis, our relationship challenges, “kid issues,” difficult health news or career difficulties, I know I can count on support from my sisters. My sisters are my ultimate, confidential sounding boards. They give me feedback, new ideas and help to pick me up when I fail or fall.
Don’t mess with my sister. We are a united force to be reckoned with wherever we are. Everyone in the family knows we stand up for each other. Mess with one of us, and you mess with all of us. The bond between us cannot be broken by time and distance can’t keep us apart.
Mary Bart is the chair of Caregiving Matters, an internet-based charity that offers education and support to family caregivers.