How to Show Her She Can Be Anything She Wants

Whitney Fleming

I sighed heavily at the breakfast table while reading an email from a mom friend.

“I didn’t realize that the event started at 1 p.m., and I’m leading a video conference until 1:30. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

It wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just helping with a project in my fifth grader’s classroom, but I couldn’t help feeling a sting of annoyance.

“What’s wrong?” a small voice asked across the table. I looked into the furrowed brows of my daughter.

“Oh, it’s not a big deal. Mrs. Smith is going to be late to your class thing today because she has to lead a video conference meeting. We’ll figure it out.”

I thought my daughter would be as self-absorbed as I was about this inconvenience, so I was surprised when she loudly exclaimed, “Wow, cool! She gets to video conference? And she’s the boss of the whole meeting?”

“Um, yeah. She owns her own company. She leads meetings all the time. She’s a successful businesswoman, like a lot of the moms of kids at your school.”

“Wait, Ella’s mom owns her own company? I didn’t know that,” she said in awe.

As I watched my daughter’s eyes light up, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed this mom to succeed.

As a primarily stay-at-home mom, I rarely miss an event for one of my three daughters. I volunteer at their schools, manage soccer teams, and coordinate fundraisers.

Due to life circumstances — a husband who travels, moving around the country a few times, and birthing three kids in 16 months — it made sense for me to leave my career behind and stay at home. Although I never anticipated becoming a full-time mom, it works for my family, and I have zero regrets. My children understand that I work, even if I am not getting paid.

My daughters may choose a different path, however, and I need role models for them. I need successful examples of moms who balance a career and motherhood to the best of their abilities. And I must demonstrate that I support all women, not just the ones who are like me.

In that moment I found out my working mom friend was going to be late, I almost admonished her in front of my daughter. But, instead, I wanted to show her something else, something much more important.

It’s no longer about the Mommy Wars. It’s not about us. We made our choices.

We need to reshape the discussion to be about our daughters.

The best way to raise girls who believe they can do anything and be anyone is by supporting other women — women who make different choices than ourselves. It is the only way to show our girls that they control their destinies.

We need to support the moms who are working — by desire or by necessity — not chastise them because their schedules are not flexible. More offers to carpool so their children don’t miss events or to take in snacks they prepared but can’t deliver. Less judgment on their children’s lunches or tallying up how often they volunteer or making them feel badly for running late. I’m pretty sure dealing with guilt is a second job for most working moms, so let’s not add more.

Because the truth is, I feel guilty, too. I wonder if I am the best example to my girls.

Despite defining myself as a feminist, from the outside, our home appears traditional. My husband gets up in the morning and goes to work, while I cook for our family and do the majority of house cleaning. I run car pools while their father jets off to Seattle for a big meeting.

Am I demonstrating girl-power?

I am comfortable if they choose to follow my path, but I don’t want them to do it out of fear or resignation. I want them to understand they have the power of choice.

What I’m hoping is that they have the self-confidence to know any job they have — whether it’s a ditch digger, CEO, or even a stay-at-home mom — is worthy of respect and should be valued.

Feminists who came before us fought for the right to choose a life that was on their terms —whether that was staying at home or participating in the workforce, not either-or.

As women we need to work in tandem, not against each other. If we want our daughters to reach for the stars, we have to show them how we can lift each other up, not knock a fellow mom down.

And I’m starting with myself. I re-read my friend’s email and hit reply:

“Don’t worry. I got this!”

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It’s no longer about the Mommy Wars. It’s not about us. We made our choices. We need to reshape the discussion to be about our daughters.


This post was written by Whitney Fleming exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.

Whitney is the mom to three tween daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She is trying to break out of the typical suburban mom mold despite the fact that she is often seen driving her minivan around town to soccer tournaments and PTA events. She shares her views on parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine at Play Dates on Fridays.