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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redK8... redK8blueSt8

I find it insulting and ANTI-feminist that when your daughter answers "mommy" that you question her to give another answer, essentially telling her that being a mommy isn't good enough, and that it isn't an acceptable goal in and of itself! You're telling her that when she grows up maybe she CAN'T be whatever she wants to be, because what if all that she wants to be is a SAHM? Her mother has drummed it into her head that she'd be a total failure. Good gracious, suffragists must be rolling over in their graves.

nonmember avatar Amanda

Personally I think boys and girls both have the same capacity for success and difficulties during life so I don't understand why girls need to have extra help negotiating life compared to boys. Even though their are less women CEOs, more women getting degrees and unemployment is higher among men.

pezch... pezcharlotte

First commenter-you completely missed the point.

nonmember avatar Pam

Your message is a little confusing...either your daughter can have it all or she needs to find a balance...which is it? Last I checked you can't be in a spaceship for a week while breast feeding a baby or pregnant...I can't stand this "having it all" nonsense. No one can have it all. Life is constantly about decisions and choices. You cannot work 12+ hours a day on a career path to CEO-land without taking away from your personal life. You cannot spend hours every day involved with the PTA, cooking and having play dates without missing meetings or deadlines. So there is compromise, there is balance but there is no "having it all". You're setting yourself up to being mediocre at everything if you try to have it all.

BirdCo BirdCo

I wish we could change the mindset, instead of "having it all" why can't it be "having what makes you happy"?

Megan Watson

This is beautiful, Sasha. We each construct our own idea of what "having it all" means, and this idea changes continually. Thank you for empowering your daughter to search for her individual ideal and to keep reaching for it as her goals continue to morph.

Krystal Harvey

I love this.  I don't know why people have to nit pick it.  I'm pretty sure that when she said "haivng it all" she meant having what makes you happy because that is what having it all is.  

Gene Frith

If you have kids, and you undertand and love being a parent you understand this, you understand every word, it's the embodiment of what every parent should feel like and experience in life.

KiTia... KiTiasmommy78

I dont know about all the above commenting. My goal to teach my daughters and later if I have a son, is to teach them love. To love all things, to know everyone is bound to have their own opinion and thats okay, not to bash people for what they say or what they do, to be kind in everything they say and do, that it is not okay to be negative to other people for their opinions, beliefs or thoughts. But to accept others for their differences, to be who they are and to know some will always have a negative comment or gesture to throw at them and to know that they can take someone else's negativity and turn it into a positive. Girls, boys, sons and daughters all need to be taught that with a negative comment, word or gesture can truly hurt someone else and cause them pain. People always speak, say and do what they want. Maybe if we accept it and do not bash it maybe one day the world will be at peace. This is a letter from a mother to her daughter, her thoughts her feelings. And seriously some feel the need to bash it and be negative. shame on you.

sasan... sasandbug

i like this....i think that what she is trying to say to her, that "having it all" is in the eye of the beholder. I am not a CEO, do not strive to be, I am a student, mom of 3 and we live paycheck to payceck, barely at times....but I do have it all....always will. If I was a CEO, and somehow was able to do it and raise a family, then I suppose I would have it all to.....all in the eye of a the beholder. Do the best with what you got, be happy and always remember TODAY is the day that you should be living in. 

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