By Heidi Stevens
My first day back at work after my first maternity leave, our administrative assistant asked who was watching my daughter.
When I explained about the delightful day-care provider I had met and hired a few weeks back, she reacted in horror.
“Why doesn’t your mom watch her?” she demanded.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asks why my mom doesn’t watch my two kids, while I work, while I take a quiet, kids-free vacation with my husband, while I attend a Pilates class, well, I’d have enough dollars to take a quiet, kids-free vacation with my husband. And a Pilates class.
No one has ever asked why my dad doesn’t watch them. Not one single time.
I assume people figure he’s busy golfing or sport fishing, or that he just isn’t interested in spending his golden years caring for children.
Grandmas, on the other hand … they live for grandchildren, right? They’ve been quietly (or not so quietly) waiting on the sidelines for more children to appear, ever since theirs grew too old to rear. Time is heavy on their hands. Plus they bake a lot of cookies, which kids love.
This is mostly nonsense, of course. We all know grandmas who run marathons and scale literal mountains and have social calendars that rival Princess Kate’s, with little to no room carved out for baby-sitting.
But the stereotype clings hard.
A Hillary Clinton presidency might change all that.
Imagine a grandma in the White House. (As president, that is. I realize First Lady Michelle Obama’s mother lives at the White House already.)
Imagine a daily, world-famous, unmatched-in-her-power reminder that grandmas are not here for our bemused enjoyment, people. That grandmas have brains and brawn and wisdom and ideas.
That grandmas know a thing or two about how the world works, and I don’t just mean from their perch in the kitchen.
That grandmas worked doggedly to be taken seriously in their endeavors and to achieve countless accomplishments, and none of that goes poof! upon the birth of a grandchild.
By all accounts, Hillary Clinton is a doting, delighted grandmother to daughter Chelsea’s baby, Charlotte. But her professional and personal life did not cease to exist upon Charlotte’s arrival.
Which is much like my own mom, and plenty of other grandmothers I know. My mom watches my kids here and there, hopping on the Kennedy in her Prius to hang with a sick kid while I run another kid to school, hosting my daughter and son for a Friday night sleepover while my husband and I see friends.
But I have to get on her calendar. As I should.
She’s an avid birder and tireless champion of the environment, and she fills her weeks restoring open space to its native habitat, working with local municipalities to protect wildlife and meeting with her travel club, garden club, book club and church council. She camps with my dad and hikes with her girlfriends. She’s busy.
I didn’t explain all that to the now-retired administrative assistant nine years ago. I simply said, “My mom still works.” Which is the plain truth, but not the whole truth.
The truth is I would never have asked her. The truth is I think my mom’s time and passions are needed elsewhere. The truth is she is a spirited, creative, adoring companion for my kids every time she sees them, and that’s more than enough. They’re lucky to have her. So am I.
If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I hope we spend a little bit of time reflecting on the importance and magnitude of electing a woman to lead the free world. I hope we spend a lot more time focusing on her plans for the economy, education, national security, the environment, health care, poverty and women’s rights.
And I hope we always remember she’s the stuff that grandmas are made of.