Truth is, I never wanted children. Reality is, I have 3…and 2 grandchildren!
The oldest is my step-daughter who is 25; she came in to my life when she was 4. The middle sister is turning 18 as I submit this essay [full-circle moment in the making], and the youngest turned 16 one month ago. Being the mother of daughters is a liberating experience! We learn so much about ourselves as we watch them grow…the good, the bad, AND the ugly.
As the daughter, grand-daughter, and 18th great grand-daughter of strong, independent, and opinionated women, when I became a mother, I was bound and determined to “do it right.” Not sure that I knew what “it” was at that time, but 20 years later, and on the eve of my daughter’s 18th birthday, I can honestly say that the “it” that I was profoundly searching for is weaved within in each of my daughters, and the beauty of that development is stunning!
Faith – I prayed (and I prayed some more) that I would instill the type of faith in my daughters that I had experienced growing up. The type of faith that carries you through tough times, and gives you hope when all hope appears to be gone.
Courage & Conviction – I needed my daughters to know and to understand courage, and to have the conviction to be courageous even when it’s tough!
Inner-beauty – I wanted my daughters to enjoy and appreciate their inner beauty so they can embrace their external beauty…flaws and all, and at every stage of life.
Strength – Most importantly, I longed for my daughters to have the strength of the generations of our women who came before them, and to rely on their inner strength in the quest of always being true to themselves…ALWAYS!
Like the patchwork quilts that my Aunt Sally proudly pieced together, stitched, and quilted by hand, the fabric of my daughters’ being is the result of generations of strong-willed, determined, and unwavering women who did not blink in the face of adversity, even when life was at its most challenging.
Tomorrow, my middle daughter (who self identifies as a realist) turns 18. With this milestone, she earns the right to vote because of the courageous women who came before her… those who fought for the rights of women voters, and her ancestors who proudly voted each election. She will execute her right to vote with the possibility of Kentucky having its first woman elected to the U.S Senate, and her mother (ME!) on the ballot to be elected as her local School Board Representative (remember that full-circle moment I mentioned).
Through the lens of motherhood, is there space for feminism? Am I the definition of feminism? Absolutely! I proudly chose to be a wife, a mother, AND a professional woman working for and through change in my community! I proudly instilled courageous, faith-based strength and inner beauty in each of my daughters, and am stunned by the beauty of their development into strong women of this world, leading by example and with conviction.
Today, now more than ever, the words of Eleanor Roosevelt remain true and powerful, “When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.” There is room and space in the lives of women today, to care for others and to give of ourselves to others, while we stand strong for ourselves and for our beliefs.
Robin Gabbard works in philanthropy and community capacity development, and is passionate about youth leadership and the role of youth in developing a stronger, more inclusive future for Eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia.