How do I tell my daughters?
I woke up this morning asking that question, wondering how I would break the news to my two little girls. I wasn’t alone.
“I tucked her in last night telling her she was going to have a woman president tomorrow,” texted one girlfriend who has a seven-year-old daughter. “And I bought a special breakfast. Why did I do that!???”
A male friend with twin girls messaged the following: “I’ve spent the last three months preparing them for the pride and empowerment of a woman president.” And yet another friend with a first-grader shared her disappointment (and optimism) on Facebook: “I was supposed to wake her up around midnight with happy tears and champagne and giddiness. Instead, this morning I tried to explain that no matter what, love will win eventually.”
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I suppose it’s at least partly our fault—our current predicament with our daughters, that is. We wanted that win now. We wanted that win so badly that we didn't realize just how many people out there didn't.
Hillary Clinton was far from a perfect candidate. But, putting politics aside for a moment—because we’ve had enough of that—it was hard not to get swept up with the tantalizing idea of finally having a woman in the White House.
It seemed so close, which made it easy to get our daughters excited about the prospect, to talk about it as if it wasn’t just a prospect. Easy to take our girls with us to polling stations, snap their pics (“I voted” stickers on their shirts or foreheads) and upload to social media, all in the name of what we thought would be a historic presidential election. Most importantly: easy to think that the impending normalization of a woman in such a position of power would have immense impact on our daughters’ psyches—and on their daughters, and generations of girls to come.
I grew up in Israel, a region of the world that is plagued with its own issues. But as a little girl, I learned about Golda Meir, the country’s fourth prime minister. Meir was once referred to as “the best man in government,” which pretty much says it all. Yes, she was one of very few women in an environment still dominated by men. But she was respected. And she was a model. Whether or not you liked her political ideology, she was and is a part of the country’s history. We learned about her in books, in museums, and in media. She was one of our Founding Fathers.
As a female journalist who often writes about women in power, a single mother with two girls, and a proud, naturalized U.S. citizen, I wanted my daughters to have that gift: a model.
And so, like many of us, I found myself laying in bed this morning, thinking of how to break the news to my children. My girls, ages five and six, still crawl into my bed most nights, and so I was sandwiched between them as the thoughts rolled through my head and the tears started flowing.
The younger one woke up and snuggled next to me. I told her that we would not have a woman president, at least not yet. She hugged me tighter and said, “it’s going to be all right.” And I didn’t have to say anything else. At least not now.
I’m sure there will be questions. I’m sure there will be conversations to come. I’m also sure that someday—hopefully in the not-so-distant-future—we will have the opportunity to get our daughters excited once again and to try to elect another qualified woman as President of the United States. To snap our girls' pics and upload to whatever social network is hot in that moment. And to celebrate with champagne, and breakfast, and love.
I know that there are many Americans who voted for Donald Trump who would also like to see a woman in the White House, but disliked or disagreed with Hillary Clinton so much that it overrode that desire. And I understand.
But the reality is that we ended up electing a man who for years has made derogatory and inflammatory statements about women, minorities, and immigrants. So over the next few days and weeks and months, talk to your daughters—even those of you who didn’t vote for the female candidate and who didn't get them all excited only to find yourself having to teach disappointment. Because we all have a lot of explaining to do.