MY mother was a real firebrand. A working-class woman born in Glasgow in 1940, during the Second World War, she was a real fighter and a hard worker.

She was a tiny woman, and it was always a source of amusement that, by the time they’d reached their teenage years, she’d have to ask my three big brothers to sit down so that she could give them a row for something.

As a mother she was a real warrior; she wasn’t frightened to give any of us the telling off that we often needed, but equally she fought our corners whenever circumstances required it, and the intellect and strength of this wee woman was always her opponents’ biggest surprise.

I always remember being told the story of my mum marching to the council offices on a Friday afternoon and staging a one-woman sit in, after repeated attempts to have essential repairs carried out in our home. Council officers threatened to phone the police, and she told them to go right ahead.

Fiona Bruce: I have a fair dose of working mother’s guilt

When the police turned up to arrest her, she talked them round and they ended up on her side. Needless to say, the council relented.

But the other thing about my mum was that she was a worker. I remember going along with her to work sometimes when she had weekend cleaning jobs. When my brothers and I got older, she took on more permanent work as a shop assistant.

I often remember my mum, who died in 2009, as a tired woman. When I was a kid and a bundle of energy, I used to wonder why she was so exhausted all the time. It’s only now that I’m a worker myself that I understand: it wasn’t the part-time work that was the tough bit, it was the full-time, all-consuming job of being a mother, and her absolute and total dedication to it.

I was reminded of that this week when I read remarks made by BBC newsreader Fiona Bruce in a magazine interview, about the guilt she feels as a working mother.

Speaking of her own mum, who didn’t work after having children, Bruce said: “I have two children and I do judge my parenting skills against hers and often find myself falling short.

“We have had the same nanny for 20 years and that has made so much of my working life possible.

“But I do have a fair dose of working mother’s guilt. Would it have been better for my children had I been at home all the time? I don’t know. I’ve asked them and they say no.”

Fiona Bruce: I have a fair dose of working mother’s guilt

Well I have a great deal of respect for Bruce. I’m not sure I could have kids and work. When I’ve put in a shift at the office, I often wonder what it would be like if I then had to get myself over to a nursery or school to pick up a couple of children. I’d have to get them home, get them fed, clean their clothes, check up on homework, stop them from killing each other (if they were anything like my brothers and I …), and keep a house tidy with a couple of permanent tornados living in it.

I’d also need to make time to clean, pay bills, take care of all the endless day-to-day duties that come with having kids, and keep a diary full of appointments and events in order.

My impression of motherhood is that it is a tremendously hard job, and women who choose to be non-working mothers should be afforded the utmost respect for the essential and valuable contribution they make to society by raising children. They are an economic asset, and it’s scandalous that we ever allowed a narrative to emerge that treated the huge job of motherhood like an expectation on account of biology.

But the crux of it, for me, is choice. Whether you’re a mother, a father, a step-parent or a guardian, you deserve to be valued in that role. But if you choose another route, a career, then that deserves respect, too. What has landed unfairly on women is the modern expectation to do both.

Because we don’t fully respect the work of mothers, women themselves often feel like the lack of a high-flying career is a failure of modern femininity. But equally, like Bruce, when they choose to keep a career, they feel like they’ve failed at motherhood.

Fiona Bruce: I have a fair dose of working mother’s guilt

The choice cannot be to either be a mother without a career or a career woman without children. Men have never had to make that choice. Men who work hard at their careers and provide for their families are almost heroic for their efforts. Women who do the same are often perceived as greedy and neglectful.

Bruce’s achievements are an inspiration to her children, just like my mother’s work ethic inspired me. However, in a better world her life would have been easier, and that childhood memory of my tired mother is an enduring motivation for me to make sure women are appreciated fully for the monumental work they do.