Globe-trotting Sheffield mum gets four Mother’s Days

Christmas 2015 with some of the family
Christmas 2015 with some of the family

This Mother’s Day is going to be a very special one for Ruth Adams.

All of her children and grandchildren will be home to spend it with her – no mean feat considering her family is spread right across the globe.

A family portrait showing Ruth and Alan with all five children - Sarah, Esther, Matt and the couple's two 'forever daughters'

A family portrait showing Ruth and Alan with all five children - Sarah, Esther, Matt and the couple's two 'forever daughters'

Her eldest daughter Sarah, aged 38, lives in Barcelona, Spain, middle-child Esther, 36, lives in New York in America, and son Matt, 33, lives in Germany’s Berlin.

Luckily for Ruth, she’s the first to admit she was never a clingy mum.

‘Give them roots and then give them wings – it’s the motto I’ve always parented by,” smiles Ruth, who lived in Aston while her family was growing up and just recently downsized to an apartment in Bakewell with husband Alan.

“I wasn’t one of those mums who stood crying at the school gates on her kids’ first day. I loved every stage of parenting and was happy to watch them grow up and become independent.

Ruth and Alan at the airport with two of their grandchildren

Ruth and Alan at the airport with two of their grandchildren

“My children and I are very close and they’ve always had secure roots at home with me and my husband; it’s given them the confidence to go off and live their lives to the full.”

As she talks to me, Ruth is sitting in her daughter’s New York apartment cuddling her brand new grandaughter – her third grandchild. And this is quite an ordinary week for Ruth, who says she and Alan seem to spend all their time travelling the world visiting family.

“We aim to see one of the kids a month, so we’ll do a weekend in Berlin, then the following month we’ll spend a few days in Barcelona, then the next month fly over to New York, then we just go around all over again – it’s a wonderful way to live!

“At Christmas, my daughter hopped on a plane last minute and brought the kids over for a few days, then my son called in for a few days with his wife before they headed up to Ireland to see his in-laws, so it’s a real jet-setting family we have.”

Ruth gets plenty of time with her grandchildren and says she has Skype to thank for keeping her present in their lives

Ruth gets plenty of time with her grandchildren and says she has Skype to thank for keeping her present in their lives

And Ruth says they have Skype to thank for making the distance manageable.

“I know some mums hate it even when their kids live at the other side of Sheffield, but having your family spread all over the world isn’t that tough these days.

“My husband and I get a Skype from at least one of the kids a day and we can be on with them for an hour or more, so we really do feel like we’ve had a good visit by the time we sign off.

“And I may be 3,000 miles away, but, thanks to Skype, I’m able to still enjoy a really close relationship with my grandchildren – we’ll read stories together or play games, or they’ll have some Playdough out on their table and I’ll have some out on mine and we’ll build things together, it’s really wonderful. I might not get to hold them as much as I’d like, but Skype keeps me present in their lives.

“If we were relying on phone calls and letters, my grandchildren wouldn’t know me, so we’re really lucky.”

Ruth was 24 when she had her first child and says she loved being a mother from the very beginning.

“Alan and I had both had quite strict upbringings and we wanted to be more lenient with our own children,” she says.

“Our kids were pretty free to do what they wanted as long as we always knew where they were and when they would be back.

“They laugh now and say they never had to go through a rebellious phase as we didn’t give them anything to rebel against!

“It was hectic at times, but back then there was much more of a sense of just getting on with things. I sound like my mother to say that, but it’s true – you had kids and got on with it.”

Alan was working as a social worker in Sheffield and Ruth worked for a local charity while the children were young.

Then one day, about 17 years ago, their work brought two little girls into their lives, and their family grew by two.

“Two little girls, our ‘forever daughters’ came to live with us,” says Ruth.

“Both my eldest were at university at the time and Matt was just finishing up school and suddenly we had two tiny people in the house again.

“They’re both all grown up now, of course, and the youngest has just moved out, which means it’s just myself and Alan in the house again for the first time in 40 years.”

And the couple decided to put their new found free time to good use, launching Taafa in Sheffield last year - a social enterprise which aims to unlock possibilities for those living and working with challenging children.

Ruth adds: “Through our work, we have both always been very passionate about supporting anyone involved with children and young people who have early trauma or attachment issues.

“Taafa basically teaches emotional first aid to people likely to come into contact with children like this – teachers, social workers – so they’re better equipped to help the children when they need it.”

And Ruth says that when it comes to Mother’s Day, she’s usually in for a whole host of celebrations, as each country her five children are based in has its own day to celebrate mums.

“I get four Mother’s Days, which is pretty wonderful,” says Ruth.

“Of course having all the family under one roof this weekend is the best Mother’s Day gift I could ask for.

“Surprisingly though, as I find myself with no children in the house after 39 years of constant parenting, there’s no hint of Empty Nest Syndrome in sight. For me, the nest seems to keep getting fuller, it’s just expanded to other towns, cities and continents.”