I am in Russia teaching classes for my longtime client and friend, Svetlana Chumakova. Our lives could not have been more different, she growing up and raising children in the Soviet Union. I grew up with far more freedom in the United States.
Yesterday during a workshop for women, I mentioned how the limitations my mother faced in her life had a sad but powerful effect on mine. After the workshop, Svetlana said her experience was the same.
Her mother also had to sacrifice her dreams so that the boys in the family could go to school. She could not participate in sports like the boys. She was expected to marry young. Pursuing a career was a silly idea.
My mother’s life was similar. No college for her. No sports. No career. When the family moved to Arizona and her mother died in a car accident, the inheritance went to her brother with a note saying my mother could marry a man to take care of her.
As a result, Svetlana and I grew up with mothers who were angry and emotionally disconnected.
On the other hand, we both had fathers who lived life fully. They sang songs, told stories and loved to make us laugh.
As adults, Svetlana and I had similar dreams and difficulties. We both wanted to create the lives our mothers never achieved. It may have taken longer for Svetlana, but she is now a very successful entrepreneur and was the first coach in Russia to achieve her Master Certified Coach designation.
And we both had difficulties with relationships. Not wanting to be treated as less important than a man, it took us years to discover what true partnership meant.
As women, we are different, yet the same. Finally, we are allowed, even encouraged to speak our desires and define our paths. Yet most of us struggle knowing who we really are as our highest self and what our true potential is. We are not sure how to define power, much less step into it. With few role models to follow, we fret over every life decision wondering what we might regret later on.
The best suggestion I can give is that we must stick together. I am sad when I hear of women sabotaging women at work, of how we judge each others choices, and of envy coming between friends.
What can you do today to support another woman to realize her dreams? What can you do today to remind a woman of the wonderful gifts she gives when she shares her ideas? What can you do today to mentor a younger woman or thank an older woman for what you can now achieve?
We have different yet similar journeys. We all struggle. We all triumph. We are all trying to do our best with what we have.
We are stronger when we stand for each other, together.