Molded by My Mom

2017-2018 Rising Voices Fellow Sofia Heller with her mother at the Women's March in Los Angeles.

Peanut-butter-filled pretzels and an old TV playing “The Sound of Music” on VHS. Walls covered in whiteboard, beckoning my eager eight-year-old self to fill them with drawings of flowers and dogs. Long older-sister-type chats with my mom’s work friend. I’ve grown up finding the fun and making formative memories at my mom’s offices.

My mom has worked as an entertainment lawyer my whole life. For the majority of that time, she’s worked in a job share with another mom: my mom working the first half of the week, and her job share partner working the second half. Last year, my mom started working full-time as the head of her department.

When my mom told me she was going to take the job, I began to reflect upon the type of role model she is and the impact she’s had on my development. I’m not able to pinpoint when I first started referring to myself as a feminist; however, I’ve fought for women’s rights and equality for as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt emboldened to speak up for the causes in which I believe, and I owe that to my mom.

In every aspect of her life, my mom is passionate, strong, intelligent, and unapologetic. She maintained her job share and continued to rise despite unrelenting opposition from older male bosses. She has also confronted other obstacles in her career that have stemmed from her gender, including lower pay than male colleagues.

Watching my mom navigate the work force, I had my first look into the glaring double standards for women. For the duration of her job share, my mom’s bosses remained uncomfortable advancing women who placed an emphasis on their kids, despite it having no negative effects on their work. When one of my mom’s male bosses took a long lunch break to go to a parent teacher conference, he was being a good dad. When my mom did the same, she was compromising her dedication to her job. Inversely, if my mom worked too many hours, she was neglecting her duty as a mother. These messages were cemented in the wage gap between my mom and her male colleagues. This gap screamed that a woman’s work is not as valuable as a man’s and that a woman (and a mother) is not as capable as a man. There was seemingly no way, according to typical societal expectations and standards, to thrive both as a mother and a professional. These inequalities were personal to me, as they affected my mom. The anger and confusion I felt eventually contributed to my feminist awakening and convictions thereafter.

After seeing my interest in social justice, my mom taught me how to tactfully debate politics with family members at the dinner table and how to make posters for protests. Last January, my mom and I were two of the 750,000 people at the Women’s March in Los Angeles. I held up a poster at the march defending a woman’s right to choose while marching alongside the woman who educated me on the complexities of abortion. It was a life-changing experience, in which my mom helped me develop my worldview and further my dedication to feminism.

My mom also taught me how to approach Judaism from a feminist standpoint, thus deepening and expanding my feminist identity. Around sixth grade, my mom compiled a booklet describing the story of Passover but with a slant toward the role Miriam, Moses’ sister, had. The booklet has since accompanied the traditional Haggadah at our Passover Seders, giving my family members and me the opportunity to reflect on the lack of recognition for influential female figures in our history, and today.

I couldn’t be prouder of my mom. She’s proof to me that I can be a successful professional and also raise a family. Because of her, I don’t worry that I can’t accomplish my goals because of my gender. However, I recognize that I’m extremely privileged to feel so assured and to have a mother who has shown me that I deserve equality and that I should reach high. This is not something I take for granted.

As I continue to grow as a young woman, I am grateful to have my mom’s guidance and support. Her office, now decorated with a “We the People” print from the Women’s March, continues to serve as a place of inspiration and development.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Heller, Sofia. "Molded by My Mom ." 16 October 2017. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 6, 2023) <>.

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