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The Mom Stop column: One woman’s victory for all women

Lydia Seabol Avant
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Woodford Times

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

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My generation of women, those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, had it a lot better than our mothers and grandmothers. It was a time when women were urged to “do it all” and we as girls were told, growing up, that we could be anything we wanted to be.

And for the most part, that was true.

My mother, who was born in the mid-1950s and came of age in the early 1970s, said that during her time, women could be teachers or nurses, secretaries or flight attendants, or a handful of other positions deemed acceptable by society for “working girls.”

Unlike her brothers, my mom had to stay in town and live at home while she went to college. But she did graduate, after getting married and moving to California to finish school. My mother became an occupational therapist. She specialized in hand therapy, a field she worked in until she retired last year. For her daughters, it was normal having a mother who worked full time, who seemed to know everyone in town because either they had been her patient at some point or they had a family member who had.

But when it came to choosing our careers, we were never told we couldn’t do something. While I went into journalism - something I knew I wanted to do since sixth grade - my sister has had a very successful career in sales. We are both working moms, like our mother was, with six young children between the two of us. I am thankful that, unlike my mother or grandmothers, there was no limit imposed upon us. At least, not one that I could see.

But there are still glass ceilings to be broken and women to the lead the way.

After Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were announced as the president-elect and vice-president-elect on Nov. 7, I sat on the sofa in our family room with my husband, my mother and my 11-year-old daughter that evening, watching their post-election acceptance speeches. We represented three generations of women, who will ultimately likely have very different experiences growing up in the United States. But it was not lost on any of us that we were watching a historic moment, as Harris will be the first female vice president in the history of the U.S.

During Harris’ speech, she mentioned her late mother and how she was thinking of her and all “the generations of women, Black women, Asian, white, Latina, Native American women - who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight - women who fought and sacrificed so much for equality and liberty and justice for all.”

She went on to acknowledge “all the women who have worked to secure and protect the right to vote for over a century.”

“Tonight,” Harris said, “I reflect on their struggle, their determination, and the strength of their vision to see what can be unburdened by what has been. And I stand on their shoulders.”

While Harris spoke, I couldn’t help but glance over at my daughter, whose eyes were seemingly glued to the TV screen. I could tell she was soaking in what Harris was saying.

“But while I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” Harris continued. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

I then looked at my mom, smiled, and looked at my eldest daughter, who was clapping.

I was lucky to grow up during a time when little girls were told that women can do or be anything, with the right amount of work and determination. But my daughters are lucky, I believe, to grow up in a time where they can witness that that is actually true.

Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.