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You Go, Mom
The ultimate Mother’s Day gift: a year for women like no other.

In the magazine biz, timing is critical. Like other publications, sometimes we’re right on, and sometimes we’re so consumed with planning ahead that we miss the opportunity to cover people or topics we’d have liked to.

So, with tail between my legs, I’ll fess up to breezing past something pretty big—at least in my eyes—that deserved our attention. March was Women’s History Month, which would’ve been a perfect time to celebrate the recent appointments of Nancy Pelosi as the first female speaker of the house and Bryn Mawr College alum Drew Gilpin Faust as the first female president of Harvard University.

Pelosi’s position is especially remarkable when you consider that in becoming Speaker of the House, she is now the highest-ranking woman in U.S. history—or as one Washington journalist put it, “two heartbeats from the presidency.”

I must say my reaction to President Bush’s introduction of Pelosi in his January State of the Union address was completely unexpected: “I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own, as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: ‘Madam Speaker.’”

The intense pride that engulfed me wasn’t a partisan reaction. This was my mother-of-two-daughters self flashing back to all those idealistic daydreams I’d had about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Like me, Pelosi is a mother of five. I can’t imagine the hard decisions and sacrifices she’s made along the way—the missed plays, sporting events, parent-child breakfasts. But her journey, as those of Gilpin and local crusaders Judy Wicks, Sharon Pinkenson, Leslie Anne Miller and others, has been an incredible gift, empowering all of us with two of life’s most valuable commodities: opportunity and choices. Never before have women had so many outlets in which to show off their wisdom, compassion, diplomacy, sophistication, gracefulness, knack for multi-tasking and myriad other skills.

Political or corporate success isn’t all there is to being a positive role model for our daughters. Stay-at-home moms face plenty of days when managing the household equates to running a small corporation. What matters is that more and more of us are discovering—and capitalizing on—talents we might never have known existed decades ago.

We may still be having babies (a capability I’d never trade in for a fatter paycheck), but, boy, have we come a long way outside the home. Just this year, U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced her candidacy for president in 2008. It’s too early to tell whether the country is ready for a female president, and I’d admonish anyone for favoring a candidate’s gender over his/her integrity, track record and vision. But her dramatic rise in the political arena shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I’m a big proponent of kids being kids for as long as possible—which is tougher than ever these days. Inevitably, though, your daughter is going to come to you and announce, “I’m going to be …” or expound upon her angst over what to be. So this year, instead of pondering what you might receive from her on Mother’s Day, you may want to consider what you can give her. And nothing is more valuable than your heart, mind and ears.

Ask. Listen. Learn. Find out who she is and who she hopes to be. Then tell her about you. She may seem disinterested, but make no mistake: You’re her primary role model. Think long and hard about what advice you’d give her, because you never know when the right moment will come. While you’re waiting, lend her your support and guidance every chance you get. And when you see your daughter grow into a self-confident young woman, you’ll truly know it’s better to give than to receive.

Dawn E. Warden is Main Line Today’s associate editor.