As a little girl, my father used to tell me that I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up, including - President of the United States or the president of a corporation. It was critically important to him that his two girls could sustain themselves financially… in case our husbands died. Though I wanted to be a social worker, he advocated voraciously for a business degree followed by law school. If my sister was to major in English, it was an “all the way” proposition until she received her PhD.
My father’s family was not wealthy, his father a plumber and the wild hare out of seven brothers, who died early at 54. He helped take care of his mother until her death just a couple of days before my own wedding. He knew what it was like for a woman to be without and he committed his own would have other options.
A man who stayed true to his marriage for 54 years until his death, divorce was not a word in his vocabulary, nor on his radar screen, for either of his girls. The messages we received were a product of the times, mixed and confusing for young women. Be strong at the office, you can do the job any man can do. On the flip side, be sweet and kind at home and understand who wears the pants. Until you do Linda, your marriage and resulting life will be rocky.
I never could reconcile these messages and it took me many, many years to understand what a subliminal conflict they created in my life. It’s hard enough to switch hats at the end of each day when you go from your professional life to family time. But, how do you go from being forthright to subduing your voice just because you walked through the door to your home? I confess that even now, though I won almost every lawsuit I tried as a litigator, I shy away from conflict with friends and family.
The #MeToo Movement has reminded me of how far we have come in some ways and yet in others, we have not moved an inch. My girls, now grown women and mothers, have so many more professional opportunities than I was afforded, being one of only six women in my law school class. Recently, I watched the RDG movie with another female lawyer my age and we completely resonated with the roadblocks Justice Ginsburg faced. We understood what the loss of voice feels like in a world that won’t listen.
International Women’s Day is tomorrow, a day I have celebrated for many years. For me it honors the voices of the millions of women before me, and many who still live their lives dreaming of the day that they can be fearless, when the moment comes that they are heard and respected. In today’s world of selfies and a focus on Me in our modern societies, my prayer is that we pause and listen quietly for the voices of those women who aren’t quite as fortunate - those who are pleading silently in deafening stillness to be heard.
Recently a new little girl joined our family. As I held this tiny baby, I found that I didn’t utter the same storyline I had repeated to my girls, “Someday you can be President if you want to!” for I no longer see it as the pinnacle of success. Instead, I simply whispered to her, “Someday your voice will give lift to your hopes and dreams, and because of that, the world will be a better place.”
Copyright © 2019
Linda Lattimore – all rights reserved