A few days ago, my mom turned 57 years old. I think back to when I was a kid, and she was this strong, imposing, all-knowing adult. My mom is still that all-knowing adult, just a bit more physically fragile with each passing year. Now that I am an adult, and a terrible one at that, I'm trying to implement all of her life lessons -- particularly those that guide women. What shocks me the most about these ideals is just how applicable they are today, as women's rights are under threat both in our government and in our society. Therefore, I ask you to carry these ideals forward, and remember them the next time a President mocks sexual assault, the next time your coworker feels the need to comment on your relationship status, the next time a family member comments on your clothing, until there's no longer a "next time."
1. Don't wait to get married to start your life
My mother was born in the 1960s in India, to a moderately progressive family for the time. When she reached her twenties, my grandparents started to search for suitors in hopes that she would choose someone she liked enough to marry them. However, years passed and she did not find herself ready to marry. I mean, my theory is that she was just too good for all of those suitors, but I digress. After not securing a husband, what was then the equivalent to security, she decided she would take up her company's offer to work in New York, where she had no family and no friends. My mother not only rejected marriage as it was not convenient to her yet, but she also rejected the societal rule that a woman should not travel alone unsupervised. Essentially, she proved that marriage is often a social construct that ties a woman to a man, as well as social demands that hinder her from achieving her personal goals.
2. By all means, remain financially independent
As soon as I put my piggy bank money in an actual bank, with an ATM and everything, my mother told me this, "make sure you always keep that money for yourself and accessible to only you. Never share your personal bank account with anyone, especially your spouse. That's your hard-earned money." Aside from a joint account with a partner, one should be financially independent. This concept was rather shocking to me at first in that girls are taught from a very young age to fall in love, and therefore give their everything to their husband. My mother stressed a woman's right to work and a woman's right to equal pay. She also highlighted in this sad reality, that women cannot rely on society nor on men to take care of them as history has shown. When you have money, keep it. Use it wisely.
3. Having both a career and a family is possible
Following the motto of financial independence, my mother proved to me that a career and a family are possible. When I was a child, I often hated the fact that my mother worked late and even worked when she was at home. But now, I see that as proof of how hardworking and independent she is. She became the breadwinner at home and a leader at work. Men never have to choose between career and family. The pathetic maternity leave in the United States is evidence of this. Women are discouraged from trying to have both, and are forced into making a choice they shouldn't have to. My mother and many women of her generation are living evidence that a career and a family are both possible.
4. Culture shouldn't have the final say on what you can do
Coming from an Indian, traditional background, my mother did not have many options laid out for her as I do today. But that does not matter, because at the end of the day it truly is "your life." Culture and religion are beautiful things to honor but can blind us from what would benefit us most. Throughout history, men have used "proper" society as a way to control the actions of women. My mom could have lived to please society, but she didn't and I'm so grateful for that.
5. Never, ever, give up
A vague saying that can apply to nearly everything, but should be felt by all women. Women are now afraid of calling themselves "feminists," of speaking their minds due to a lack of solidarity. We as women must always be vigilant and aware of what society and politics do to us. Never forget that it was our mothers and grandmothers who fought for our basic rights today. When those rights are threatened, honor the ladies in our lives by never, ever, giving up.