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Obama Mama


I'm fairly certain I have read this New York Times article on Barack Obama's mother, the late Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro, no less than five times.

I'm the first to admit my own path in motherhood is rocky. Rocky isn't the right word... it's been more like pebbles here and there, some big ass rocks, and every once in awhile the giant boulder that chases me ala Indiana Jones. Then I read something like this, and I'm stopped dead in my tracks.

'...She gave us a very broad understanding of the world,' her daughter said. 'She hated bigotry. She was very determined to be remembered for a life of service and thought that service was really the true measure of a life.' Many of her friends see her legacy in Mr. Obama -- in his self-assurance and drive, his boundary bridging, even his apparent comfort with strong women. Some say she changed them, too.

'I feel she taught me how to live,' said Ms. Nayar, who was in her 20s when she met Ms. Soetoro at Women's World Banking. 'She was not particularly concerned about what society would say about working women, single women, women marrying outside their culture, women who were fearless and who dreamed big..'

'...She was a very, very big thinker,' said Nancy Barry, a former president of Women's World Banking, an international network of microfinance providers, where Ms. Soetoro worked in New York City in the early 1990s. 'I think she was not at all personally ambitious, I think she cared about the core issues, and I think she was not afraid to speak truth to power.'"

It is no secret I am impressed with Barack Obama, but I'm even more impressed with his mother. The insight into Ms. Soetoro's life has given me that final piece of the puzzle, explaining the affection and admiration I have for this presidential candidate.

As a version of that idealist young woman, living in a very segregated hometown, I was branded time and time again.

Hippie

Feminist

Radical

Loudmouth

Bitch

Whore

Slut

N***** Lover

Geek

Traitor

None of them were meant to be compliments. All of them confused me greatly. My views were always very global and always very strong. I yearned to enact change and I found writing to be my one source of power.

The story of Ms. Soetoro, traveling to Indonesia, befriending the locals to aid... to be more and do more and to help more WHILE raising children and striving to be the best mother possible... ugh, it's twisting my heart in knots.

I want to do that. I want to be that. I want to find the energy and drive to wake up at 4am and tutor my children before a day of work.

Yet I don't.

Watching what has been happening in this country, seeing the change in attitude, in belief, in (dare I say it) hope-makes me want to be better at this Mom thing. It's so stupid to say, because I say it all the time, but I really want to try harder at this MOM role.

If I can instill that in my daughter, my son-the ideas and the emotion and the core being that makes them a leader...I must.

I must, yet tomorrow I will half pay attention to them while they ask to play hide and seek for the 5th time and want yet another cookie.

I must, yet tomorrow I will yearn to read blogs and chat online with friends while I bathe their little bodies and put away their tiny laundry.

I must, yet I'll moan and complain as they wake me early for cereal and cartoons.

Stanley Ann Dunham Soetoro is a reminder to me why I need to do more than 'must.' Why I need to remember who I am, where I came from, and why it's important to be branded by idiots.

Why it is imperative I speak my mind, push my ideas, and ignore the doubt in my head.

It's very strange having grown up firmly believing I would be the first female president, to happily content in raising the next leader of the free world. That something intangible that takes you from cocky to selfless in a heartbeat.

5-years worth of heartbeats celebrated on the 24th, another 3-years of his sister's on the 30th and this

Hippie

Feminist

Radical

Loudmouth

Bitch

Whore

Slut

N***** Lover

Geek

Traitor

is going to take inspiration and motivation away from the story of a Kansas girl and her son.

Erin Kotecki Vest writes about motherhood at QueenofSpainblog and covers Election '08 for BlogHer.com