An Open Letter to My 6-Year-Old Daughter on 'The Mommy Wars'

Lean InDear sweet girl child,

You are only 6 years old right now. Your life is learning compound words, anticipating pizza day on Fridays with unabashed excitement, plotting how to get your dad to agree to a puppy, and swinging as high as you can in the backyard. You know nothing of leaning in (though you do it well) or Sheryl Sandberg or Marissa Mayer, or "Retro Wives" and feminists. I wish I could keep it that way.

Of course, we both know I can't. Therefore, as your mom, it falls on me to explain to you why I still do believe, no matter how many Anne-Marie Slaughter articles I read to the contrary, that you can and will "have it all."

See because the one thing I want you to know most is that "having it all" doesn't mean just one thing. It doesn't have to be just one way. It seems weirdly appropriate to say to you this week when I take you to the first in a series of Girls Leadership Institute workshops.


You asked me why your brother can't attend, why this is only for girls. And I struggled to explain it to you. You don't know anything about the challenges ahead. You know nothing of queen bees and wannabes and mean girls and date rape and anorexia and premature sexuality and teen drinking and all the things I wish we never had to talk about.

Right now you are so little and perfect and you think your life is always going to be this way, that you will marry your brother and have babies and live with mommy and daddy forever. My guess is when you are 16, you will not like that "marry your brother" part, but hey, it's the truth.

When I ask you what you want to be when you grow up, you tell me a "mommy."

But you have other goals, too. You want to be an astronaut, teacher, polar bear wrangler. I have no doubt you can and will do at least one of these things (though you didn't get your math skills from me!).

Some will tell you that you can't. They will tell you that you will have to make a choice. And the truth is, you will. You won't be able to spend all of your time up in space, exploring new planets while your babies are back here on Earth. Or, at least, you won't want to. Trust me on that. One week in Africa was hard enough for me last month and Ethiopia is hardly Mars.

But you will find another way. You will work on the ground and help launch shuttles. Or you will work on the design of new pieces of equipment. Or you will help train astronauts. Or you will go up once a year for a period of a week, crossing your fingers the whole time that your babies on the ground are safe and happy with your partner or their grandparents, but also knowing they are well-loved and cared for.

However it looks, though, you may wonder if you have this mythical "all." But you will also know. You do. It may not be the same "all" another woman has, but it shouldn't have to be. There were no promises that any one of us would have it all and certainly no promises it would be easy. But it's possible, baby girl, I promise you. It's possible to have some semblance of balance. Even if it topples every day and changes weekly, you can have a career you love, a family you love, and friends to round the whole things out.

And the thing I want from you is this: treasure it. Try to tune out the naysayers. There will always be angry people who try to scare women or try to sell magazines and newspapers (do you even know what those are anymore??) by making it seem like you aren't enough. But you are.

Whatever your life looks like, it will be enough. You WILL have it all. Lean in. On the moments you want to cry because there aren't enough hours in the day. On the moments where your son snuggles into your body and you smell his hair, so sweet and pure, and you know there is nowhere else you would rather be. On the moments where you are asked important questions and thinking about big things and feeling intellectually challenged and excited by your work, too. Be an astronaut. And a mom. And the owner of a snow cone franchise that sells shaved ice all year long. Whatever you do, just be happy. Lean in on every bit of it. And then you will have it all.

Love, Mommy

PS: Maybe don't try to be a polar bear trainer. I hear they aren't as nice as they look. XOXO.

What would you tell your daughter about the mommy wars?


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