I come from a long line of strong women. My grandmother scrounged and scrimped and worked multiple jobs to raise her three children. She later went on to take care of my sister and me when we were young, while my mother trotted off to Spanish Harlem to work as a pioneer high-risk ultrasound tech Monday through Friday, and then at a private clinic in Midtown as a nurse on Saturdays. My grandmother battled and beat stomach cancer, just as my mom battled and beat breast cancer many years later.
Through it all, they never faltered in cooking us amazing home meals, reading bedtime stories, playing games, and tucking us in each night no matter what was going on in their individual worlds. Throughout their life challenges — including the financial stress that comes from raising children alone in New York City — they never lost their ability to fascinate us with their overwhelming love, hugs, and fun.
My story is profound, but it’s not unique. I bet you can probably think of a similar story in your family.
Most moms don’t give themselves nearly enough credit for what they do each and every day. Despite the incredible amount of tasks we perform — like waking up kids; helping with homework; feeding them; getting them to appointments, after-school activities, and sporting events; as well as some moms also going to work — on top of all that, we arrange social calendars, take care of our homes, and try to find time to help our friends and family. And this is just a tiny taste of what we do. We all know there is so much more.
What gets me is when I see moms selling themselves short, and not giving themselves enough credit. Women are so strong and powerful, and we need to realize our own worth. Early on in my publishing career, I quickly grasped how many of our female employees would apologize, not speak up for themselves, and settle for less than wanted, whether it be workload or salary. In stark contrast, male employees — even those with little experience — would rally for themselves consistently. The more I looked, the more I saw this dynamic repeat itself in various settings, and not only magazine staffrooms, but also doctor’s offices, train stations, and supermarkets.
Worst of all, I saw it in myself. Little by little over the years, I looked to the strong women who did not settle, who fought for their rights, and who stood up for themselves, from my own mother and grandmother to my mentor and boss and friend, and I learned. And after so many years of being non-confrontational at all costs, what finally made me push through the uncomfortable feelings and fight for my rights was my kids, because what hope did they have, if they didn’t see me do it for myself?
The funny and surprising and wonderful thing was that the more I stood up for myself, the more I liked myself and the more life seemingly blossomed into new and exciting experiences. Was it hard? Of course! Is it still hard? Yeah, it is. But anything worth fighting for is always hard, and it helps you grow and develop into being what you were destined to be, and become who you were meant to become.
The quote, “She believed she could, so she did” should be hung up in every little girl’s room. We need reminders of our strength, and there is no better reminder than those innocent eyes that look up to us each day for guidance.
Happy Mother’s Day to all those strong mamas out there!
Danielle Sullivan is a writer living in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @Deewrite.