The secret magic of motherhood is you teach by being an example. So for Women’s History Month it got me thinking about being raised in a matriarch and the principles passed down for generations in my family.
I come from a long line of women who have shattered the workplace glass ceiling and made helping other women in need a priority. As each generation faces its own women’s empowerment and affirmative action issues, the women in my family live by one rule:
“Don’t rely on a man to do what you need to get done. You can do what a man can do and probably better.” A maxim my maternal grandma repeated just about every day of her life.
Shattering the Glass Ceiling
My maternal grandma was a trailblazer for women’s rights and created opportunities for future generations of women. From becoming the first female baseball coach for her sons’ little league (which caused major uproar in the community) to a pioneer for women in the workplace. For example, science always came easy to her so she earned her degree in biological science and worked as a laboratory technician for a local poultry processor. In the late 60s she became the first female to ever work for the City of Modesto’s wastewater treatment plant, then went on to become the first female laboratory technician, the first female industrial waste inspector, the City’s first female industrial waste inspector, the City’s first female water systems inspector and course control inspector.
Crazy fact: her workplace didn’t even have a women’s restroom – they had to build one just for her. And now, decades later other women can finally pee in peace in this workplace.
My grandma’s resume sounds impressive. But here’s where it gets really interesting, she was a single mom to seven children. Three of the children were triple boys (just mentioning that because OMG what a handful).
Women in the 50s and 60s were just learning “We Can Do It” with or without a husband thanks to WWII. This war marked the first time in history that women joined the workforce because the majority of men were drafted to the army. With all the men gone, the women had to learn how to do “men’s work” like welding, farming and more. This instilled a desire and skill for women that yes, they were capable and yes, they yearned for more than just meal planning and childrearing.
Helping Other Women In Need
My mom followed suit and supported many women in need too. There are so many examples to share, like the time her best friend’s twin daughters came to live with us so that their mom could straighten out her life. Or when a teenage mom on Welfare with two babies asked my mom and step-dad for a job at the dental office they owned. My mother agreed to hire her but on one condition – that she enroll in school and get an education. My parents in-turn would hire and train her to work at their dental office and would work around her school schedule. A few years later this young mom finished her AA degree and got a great offer from a company to be their full-time office manager.
Standing Up For Women
This principle of empowering women and doing what is right was instilled in me since birth. The women in my family always do what is right in principle. And sometimes, what is right is not always rewarded.
I was a scrappy little girl, just like my mom and grandma, and I learned how to stick up for myself and for others who couldn’t. For example, when I was in 5th grade our class was playing flag football. One of the girls kept complaining to our male teacher that a boy kept grabbing her breasts during the plays. The teacher brushed it off. When I realized that this teacher was unwilling or unable to handle this situation I decided I wasn’t going to standby and let this nasty little boy get away with it. So on the next play, after the football was hiked, I ran right up to the breast-grabbing boy and kicked him as hard as I could in the testicles. I was sent to the principle’s office immediately and my mom was called to come get me – I was suspended from school. After hearing the story of what happened, my mom defended me and had my back. She told the principle I was taught to always do what was right. Maybe kicking a boy in the testicles wasn’t really the “right” thing to do, but I did what was right with the tools I had to work with at 10 years old.
Teaching Men To Respect Women Starts At Home
I’m a mom to a young son and the values I wish to instill in him I do so by being an example. It’s apparent the pendulum has swung and women are having a much overdue and needed moment in changing the trajectory of our future. It’s my responsibility to teach my son how to respect and treat women. And yes, these lessons start as an infant.
For example, my son is a hugger and kisser. I made sure to teach him that he needs to ask first. And if a girl (or boy) says no, it’s ok. He can use his words to express how he feels. It’s upsetting when a friend declines his affection. But I know this is the foundation he needs as he grows and navigates even more intimate relationships as an adult male.
I want to be an example to show him women are capable of doing traditional male duties. So when he observes me changing the car tire he’s probably thinking, “Supermom.” But really he’s learning that the roles women and men take on aren’t as polarizing as they once were.
I hope one day if he chooses to be in a heterosexual relationship or have a daughter himself (regardless of sexual orientation), he’ll show the same respect I taught him to have for me.
For Women’s History Month, take a moment to reflect on your maternal linage. What values and principles have been passed down through the generations that inspire you? What challenges have your maternal mothers overcome and what lessons can you learn from them? As a parent to a daughter or son, how can you be an example to them to make a better and safer place for all genders?