816 North

Susan Vollenweider | Remember all the ladies

It was 1998 when my little family landed in Kansas City. After four moves in 20 months we were tired of being in transition and hoped to grab on tight and stay put.

My first years of Momdom had been typical — hard and rewarding but also lonely. It’s hard to meet people when you stay home with babies; harder when you are new to town and leaving soon. I was anxious for long-lasting friends.

I’m not the first to say it: Making friends uses a lot of the same interpersonal skill set as dating. I must have been too anxious or desperate because it took a while.

Enter Kathy.

Kathy and I met at church. Our children were the same ages and, as our ginger toddlers and blond babies played, we began our friendship. We had a lot in common, but we had differences, too.

Kathy was really into sports. I am not.

Kathy was established in the area. I was not.

And Kathy was a working mom.

I was not.

In the early days of our friendship the Mommy Wars were heating up and women, convinced that their way was the best, battled. SAHM or WORKING: Right or wrong? Pick a side.

I will admit that at first I had a hard time wrapping my brain around why someone would choose to go to work when they could stay home. But through knowing Kathy I was able to see the truth. Which is better SAHM or WORKING? The answer is yes.

I became a better mom and person because of our friendship. Not because I compared her situation and style to mine but because she showed me respect and allowed me to reciprocate.

Good friends embrace each other’s similarities, cherish the differences, encourage the gifts and support each other. The best ones help each other stay firmly on their different paths but are powerful when the paths merge. Empowered.

The Mommy Wars were a dark spot for women, but it happened. History can’t forget it.

Recently I was researching Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was a married mom of several children when she met a single woman with a very different background and personality. They formed a lifelong friendship and together — by understanding their differences and supporting their strengths — she and Susan B. Anthony worked for women’s rights and helped to change the world for women.

For me.

For Kathy.

For you and the women you love.

I thought about other empowering female friendships, factual and fictional: Ruth and Naomi, Lucy and Ethel, Oprah and Gayle, Laverne and Shirley…the list went on and I had to love-smile when I thought of my own personal list.

Past and present collided when Kathy invited me to a luncheon for an organization that is near and dear to her sporty heart: WIN for KC. Their purpose: women empowering others through sports. Sports? Me? I trusted her when she said I would enjoy the event.

She knows me well.

The sports part didn’t work on me, but brain-bells were chiming at the empowering part.

Because it happens every single day.

It happened back in the 1800s with Elizabeth and Susan. It happens on a regional scale, like WIN for KC; it happens on small personal scales over desks and playdates. It happens everywhere.

It happens when we celebrate our differences, when we focus and empower one another. Personally empowering. Professionally empowering. Culturally empowering.

March is National Women’s History Month. Can we can fade the dark spots in both our world and personal histories by focusing our attention and memories on all the bright ones?