On March 8th the world honoured women by celebrating International Women’s Day. This day of recognition for women has been in existence since 1911 but to be honest, it has only been in recent years that I have taken an interest in participating in Women’s Day events. Women’s Day is about recognizing how far women have come in society, and also reflecting on how far we still have to go. It is about celebrating our individual and collective strength as women and the strong roles we play in our families, in the workplace, and in our local and global communities. For me personally, Women’s Day has provided a special opportunity to spend time with a woman who has taken on many roles in life, and who has been a strong role model, influence and mentor in my own life – my mother, Rose.
A short blog post does not do justice to telling my mother’s “story” – I could write a book! But, as I touch on some of roles she has fulfilled I invite you to think about and honour the strong women you know and the impact they have made on your life and the lives of others.
Rose is the oldest daughter of an Italian family who immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s and was the main “go-to” person whenever a problem arose or a task needed to be done. She became a wife at the age of 19 to begin a new life caring not only for her husband, but also his 2 brothers and a cousin who were starting a new life in Canada and needed support. Imagine all the washing, cooking, and cleaning for four men while working full time in a factory! Rose became a mother at 22 and went on to raise 3 children as a full-time homemaker. As a mother, she has always put her family first and has sacrificed her time, and perhaps even her health, to make sure the needs of her family were always met in the best way possible. As a grandmother she emulates love, pride and support and it is clear that her grandchildren bring her great joy! Rose became a widow at 57. She has continued to live independently and vibrantly for the past 20 years. My mother, Rose, has been the matriarch and pillar of strength in our family for as long I can remember and I admire her selfless commitment to all the roles she has played in our family life.
Entrepreneur at Heart
My mother came to Canada at the age of 15 with a Grade 5 education. She immediately found work in a factory to help support the family while her siblings went to school. She learned to read and write English by attending night school and reading comic books! Despite her lack of “formal” education, my mother has always been a forward-thinker and intense learner. She became a self-taught bookkeeper and financial manager for my father’s construction company, and she independently learned and implemented financial and real-estate investment strategies quite successfully. My mother always gives her best and sets high standards for herself and those around her. I know for sure that I have pursued the life of an entrepreneur because of the example she has set. I also know that she is my biggest critic and my biggest fan and she performs both duties with great love.
From a very early age in life my mother cared for her own mother who had limited mobility because of Parkinson’s Disease and Osteoarthritis. My grandmother needed full time care and assistance with all activities of daily living. When my grandparents took ill and could no longer live independently, they came to live with us and my mother took on the role of caregiver with support from her sister, in addition to all the other family and business-related tasks that were on her plate. It eventually became overwhelming and took a toll on her health, which lead to my grandmother being admitted to a nursing home shortly after my grandfather passed away as per his wishes. My mother and aunt took an active role in my grandmother’s life at the nursing home and volunteered for 15 years as leaders of a sewing group. I am certain that my childhood experiences with my mother and grandmother at the nursing home lead me to being an Occupational Therapist and devoting my career to meeting the needs of seniors. I have definitely been influenced by the examples of strength and determination provided by my mother, Rose. And I thank her for it!
Women take on many significant roles in life and develop great skills as they cope and adjust with moving from one role to the next. As you read through these snippets of my mother Rose’s life, I hope it has inspired you to think about the strong women you have encountered and who have influenced you along the way as well.
Anita Salituri is an Occupational Therapist and founded Attune Aging Strategies and Solutions with her husband and Physiotherapist, Jim Salituri. With over 45 years of combined experience in the field of rehabilitation, they work together to create exercise programs for seniors and deliver educational workshops and skills enhancement training to professional and family caregivers. Attune is focused on enhancing the care and quality of life of older adults as they strive to remain living at home for as long as possible.