A Feminist Mother-Daughter Dream Team
Gloria Steinem wrote in her latest book, My Life on the Road, “There are events that divide our lives into before and after.” Like many women around the world, my “after” began when I heard the first cries of my newborn child. That cloudy July day will forever be the best day of my life. The day I met my soul mate, Aurora.
I was a month shy of my 21st birthday when I gave birth to my daughter. I have faced certain challenges being a young mother, but my youth has also given me the opportunity to grow alongside my little one. As an AAUW student organization leader and National Student Advisory Council member, I advocate for women, feminism, and social justice on campus and in my local community. Feminism has influenced me in many great ways, but most of all it has helped shape my relationship with my daughter. As a feminist, I find myself inspired to show her all that she is capable of doing — in short, everything. Here are some of my favorite parts of raising a feminist daughter.
1. We learn together.
I returned to college after spending a year at home getting to know my daughter. I make a conscious effort to take the time to share what I am learning. Aurora is the perfect pupil. She is wildly curious, and she’s happy to let me share pictures, articles, and thoughts with her. I have learned a lot from her too: patience, gentleness, and thankfulness. She has also taught me that “small” victories deserve celebration. Whether it is mastering counting to five or earning an A on an exam, we always celebrate our successes together.
2. We travel together.
I have wanderlust in my veins. It is one of the many wonderful gifts that I received from my own mother. At least once a year I become restless, the desire for adventure so great that it becomes a near obsession. Having a daughter has not dulled this compulsion in the slightest. Last summer we took our first big trip together, spending six weeks in Bolivia. It was frightening to be on our own in a foreign country without any friends or family to help us, but the trip was unforgettable. I will never stop telling her about the second birthday she celebrated in South America and the friends she made along the way.
3. We don’t shy away from the hard stuff.
I know what you’re thinking. What “hard stuff” do you need to discuss with a 2-year-old? I was really shy when I was little, even with my mom. I did not shed that shyness until I was a mother. Starting when Aurora was an infant, I would talk to her. Really talk to her, as if she understood and could answer back. When the Baltimore uprising occurred in the spring of 2015, we talked about it. When bombs started going off in Planned Parenthoods around the country, we talked about it. After watching a program about drug abuse, I sat down and talked to her about the dangers of illicit drugs. We talk about our bodies, we talk about our fears (and check for monsters in the closet), and we talk about our days. Establishing an open line of communication with her at this early age is important to me because if we can talk about everything now, I’m hoping the “hard stuff” won’t be difficult to talk about later.
4. We share our passions.
Aurora is turning 3 this year, so her passions include Frozen characters, her Linus-like attachment to her blanket, and blueberries. I listen to all her stories and ask her serious questions about her interests (toddlers can be very serious), and in turn, I share my passions with her. I mark passages in books to read to her and tell her summaries of my papers that make me especially proud.
At least once a month, Aurora accompanies me to my AAUW student organization meetings. I pack her a bag of snacks, soy milk, and toys and she runs around the room and hides under desks while I lead discussions about upcoming events and cut up magazines for our monthly zine. In October, Aurora and I hosted an AAUW table at a domestic violence vigil on campus. Afterwards we talked about the history of abuse in our family and the importance of asking for help and helping others. I take her to events like these hoping she will carry on my passion for social equality and will join AAUW’s mission one day. Most important, I hope that she is able to recognize and follow her own passions early in life.
5. We have fun together.
Although my favorite activities include reading and protesting, I always make sure to take the time to have fun with my girl. We love to have dance parties and color, and on warm days I pull Aurora in her red wagon to picnics. Sometimes I get so caught up in my own activities that I have to really push myself to make this time with her, but I never regret it. It is during these times that she becomes the teacher, revealing her world of innocence and imagination to me. And these moments restore me with the inspiration I need to conquer every difficulty along my path.
In the past three years I have included my daughter in all my work as an activist and a student. We have crossed continents, read newspaper articles, and attended rallies together. I share everything with her, because I want her to know everything I know and everything I don’t. Being a feminist mother is not always easy but it is always an adventure.