Here’s to Strong Women: Timely Thoughts on Raising a Girl

image via Love, The Nelsons Photography
image via Love, The Nelsons Photography

When I learned my first baby would be a girl, I was nervous. Years of ups and downs in my relationship with my mother had left me with a great deal of apprehension about mothering my own daughter. I feared we were doomed to fail before we had even begun. 

But this was before I knew she loved Beyoncé.

She’s only three, so it’s safe to assume we have yet to be put to any sort of real mother-daughter litmus test, but raising a girl has proven to be one of the greatest joys of my life thus far. The dance parties alone have been worth the price of admission.

Having her answer the question of “Who run the world?” with an enthusiastic “Girls! We run dis mutha” is truly a sight to behold.

Flawless taste in music aside, having a daughter has brought me an incredible renewed sense of purpose. She takes many of her cues from me, so if I am to help her grow into a brave, kind, and confident woman, I have to model that myself. This truth has filled the every day with an even greater richness, as I seek to weave together the various fragments of my life into a beautiful tapestry for her to behold.  

Knowing that I have two little eyes watching my every move, I have embraced figuring out how to best be true to my own womanhood while navigating my roles as a medical professional, wife, and mother. Getting dressed in the morning becomes an opportunity to show my girl how to love her body for what it can do, instead of obsessing over every little imaginary flaw.

Going to work in a career I love, demonstrates to her the great gift that it is to love what you do. I show her that it is a beautiful thing to take care of yourself, by taking time for myself to do things that are just for me: writing, listening to music, lighting a candle, lunch with friends. I exercise … some. While my routine lacks regularity at this phase of life, I know that showing her how to have a healthy body that never stops getting stronger is so important. When I am tempted to gripe about gray hairs, lament about thigh gap being a thing of the past, or contemplate Botox, I remember that she is watching.

Growing older is something I want her to look forward to. I want her to welcome the legitimacy that comes with age and experience, embracing her smile lines and wrinkles as the memories of joy that they are. 

My life and career have been deliciously nontraditional, resulting in a decidedly gender nonconformist family dynamic. My husband and I are equal partners because we have to be to make our life work, but also to model that balance for our children.

Our son and our daughter will see each of their parents doing whatever needs to be done and supporting each other’s dreams. Mommy went to war. Daddy knows how to fix her hair. Both Mommy and Daddy help and take care of people by practicing medicine. Everybody cooks. Everybody cleans. Everybody changes the oil. 

It was tempting to be crushed by the 2016 presidential election. While we all know and acknowledge that there were a multitude of issues at play, the simple fact that our country could elect a sexual predator over a woman felt like the ultimate defeat for womankind. I wrestled with how I would explain this to my little girl, grateful that her age allowed me to postpone that conversation for a while. 

But the ways in which women have stood up and fought back have given me chills.

This past year was the year of the Women’s March, the #metoo movement, Maxine Waters reclaiming her time, and Elizabeth Warren’s persistence. All these things have sparked a global conversation about equality, highlighting issues that have laid dormant for too long. Awareness is heightened. Change is coming. 

And already this year, women have triumphed. 

Oprah’s Golden Globes speech gave little girls hope. Hollywood women said #timesup. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Michigan circuit court judge who sentenced Larry Nassar to 175 years in prison after he was convicted of more than 150 counts of sexual assault, turned her courtroom into a platform for change. She invited the victims of Nassar’s abuse to come forward and tell their stories, to face their abuser and speak their peace. In doing so, she sent a message to survivors of abuse everywhere, that they are not defined by what happened to them, that their stories matter; that they deserve to be heard. 

Whenever I am tempted to grow weary with the state of the world, frustrated by how far we have yet to come, stories and movements like these give me hope. When I lament the fact that we are still striving for gender equality, I remember that there is tremendous value in the struggle. We become strengthened by the challenges we face. They hone us, foster growth, inspire grit, and develop perseverance.

As author Glennon Doyle puts it, “First the pain, then the rising.” 

Much as I love them, I have never desired to make my children’s lives easier. My character has been developed by countless struggles, failures and disappointments. While I don’t wish hardship on my babies, I know I can’t spare them from encountering it. My job is to teach them to believe in their core that they can do hard things, so that when they face a challenge, they rise to it. 

I have many hopes and dreams for my daughter as she grows. Most of them revolve around the person I hope she will become: inclusive, courageous, adept at giving and receiving love. While I also would love to close the gender pay gap, eradicate sexual assault, and standardize a more reasonable and acceptable parental leave policy by the time she is an adult, I look around and realize that big strides are being made. There is hope. 

So we crank up the Beyoncé as we paint our nails and pass the lip gloss back and forth. It’s a great time to be a girl. 

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As an Active Duty Air Force Officer, Emily is proud to wear the uniform herself. She is stationed in San Antonio, where both she and her civilian husband are medical professionals. A working mama with a crazy schedule, a toddler and a newborn, she could not live without coffee, Amazon Prime, and a lot of help. Favorite pastimes include experiencing live music, eating amazing food, and crossing destinations off her travel bucket list. Navigating the challenges of working outside the home while having babies has made her passionate about women helping women and a firm believer in the truth that you can never have too much grace for yourself. 


  1. Love this! I have three girls and try to model the same values. I only work part/time right now, but I talk to them about how much I enjoy my work and helping people – as does their active duty Dad who has to be gone more than he’d like. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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