Marching with Heroes

Written by Devon Scheitrum 

To say that I look up to my mother is an understatement. My mom worked incredibly hard when I was growing up – she still does. She worked long hours, often spending nights and weekends at her office, and later on, commuting up and down the state on a weekly basis, 400 miles each way, when her job took her to the Bay Area and we were still in Southern California with an unsold house. She took an employer to court who penalized and demoted her because she dared to have a child as a working woman – and she won. My mom was “leaning in” decades before Sheryl Sandberg’s battle cry hit the zeitgeist.

And as I was constantly in awe of my mother, I also noticed someone else who was fighting similar battles, albeit on a national stage. A woman who fought hard for what she believed in, doing so in what was frequently perceived as a man’s space. A woman who believed in gender equality and that a woman deserved as much as any man, and that “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” I looked up to Hillary Clinton because she resembled my own personal superhero, my mother.

I grew up, got a career, got married, had a child, and although I ultimately made the decision to stay home with my son, I deeply admired the path forged by working women like my mom and Hillary. Indeed, the decision to leave my job was in large part due to childcare costs and my organization’s inflexibility to the needs of a parent, and I felt that Secretary Clinton’s platform addressed those concerns.  

In the days following last fall’s election, I was despondent. Hillary Clinton had lost, and lost to someone whose values and words I deeply disagreed with. For a period, I focused on my son instead, telling myself that as long as I taught him the basic tenets of hard work, curiosity, and kindness, things would turn out ok. When I first heard about the “Women’s March” back in December, I admit I shrugged. It seemed like a useless endeavor, a final stand of sore losers and anarchists alike. But then something happened – I noticed that my mother, a woman who has never been particularly politically active, had replied to a Facebook invite that she was interested in attending a local march. And that galvanized me. I started researching the march and its organizers and its mission, and their words were Hillary’s words: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” I was going, and I was going to go with my superhero, and I was going to take my son to show him that the women in his life were willing to stand up for what they believe in.

We attended the Women’s March in Sacramento, and it was more inspiring than I could have hoped for. It was positive, peaceful, affirming, and incredibly diverse. We were a crowd of 20,000 women, men, and children. Fellow marchers were supportive and kindhearted, and particularly patient with me as I wheeled my toddler around in his stroller, occasionally knocking heels and hitting signs. It made me feel optimistic about the years ahead knowing there are so many people who feel the same way that I do. But by attending, I also discovered something else: working hard, being kind, and being curious are great things to instill in a young boy, but compassion is that additional principle that turns a good man into a great one. I know that any child of mine will be afforded many privileges, but it is my hope that he remains sympathetic to others. My mother, who for so long has epitomized a tenacious work ethic and devotion to her family, walked alongside us. It was at the march that I realized that I want to be the superhero to my son that my mother was to me.