Today is International Woman’s Day so I decided to take it back to middle school English class and write a little something about my female hero. Of course, there are lots of female heroes I could write about, but why write about a stranger when my whole life I had a female hero right beside me? Someone who embodied everything it means to be a strong, smart, and unstoppable force despite any obstacle.
My mommy, of course.
I swear I’m not biased. You can ask anyone and they would agree that my mom is a bad ass. For as long as I have been a human, she has been a presence in my home that is fierce and unflappable. You can’t break my mom. I’ve seen her go to battle with many, and she always comes out a winner. I don’t mean that she always wins the fight, but she never lets the losses get to her, and you’ll never be a loser if you don’t let yourself be.
Maybe that makes her sound scary, but she’s not. Sure, she has a “mom stare” that can turn grapes into raisins, but she’s filled with love, hugs, compliments, and endless support for whatever you want to do.
She’s just the best. That’s all there is to it.
For a lot of people, you learn how to be a woman from your mother, so I’m lucky that of all the moms in the world, I got her. There are a number of things about her that I see reflected in myself every day. Many of these things are lessons that I don’t think she even knew she was teaching.
The first thing I learned from my mother, is that it doesn’t matter that I am a girl. The concept that I am disadvantaged because I am a female was not something that I learned until much later in life, outside of my household. Never once was I told in my house that I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. My mom never even discussed the idea of sexism to me when I was young. Not because she doesn’t realize that it’s an issue, but because being a girl doesn’t mean you should ever stop reaching for the same opportunities, even if you don’t get them.
She also taught me that you can have it all, or none of it, or some of it, or whatever the hell you want. She told me once that her dream before finishing school was to be part of Corporate America. So right after graduation, she got a job with a telecommunications company and has been working in big offices with fancy titles ever since. Aside from her job, she also wanted a family. So she had one…and she kept her job…and she took a couple years off to homeschool one of her struggling kids (*cough*it was me*cough*) and then went back…and she came to soccer games and school plays and drove around the state to speech and singing competitions. She did things that way because she wanted to. Not because she had any obligation as a woman to choose family, career, or both.
When she wasn’t running off to work or being super mom, she was teaching me that gender norms are bullshit. At work, she was a boss, not putting up with any nonsense from her (outnumbering) male counterparts. At home, she was swinging sledgehammers or putting in drywall right alongside my dad. Yet, neither of those things stopped her from loving fun lipstick or owning an absurd number of scarves (seriously, she might need an intervention). A role model like that meant that I grew up in a family where I rock climbed, played in the mud, and learned how to insulate an attic. I also had a pretty big collection of Polly Pockets and I liked reading The Babysitter’s Club. To this day, I can not think of one thing I’ve ever wanted to try or a goal that I’ve set and thought to myself, “Wait, is this not something a woman should do?” My mom showed me women can do anything.
I think the most important thing that my mom taught me, is that as a woman it is necessary to be a whole person all on your own. My parents have been together for my entire life. They live together, share a family, share a home, and support each other in a relationship. While they share all that together, they are still complete individually. My mom has not taken the fact that she is married as a reason to be any less independent or capable. It is possible to be with someone without giving up the parts of you that, as a woman, you have fought your entire life to earn. Being a wife or a mother does not stop you from being important yourself. You do not live to cater to your families, but instead to have a mutual care and respect with them.
Like I said, I’m unbelievably lucky to have her. She taught me that being bold is admired as long as it’s not at the expense of being empathetic. She showed me that barriers are only there if you let them be and to never let anyone tell you how you’re supposed to act.
She taught me how to be a woman.