Boshemia regular Elisha shares with us this instalment of Raising A Feminist, on ambition and leading by example.
As parents, we are always seeking ways which we can raise healthy, kind, and ambitious children. We want to give them the world, but in more realistic terms, we want to give them to tools they need to become well-rounded, successful adults. One of the cornerstones of any educated parent is finding ways to encourage ambition in our children. Ambition is a trait which is seen, by some, as an intrinsic part of each individual personality. This is true to some extent, due to genetic makeup. However, one can find that through a little extra awareness and research ambition is a trait that can, in fact, be nurtured in our children and affected by their environment. We can do this by providing an example to follow with our own level of ambition. Children are little sponges who absorb their environment. They use this information to figure out how to be, how to think, and how they fit in to the world. When we lead by example, it is our children who benefit.
As the mother of a daughter, I fervently believe that it is necessary for me to be a resolute, positive female role model that my daughter can mirror. In leading by example: constantly striving to improve, constantly learning, working hard and never giving up, I’m giving my daughter the best shot at success I can give her. However, a presumption is often made that mothers who have busy schedules, rising careers, and lofty ambitions, are somehow missing out on some key aspect of raising children. A study conducted, by Kathleen L. Mcginn, Mayra Ruiz Castro and Elizabeth Long Lingo, at Harvard Business School shows that this presumption is not only inaccurate, but that the opposite can be said. On a global scale, children are more successful when raised by ambitious mothers with well-developed careers outside of the home. This applies to both genders. Having working mothers was shown to affect men’s involvement in domestic tasks and family involvement throughout childhood and carrying through to adulthood, but the effect is especially influential in the professional success of women. Working moms and student moms, though we may not have the same quantity of time to spend with our children, are giving just as much benefit to them, and are not missing any key parenting components. According to psychologists, the key components to raising achievement driven and confident children are: setting firm yet realistic challenges, embracing failures, praising accomplishments, and providing a consistent model of good work-ethic for them to follow.
When speaking with others about my academic career, my obligations, and my professional ambitions, I’m often asked how I manage, how I fit everything in with a young child. My response is usually the earnest confession that I’m not sure how I manage to fit everything in. Being a single parent and a full-time student is like having two full-time jobs, add to that a lab assistant position, a magazine fellowship, and a handful of independent contracting gigs which give me the ability to financially support my daughter, and that leaves me with an immense amount of obligation. Yes, it is difficult. It takes just about everything I have to get it all accomplished and raise a happy kid to boot, but I believe I have a lot to give. I make it work because I believe I’m making a difference.
There’s no guidebook. There’s no set of directions, but with the right mindset, you make it work the best way you can. This might mean that you check yourself often. In this writer’s opinion, if you don’t regularly check yourself, you should start. I think it’s an important way to gauge where you’re doing well and where you need to improve. For me, it takes a constant evaluation of the way I manage time and projects to be successful. I regularly have to implement strategies that help me be more productive and focused. I research new tactics which can implement to utilise my full potential. Most importantly, I remind myself that progress is far more important than perfection; that failure is not the most terrifying thing that could happen to me; that every step I take is actively leading me somewhere, whether or not it feels that way at the time. When I feel stuck, I ask for help. When I do something wrong, I learn from it: I fix it, I grow from it, and I move on. I do these things because I want to do them; because I know that there’s a big difference between doing that best I can, and doing what is easy.
My ambition is driven largely by the fact that I know my daughter is watching. She might not understand the nuances behind my busy schedule right now, but as these ambitions turn into accomplishments, and she grows in her ability to comprehend the tangible benefits of these accomplishments, her desire to follow my example will flourish. This journey I’m on: completing my undergrad, planning for a PhD, planning for a career in a STEM field, (This is another hugely important model we can provide for our daughters to follow. Let’s close the gender gap in STEM fields!) all while caring for my daughter, nurturing her goals, and providing for her financially, may seem like a high-ceilinged endeavor. If I’m paving the way for my daughter to break the glass-ceiling, in turn striving to break it myself, how could I consider anything less than high-ceilinged?