June 24, 2014

Female Role Models

Trying to raise two strong, independent-minded women today is getting harder. Although raising a son had its challenges as well, males dominate this arena. Female role models are a little harder to come by. That's not to say that all men are created equalthey're certainly not. The media is filled with one disappointing story after another regardless of gender. But the women our girls have grown up watching and listening to have fallen from grace one too many times.

I've always been a little strict when it came to television viewing no matter who had the remote, but actresses and musicians like Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and Miley Cyrus have (thankfully) drifted slightly out of favor. We were especially saddened by Miley...we had hoped she was going to beat the odds. Then along came Taylor Swift.

Fingers crossed, I bought three tickets to her Fearless Tour at Gillette Stadium. It had been a long time since I had gone to a concert of that size and I had no idea what to expect. My girls were 12 and 15 and I was still a bit protective when it came to large public spaces. I wanted them to enjoy the experience without mom hanging on their every move, but they were too excited to even notice and they were happy I was along for the ride.

We've since been to two more concerts of hers. No bad language, no inappropriate clothing and even her audiences seem as clean cut as the star herself. Through it all she has grown and matured without the slightest hint that at any moment she's going to disappoint her fans and turn into a spoiled star or worse. And thankfully, even at 16 and 19, they still love her.

Of course, there are women out there who don't have to be famous to be counted as role models. One of those women happened to be a Boston Marathon runner by the name of Shalane Flanagan. Shalane is a hometown girl who had been training so hard and was so determined to win after last year's bomb attempt that she actually apologized when she didn't win. We watched her lead with pride for most of the race, and in sadness when she fell behind. We were rooting for her too. All of her hard work may not have won her the race, but it certainly paid off.

Role models can have a powerful effect on you, which is why it was so important that I surround my girls with other girls and women who will inspire them. I remember getting asked who my role models were during my Junior Miss interview in high school. I paused for long enough to ramble off two women who came to mindBarbara Walters and Chris Evert. Now, you can argue that I didn't do too badly. But I didn't answer honestly either. A role model is simply a person to whom you look up to, a person you admire and want to be like, and not necessarily someone who is well-known. (I'm still ashamed today that I didn't tell them I considered my mother to be my role model. We tend to forget their importance even long after those dreaded teen years are firmly behind us.)

It's important for all of us to recognize the power in strong, hard-working, good-hearted women. I know that (in addition to my mother) I look up to writers, artists of all kind, and people in my inner circle that help me be a better me. Because of them, I want to work harder towards my goals. I want to revel in their success without jealousy. I see this in my girls too and it makes me so proud of them. To know that they have listened to their hearts as well as their heads, and to cheer on those who may look up to them as well is heartening.

We're still rooting for you Taylor. (Please don't disappoint us.) Thank you and we'll see you at your next concert.

Photo: personal, taken during Taylor's Red Tour