Last year Blair was courageous and shared her story of emotional abuse and the power of self-love.
Blair caught up with her Mum to hear her perspective of the story
I could start off with all the cushy stuff - how you always tell me you love me, every single day. I could talk about that feeling of 'home' I get when I step off the plane and hug you for the first time in six months.
But do you know what matters the very most?
It's the real, raw and authentic stuff that comes with a mother / daughter relationship. How you can't help but come into my room and refold all the clothes in my suitcase. How you insist on saying "you're down and jiggy" with something, even though the last person that talked like that was Will Smith in the 90's. How you put up with some catastrophic teenage tantrums. How we are both as fiercely stubborn as each other, and won't admit when we're wrong. How you give me the tough love I need when I'm not staying true to my values.
But you know what Mum? I wouldn't change anything about you.
I love you for your strength, your unwavering determination, your ability to laugh at yourself and your relentless positivity, even in the toughest of the times. Your ability to love deeply, without judgement.
Mum, when I've fought some of my toughest battles, you were always my guiding light. You'd pick up the phone at 5am. You'd get on the next plane, just to make sure I was okay. You'd remind me that I could overcome whatever adversity stood in the way of my dreams. I know that I am a warrior, because I am cut from the same cloth as you.
I am so grateful for you Mum. A girl always needs her mum, whether she's 6 or 26. Everything I do in my life, is to make you proud. Because I am so proud to be your daughter.
Happy Mothers Day xx
Can you tell us about the journey with your daughter as she was involved in an unhealthy relationship?
I was unaware that Blair was in an unhealthy relationship until it was over, and even then she didn’t tell me until much later about how toxic the relationship with her partner had become. Blair went to live in Brisbane with her partner, a person we believed to be a caring, humble, friendly young man who would look after her in a new country. We had only seen this side of him when he interacted with us. He was friends with my stepson and was someone who had attended the school I taught at in New Zealand and I had never observed any behaviours that worried me.
How did you identify that your daughter was in an unhealthy relationship, what were some of the warning signs you observed?
As we were living in different countries I didn’t identify any warning signs, Blair and I used to ring each other and she never gave any indication anything was wrong. The times she sounded upset, she always had a reason, job worries, money, being homesick. I guess in retrospect some of these were signs. Blair and I have always had a very close and honest relationship so I believed she would tell me if there was anything wrong. Even when I visited her in Brisbane and saw them together, there was nothing to make me think things were not all as they seemed.
What changes did you observe in your daughter?
After the relationship was over, we moved to Australia and Blair lived with us until she moved back to New Zealand. She told me some of the reasons they had split up and she seemed to be handling it well. She was angry at the way she had been treated and not as confident as she had once been but she was also determined to follow her dreams and go back to NZ to study. I think she was relieved to be out of the relationship and said she had stayed a year too long. I think she realised she had lost herself and that she had put aside her wants and dreams in order to please her partner.
Could you share with us some of the turning points?
Some of the biggest battles Blair faced were after she moved back to New Zealand. She developed an eating disorder and become obsessed with how she looked. It was a really scary time for her. Fortunately she had fantastic friends who supported her until she finally told me everything. I think it was a turning point and a relief for her as she hadn’t wanted anyone to know. We were able to pay for her get the help she needed and ensure she didn’t have to worry about the cost as trying to go through the public health service proved to be impossible. We talked a lot and she came to visit us in Australia. Once I knew, I could offer her the support she needed. I never judged, I just wanted to be there for her and to let her know that I loved her no matter what.
How is your relationship with your daughter today and how did it get to this point?
Our relationship is great, I feel blessed to be her mother. We have loads of laughs together. We can talk about anything. We are in contact every second day…..she probably finds that annoying!!! It has always been important to me to have a loving relationship with my daughter as I didn’t have that with my mother so it is something I have consciously cultivated. I am so proud of her, she is such a kind, motivated, positive young woman, beautiful inside and out.
What makes you most proud of your daughter?
So many things. Blair is an intelligent, kind, caring, amazing young woman. She has bought me so much joy. Throughout this journey, she has gained a degree, was on the Dean’s list every year she studied, was named a Massey scholar when she graduated and worked part- time. She maintained friendships and gained an inner strength which enabled her to strive to achieve the things that are important to her. Blair has overcome many obstacles to become the fabulous young woman she is, and to be happy with the life she lives. She is self- reflective and resilient, and has the desire to pay it forward to others. I think she is so incredible to have carried on her life while overcoming the challenges she faced.
What is your perspective on self-love, and in what ways do you think it supports women’s choices and relationships?
Self-love is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t spoken about when I was growing up, in fact it would have considered to be selfish to take time to look after yourself before others. Fortunately much has changed and self-love is now something all young (and not so young) women should embrace. To me it means to know who you are as a person, what you stand for, what you value, what your deal breakers are, and accepting yourself for who you are. Self-love means believing in your own self-worth and when you do this, relationships become more rewarding for both people. If you value yourself as a person first, you are not looking for someone else to value you. It is very difficult to love and respect a person who doesn’t love and respect themselves. You are responsible for your happiness, not someone else.
What values are important to you when it comes to love?
Honesty, respect, faithfulness, being best friends but not forsaking your own friends, independence, wanting to be with that person not needing to be with them. Being able to compromise when you need to, being supportive of one another, open communication, being able to talk to one another. Knowing when to give each other space. Being able to be yourself always.
What does a healthy relationship look like to you?
Two people mutually respectful of each other, supporting each other’s dreams, laughing together, enjoying what each person brings to the relationship. Knowing when to give each other space, being ok with their partner spending time with friends and on their own. Enjoying being together, accepting the other persons good and not so good traits. Not giving up at the first hurdle, being committed to making it work. Having realistic and reasonable expectations of each other. Having a feeling of peace and contentment when you are together.
If you could share one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?
Be unashamedly and unapologetically you. I have stolen this from something Blair told me she admired about me. I have, and always will be me. I would rather be on my own than compromise who I am and what I stand for. As Dr Suess says, “Be who are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
Just be yourself, that is enough and if it is not, then that person it is not enough for you.
We've loved bringing you this Mothers Day edition of our Featured Stories. We wholeheartedly believe in the power and value of speaking up and sharing our own stories. If you're a young woman who is ready to share her experience of emotional abuse and journey of self-love we'd love to hear from you!
You could be our next Featured Storyteller!