I have been trying to talk to my 4 year-old daughter about the election for the past month. Unfortunately, when she (and her brother) hear “president” they scream “What is it, Mommy! What did you get us?” “President” is a tad too close to “present” and they have one-track minds.
But yesterday morning, when Pen came in to snuggle at 5:41am (ugh), I knew it was the only time of day to get her undivided attention and talk to her about what happened the day before. I showed her pictures of President Elect Joe Biden. (She especially loved the one of him hugging his grandkids.) And then I told her that a woman was elected to be his partner and it was the first time it has ever happened. I showed pictures and videos of VP Elect Kamala Harris and told her that it meant she could be whatever she wanted when she grew up.
She’s four. She really just wanted to watch her Netflix in our bed. But for me, it was a special moment. Not just because of her, but for me too.
When I was a kid, I often said I wanted to be president. I never even thought it wasn’t possible because of my gender. That’s not how I was taught. Work hard, dream big. Work harder than everyone else, dream bigger. Anything is in reach.
But adulthood has slapped us all in the face enough times to remind us that hard work isn’t all that it takes. Color of skin. Gender. Sexuality. Privilege. Where you live. Where you don’t live. Timing. How you dress. This world has a thousand ways to remind you that hard work isn’t enough. On Saturday, as we talked about the election, a friend said “You should run for office” and I responded the way I have in the past “too many skeletons!” but he earnestly said “I wish you could see you the way I see you.” I have plenty of demons but his words have sounded in my head ever since. I wish I could too, Phil. When did young Meggie who wanted to be Deborah Norville or the first female president switch to “realistically, that’s not gonna happen/you’re not good enough” Meggie?
Four years ago, when my girl was just a few months old, I sobbed that we didn’t do enough to elect the first woman president. Yes, I am a proud democrat/liberal/progressive voter and activist but it wasn’t just that. It was the chance to prove that this world was ready for a woman leader. I wanted her to believe what I had stopped believing.
I have been intentional about telling my girl how strong, powerful, loved, and talented she is from the beginning. She has a beautiful mural on her wall, curated by me but painted by the talented Hoopla Letters with empowering quotes. She will never hear the F word (fat) from us. She’ll always know that we are proud of her for being kind and that being smart is more important than being beautiful. And at the same time, there isn’t a day that goes by that I won’t tell her she is beautiful and that beauty comes from her mind and her heart. She will always have to work hard, but we believe in her so much that she doesn’t have a choice not to believe in herself.
I won’t ever know if either we raised the most independent girl or if she just was born that way, (and trust me, there are many days I wish I had a calm, quiet, rule-following child to make my own life easier), but she is stubborn, independent, and strong-willed. I know that someday, she will move mountains. And I think she knows it too.
So on Saturday night, when I poured myself a glass of bubbles and watched Biden and Kamala address the nation, I cried. I cried hard. Because this is history. Forty-one years after the United Kingdom elected Margaret Thatcher, the US voted a female into the White House. And a woman of color at that! This is what so many of us have wished to see. It’s how I felt when a friend was the first female AVP in my business or when I see a female SVP on forecast calls. I surge with pride and respect. Emotion. Relief.
And on Saturday, it was clear:
The ceiling has been broken. Lift your head high.
I believed again, not just for me, but for P, that women all over the world saw evidence that they can do what men can do.
So women reading this: stand tall with me. Take all that confidence you have in yourself but haven’t seen from others and speak it loudly. Remind people who interrupt that you’re speaking. Speak loud. Speak proud. Let’s talk about our accomplishments with as much conviction as our peers talk about theirs. BE EMOTIONAL (I have cried to my boss at least 5x this year, I haven’t been fired yet!) Be passionate. Laugh. Wear the damn v-neck sweater.
And to those that read this and think I am pulling the “female card” — you’re right. I am. I am done apologizing for my tears at work. I am done putting up with misogyny from anyone I encounter — whether that be a colleague or the (almost former) President. You want to compete with me? Bring it. It’s possible that I have had to work harder, smarter and more strategically. LFG.
And as a mom, I will teach my children the importance of hard work. Of kindness and compassion and empathy. I will teach them to never make fun of people, and to lift as they climb. But I will also teach them that gender, color, money, neighborhood, looks, sexuality, aren’t what determines who you are.
Nothing is unreachable, ladies. Kamala is mother effing Vice President of the United States of America.
And as my favorite kid’s book states, “Penny for President. I like the sounds of that.”