It's safe to say Vice President-elect Kamala Harris has already inspired women and girls across the country. Though her nomination and election were not without controversy due to her past prosecution career, there is no denying that she has made history and that seeing a woman elected to one of the highest offices in the land has deep meaning. As vice president-elect, Harris has broken barriers thrice over for generations of women: she will be the first Black and first South Asian vice president, as well as the first woman to serve as vice president.
But besides her work, Harris is a stepmom who has the love and support of her and her husband's two children, Cole and Ella, whom she referred to in her election victory speech as "our children." The children lovingly refer to her as "Momala," Harris wrote in an essay for Elle, because they "agreed that [they] didn't like the term 'stepmom.'" And it's the fact that we have a mom in a position of power that is most exciting to me.
Because frankly, it's about time. Moms have a unique perspective — a mom like Harris even more so. She understands different family dynamics and how they impact lives because she's lived it. Not only is she a stepmom to children of divorced parents, but she too is a child of divorce. She and her husband's ex-wife are also friends. She's spoken before on the importance of using love as a basis for family decisions — an important piece of the puzzle that's not often talked about in the hallowed halls of our Capitol.
But like any other working mom, Harris also understand the struggle to find the balance of family and career. In June 2017, Harris missed her daughter Ella's high-school graduation because she needed to be at FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Though she was able to be home that evening in time for family dinner, Harris said in her essay for Elle that she "agonized over the scheduling conflict" and still felt "awful." She continued, saying, "time is precious, and so many of us understand the struggle to seek balance." She puts a fine point on the pain so many working mothers (including myself) feel when they have to make tough decisions between work and family.
Seeing Harris be so open about her life as a mom and the struggles it entails gives me so much hope for what our country can be. I believe that she can use her experiences as inspiration to change so many of the current policies that directly (and oftentimes negatively) affect other working families. She knows exactly what it's like to deal with the stressors and mom guilt that come with being a working mom and how complicated it can be to be a mom in a blended family. And while there isn't a national policy that can fix all of these things, there are improvements we can make — improvements that seem more likely than ever to pass with the weight of a mom in the White House.
The United States is the only advanced country in the world that does not guarantee paid parental leave. And once parents go back to work, the astronomical cost of child care — the average family is putting significantly more of their annual income toward child care than the seven percent used as a benchmark for affordability — often places limits on how families can save and plan for the future. And these things can often disadvantage women, as they're more likely the ones to stay home and take on child-care responsibilities.
I sincerely believe that having a mom in place (and in such a position of power) to help tackle some of these issues will make a significant difference. Harris is a mother like any other, and it's my hope that she'll use that experience to push for better policies around paid family leave, affordable child care, and more to give so many families the support they need and deserve. As Harris has said before, "Family means everything to me. I've had many titles throughout my career, but Momala will always be the one that means the most to me." I think our country will greatly benefit from that perspective. And as a mom myself, I am so grateful we will have a woman and a mother figure in the White House.