Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A little history

My mother's mother spent her life raising a house full of children - which could not have been a small task. She was industrious in ways that I could probably not even imagine today, because I don't have to. Her children showed up for mass on-time, clean, and based on some of the stories I have heard - must have been a source of pride for both her and my grandpa. She taught her children to do the right thing, which included my mother making what I still consider to be extraordinary sacrifices when another family in their community faced terrible circumstances. At the same time my grandmother was teaching her children right from wrong, she encouraged her daughters to learn to drive, giving them independence she didn't have. I never met her, but picture her to be a very strong woman. Part of her life, women were not allowed to vote. She probably never dreamed of a woman becoming President.

My mother spent part of her life raising a (smaller) house full of children and did fulfill her mother's wish that she learn to drive. My mother had help from my dad raising her children - help that I don't imagine my grandmother received (though I'm sure my grandfather did some of the child-rearing). My mother's children (my sister and I) also showed up for mass on-time, clean, and I think made her and my father proud. She also taught us to do the right thing, and though we struggle, we do know what the right thing is in most situations. She is also a very industrious woman and her skills include making dresses that were not only extremely memorable and special to me, they have been extremely special to Helen. At the same time my mother was teaching my sister and me right from wrong, she had a job outside the home (part-time, part-year, typically). This job gave her access to income and spending choices that she might not have felt she would have absent that job. At that job, she ultimately made an awful lot of (mostly) male bosses look good. It could be tremendously stressful and she somehow managed to balance work and family in extraordinary ways. She is a very strong woman. As I watched how hard she worked, something deep inside me told me that I was never going to do her job, I was going to do something more independent. She has been able to vote her entire lifetime - but there have been no women in the House and Senate for a good number of those years she could vote. It breaks my heart that she may never see a woman become President.

I spend a significant part of my life raising a (same size as my mother) house full of children. I have access to a tremendous amount of assistance including my parents who have been on-call to help in childcare emergencies or wants for my children's entire life. I have had live-out nannies, live-in au pairs, a team of babysitters, and friends who provide me great assistance. I have assistance cleaning my house. Ed bears a ton of childcare and household responsibilities and I'm certain has cooked more meals than my father and grandfather combined - despite the fact that he's been on this earth many fewer days than my grandfather was and my father has been. My children are (mostly) clean, compassionate people who bring me great joy and pride. I, too, try and teach them right and wrong. I have worked every schedule imaginable to accommodate my changing desires and family, but throughout all that time - I have spent most of  my career directing my own work. I have opportunities available to me that were not available to previous generations of women. I make enough money that I could reasonably expect to be able to support myself and my children. I was represented in the Senate by Nancy (Landon) Kassebaum (Baker) from the time I was five until I turned 24. I remember being told that girls can be anything they choose and I also remember the crushing realization that sometimes making certain career choices would be met with great resistance. I hear America loudly when it rejects women in power - despite many examples of some women being very powerful. If nothing else, this campaign has provoked many conversations with friends who have amazing careers about the various forms of sexism that still permeate our days. I am also a strong and industrious woman, though it shows in different ways than it did for my mother or grandmother. I am not certain I will ever see a woman President.

Helen is too young to have raised children though she has told me she will have two of them. She attends school in one of the highest ranked districts in the country and is growing up in a world where we understand girls and boys are often treated differently by virtue of their gender. We (meaning adults) talk about it, a lot. We also understand (largely) that this is not a good thing and that women should have the opportunity to succeed and not face systemic bias. Even at her young age, she understands that women have not had their due. She sees it when we read books about famous scientists - and she has a hard time finding the women. She sees it when people use "he" as a gender-neutral pronoun, and by sheer force of will, she has actually gotten Ed to stop reverting to "he" all the time. Pokemon can be girls, too. She is looking around and starting to evaluate how fair the world really is - and she discusses the things she sees with me often. I try and assure her the world is changing - and sometimes even explain to her how we got to where we are. There is not doubt we have made progress. She is a leader, a protester, a teacher, and a very opinionated person. She also brings tremendous caring and thoughtfulness where she goes along with a gift for synthesizing information. Hers is a voice that should be included. She is industrious, often solving her own problems. She is my heart and my soul. And I think she deserves to see a woman become President and watch remaining barriers fall.

Because at some point, we're going to have to either stop telling girls they can be anything they want, or come clean and let them know there are some jobs that are never going to be open to them.


(And while I thought I *might* have passed the bursting into tears phase of this grief, I discovered yesterday when I was out walking that I'm not quite there. A passerby saw my "I'm with her" button, we started talking, and then we shared a few tears.)


  1. Nice post - And I am sad to say, I probably will not live to see a woman in the White House.

  2. I had coffee with another working mom this morning and we touched on one of your points: how our opportunity to work largely independent jobs and weave that together with home-making and child-rearing was nearly unimaginable a generation ago. Also, how incredibly privileged and grateful we are to have this opportunity.

    We lamented our loss and what feels like bitter unfairness.