In a world where women are constantly having to challenge social norms and push boundaries, having a diverse portfolio of women you admire and trust can help to guide the way. The biggest thing I've learned from the women in my life is that there are all different types of strength, and they each have value.
My maternal grandmother, Ru, is not your average grandma. She despises baking cookies, wears heels and a red lip every day (even at 90), and enjoys being around young people more than people her own age — you'll never catch her at bingo night!
As the youngest of three sisters, she grew up fearlessly independent, and in situations where most young women were taking a backseat, she insisted on driving. She was an equal partner in her marriage, straying from the traditional norms of a 1950s suburban housewife. But one of her most notable qualities is her perseverance — she'll always find a way to keep moving forward.
Growing up, I remember hearing all of Ru's fearless moments, like the time in the 1960s when she felt the town library wasn't easily accessible to school children and was in an unsafe area. She had to present in front of an all-male board to get approval, but was finally able to get it moved to a new location.
She also used to organize local food drives for families in need and started a beautification committee to add more flowers and plants to our town's sidewalks. Wherever she saw the need for improvement, she took it on without fear. People respected her in the community for that. She earned the nickname "Tiger Lady" because they knew she was someone who was not afraid of fighting back. All the while, she remained incredibly elegant, caring, and respectful of others, always treating them fairly and equally.
My mother, on the other hand, was always more soft spoken vs. outspoken. She is the gentlest, kindest person you could meet. I would describe her as a people magnet, the kind of person that strangers want to talk to and friends want to confide in.
I remember, while living in Brooklyn, her sitting on the grass with my 1-year-old son Nash, and within minutes, she'd be surrounded by little kids listening intently to a book she was reading aloud.
My entire life, I watched as she made such an impact with her quiet grace and kindness. She was a special education teacher for many years and has endless compassion and patience. My mother has never raised her voice to me — not once! — which is even more shocking now that I have kids of my own and know how hard that must have been. How could anyone have that much self-control? But she did. She has a quiet strength and cool confidence that requires no outside validation. She assumes a point of leadership through her generosity and sense of self.
"She has a quiet strength and cool confidence that requires no outside validation."
As I've grown, I've benefited in equal measure from each of their examples. There are times when I need to be forward and bold and carve out my own path, and times when I choose to have more patience and remain reserved. I feel so fortunate to have these two female role models. They have enriched my life and provided me with endless support — and continue to do so.
As I raise my two young sons, strength is one of the most important qualities I want to instill in them and also have them recognize in me. I want them to know that women are capable and equals and should always be celebrated and respected.
I believe that we are the sum of our experiences and relationships and feel so fortunate to have such exceptional women in my life to help me continue to find my way.
Give a shout out to all the #hipowered women in your life this International Women’s Day and share!