Published in the Rains County Leader on August 2, 2016:
This past week, we have seen and heard a lot about strong women. Mothers have posted about how thrilled they are that, with Hillary Clinton having been nominated for the office of President of the United States by the Democratic Party, they now have a role model of a strong woman to hold up before their daughters. While we now have the opportunity to tell our girls as well as our boys that, if you are willing to work for it, the possibilities of what you can do with your life are virtually unlimited, we should make sure that our efforts to expand their horizons are not actually having the opposite effect.
I am notorious for multi- tasking when the TV is on, so I often miss the context of what is happening. During one of the DNC broadcasts, I caught part of a video of children talking about their life ambitions. One little girl said she wanted to be the first black woman president – a noble goal, and certainly within the realm of possibility – at least theoretically. The average lifespan in the United States is approaching 80 years old, and a person must be 35 years old to be president. Some quick math shows that this little girl will have approximately 11 shots at being elected, and that doesn’t take into consider the 30% of sitting presidents who will serve two terms. It also doesn’t take into consideration the staggering amounts of money required to mount a presidential campaign.
Sitting on the couch with your daughter and watching strong women reach goals that
have taken decades to reach can be an excellent growing and bonding experience, but so can looking through the family album, the church directory, or the local newspaper in search of other strong women closer to home. Tell her about the great-great grandmother who lost her mother early in life and took on the role of mother to her siblings and homemaker at the age of thirteen. Widowed early and with little education, she turned those domestic skills into a career as a sought after live-in caregiver for women with invalid mothers. Perhaps your daughter would like to meet the woman at church who raised her family, fought a winning battle with breast cancer, and then went on to be a successful teacher. She might also enjoy finding stories about successful women in the paper or even attending events with you where these same women speak about their accomplishments.
Thanks to social media, our children sometimes get a warped view of success by seeing people sky-rocket to fame by sitting in a bathtub of fruit loops. After watching strong women on television, you might consider helping your daughters look into their history. Find out about the education, career, and other preparations that have brought these women to this moment in their lives. Then, help your daughters choose stepping stones that will not only lead them toward their ultimate goal but will also make a contribution to society and give them a feeling of accomplishment while they wait for that call to accept the nomination.
A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos