I am proud to come from a line of strong, hardworking, and independent women. My paternal grandmother worked for 40 years in a textile factory, rising at 5 a.m. nearly every morning of her adult life. I have vivid memories of hearing her in the kitchen before work as I slept on the pull-out couch over the holidays. My maternal grandmother worked as an office manager, a pioneering position for women in the workforce at the time and place where she lived. I have many fond childhood memories of visiting her at the office, full of curiosity and pride.
My own mom pursued a social work career, while also raising three kids. The sense of justice that she carried in her heart strongly shaped my life and worldview.
The trailblazers in my family made me the woman I am today. I am thankful for the models of passion and responsibility that their lives have provided me.
But when my turn came to choose what kind of life I wanted to lead, my choices looked a little different. When I became a mom, I made the decision to stay home with my son. I wasn’t sure how my mother and grandmothers would feel about my decision, given that it was a different path from the ones they had taken. In hindsight, I had no reason to worry; all three of them supported my decision wholeheartedly.
Working part-time online while my husband works full-time has allowed me to be home with my children. I realize many women would love to be in that position but aren’t able to be. Squeezing in work hours on my computer during our kids’ naptimes, at night, or on weekends isn’t always easy, but I feel lucky to be in this position.
The women in my family have been driven to contribute in the workplace. My own life looks very different from theirs. But my choice to be with my kids full time was made exactly because of what they passed down: an independent spirit, strength to take on challenges, and a habit of self-sacrifice for the sake of others.
The women in my life did an excellent job of teaching me about womanhood, not because of the particular paths they chose, but because they were women of integrity and ingenuity. When I think about the kind of woman I want to be, I think of my grandmothers and my mom. These women were secure in themselves and their own choices, and that confidence freed them up to cheer on others who did things differently—including me.
My generation of women can learn a lot from the wise women who have gone before us. Today, I see between women a lot of judgment, shaming, and criticism of one another. I have been both the victim and the offender of all kinds of judgments, just like many other women. This competitiveness and disunity look nothing like the sisterhood that the women in my family exhibited.
I am grateful for women like my mother and grandmothers for helping to create the opportunities we now have. I believe a lot has improved for women. But we still have a long way to go. It’s still just as important that women stick together, encourage one another, and build each other up.
When my paternal grandmother passed away a few years ago, I realized I couldn’t remember a single time I had ever heard her say a negative word about anyone. The women in my family never ranted about women who made different choices from them. They never demeaned women who stayed at home full time, nor did they judge women who worked longer hours than they did.
The women in my life modeled values like kindness, compassion, loyalty, and service. And they taught me that those traits could be embodied in many different ways. That’s the kind of loving legacy I want to leave behind.
Shannon Evans is a wife, mom, freelance writer, podcaster, and blogger. Follow her blog at agreaparade.com or on Instagram as @shannonkevans.This essay is reprinted with permission from IBelieveinLove.com