When I was 8, I wanted to be the first woman president of the United States.
It was a sweet response, the one that would make parents beam and teachers pat you on the head. But now it strikes me as a bit sad that I had assumed no other woman would be elected president in the next thirty years, and indeed, it took nearly that long before one would.
Now I will decidedly not be the first woman president, not only because I did not pursue a career in politics, but also because someone will beat me to it before I turn 35.
The instances of sexism in my life have been rare, and thankfully mostly minor, or perhaps I’ve grown too accustomed to them to notice. My high school had no girls’ soccer team. A professor preferred male students. A few weeks into working at a day shelter for homeless people under the influence of alcohol and drugs, my boss told me, “I wasn’t sure about hiring you – I didn’t know if you could handle it as a woman.” A little down the road I was turned down for a job doing the work I had taught others to do during grad school because I was pregnant. The Human Resources representative that I talked to later assured me it was “all a misunderstanding” and encouraged me to reapply. I declined.
In my school days, when I dreamed of becoming president, women were mere footnotes in history, side bars on the page. They were never central characters or part of the actual story, just side notes as clearly the contributions of cooking, cleaning, raising children (as if that was all women had ever done) were not as important as whatever the men were doing. And now that my days center around cooking, cleaning and raising children, there are dark moments where I wonder if what I do is worthless and if I will be forgotten once my sons have accomplishments of their own.
When I was 16, I worked in the Senate and once held the door open for then Senator Hilary Clinton. She said thank you, and walked through heading towards her next important meeting. I burned the image into my brain – my own glimpse at history.
I hope today there are no eight year old girls planning on becoming the first female president, or even the second. I hope my children will offer me confused looks when I try to explain to my kids that when I grew up there were no presidents of color, and never women either, just as I did when I heard there were days of separate drinking fountains and when women marched in the street so there voices could become part of history.
I pray for a world where my children will be able to meet the demands of work and family without financial difficulties or fear they are letting one or the other down. I look forward to the day all children can actually become anything they want without being held back by their sex, skin or zip code.
In two weeks, I am voting for a woman for president. In two weeks I will have to explain to my children why, for the first time, wearing that sticker has made me cry.