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What This Election Really Means for Our Daughters

Image Source: Kim Zapata
Image Source: Kim Zapata

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not represent the views of Babble.

This morning I awoke like so many other Americans did: teary-eyed and sleep deprived. Gutted, hollow, and angry.

But my daughter — my 3-year-old baby girl — woke as she always does: with open arms and an empty belly. With a wide smile and a kind, loving heart. And I wanted to meet her with joy. I genuinely wanted to be the strong and composed mother she deserved, but when her little arms wrapped around my neck, I broke down.

I silently sobbed into her blonde, curly hair.

“Mommy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

I took a breath. “Because Mommy’s sad baby. Mommy’s just sad.”

“It’s okay,” she said, looking deep into my eyes and rubbing my back. “It’s okay.”

“I know, baby. C’mon, let’s go get breakfast.”

But it wasn’t okay; I was just working harder to hide it. I was trying to push through the pain and sadness until I could find the right words. Until I knew what to say. Because the truth is, I went to bed last night not knowing how I would explain this to my daughter. How would I tell her that the woman we spent the day learning about would not be president? She would not be shattering any ceilings. How could I possibly explain to her that negativity won? That hate, misogyny, and bigotry won? Fear mongering and bullying won? How could I explain that a “not nice” man — the man who says the very things I tell her she should never say — is now the leader of our country? (And if you’d like a short list, here you go.)

I didn’t have any answers. I couldn’t find any words. And so, we went on in silence. We ate donuts and an apple and went on about our morning without addressing the proverbial elephant in the room. But I knew I would have to say something soon. I knew Hillary Rodham Clinton — the first female presidential nominee for a major political party — would be addressing the nation within the hour, and I knew I would find myself crying again. I knew I was bound to break down.

“Hey Peanut,” I whispered. “I want to talk to you for a minute.”

“What?” my daughter asked, as she played with her dinosaurs.

“So when we voted yesterday, I told you we were making history. Remember?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, we did. We still did. But things didn’t turn out as we hoped. She —,” I paused to point to the poised but clearly discouraged woman on the TV, “She fought hard but she won’t be our president.”

“Why?”

“Because sometimes, despite your best efforts, you don’t win,” I told her. “Sometimes you fight and fight and fight but it isn’t enough. And yesterday it wasn’t enough. She didn’t win.”

My daughter paused as she thought about my words. In fact, I watched as her little brain processed each and every one. “Is that why you are sad?”

“Yes baby. That’s why.”

But what I couldn’t tell her — what I couldn’t and still cannot explain — is the extent of the why; because my sadness runs deep. It is thick and heavy and coursing through my being, because I believed in Hillary. (Hell, I still believe in Hillary.) I fought hard for Hillary because she based her campaign on love and acceptance for all Americans. Because she carried her head high and stood strong. Because even though many people seem to have forgotten, she’s been working for children and families for decades, and has pushed for affordable healthcare for every single person in America for almost just as long. Because she knows our government and its problems backwards and forwards and inside out — because she’s been a part of it from the inside out.

I fought for Hillary — even proudly wearing a pantsuit to the polls — because she’s what I believed America needed. And because she was the only candidate with the actual experience that would call for.

In a nation divided, she was the only person in this election who I genuinely believed could pull us back together.
But then she lost and I was left with the why’s and how’s and what does this mean for us now?!

I mean, what does this mean us now? And more specifically, what does it mean for women? What does this mean for my future? What does this mean for my daughter’s future? Will she have to fight for inclusion? Will she have to fight for equality? Will she have to fight for her body, and her choices? Will she have to fight the same damn war women have been waging for years?

Will she find herself pinned beneath the same glass ceiling that I was? That my mother was? That my grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother was?

I don’t know. I just don’t know.

But as despondent as I am today, I do know that Hillary’s loss is far from complete. The work she started isn’t over, and all hope is not lost.

Because Hillary broke barriers no woman has broken before. She has mobilized millions of women in a way which I’ve never seen before (ahem, Pantsuit Nation), and she has shown girls that if they work hard and fight hard they can pursue their dreams and make a difference. No matter what.

Today, I wept as I watched her give her concession speech to the nation. But I was also left inspired by her words. Especially the ones that spoke to little girls everywhere. Little girls like my own:

“And to all of the little girls who are watching this,” she said, “never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

Image Source: Kim Zapata
Image Source: Kim Zapata

So while I still don’t quite know what to say — while I still struggle to find the right words to capture the emotions within me right now — I will say this: the road to change is rarely straight and it is never paved. Instead, it is long and winding path, full of hurdles and obstacles, pitfalls and “steps back.” But if we keep pushing forward — if we keep swinging and fighting and making our own way — eventually we will clear out the crap.

Eventually we will overcome.

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