Niagara Gazette

April 14, 2013

JACKIE DAVIS: The YWCA and the 'Faces & Hats' of womanhood

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Recently, I had the honor of touring Carolyn’s House of the YWCA of Niagara. CEO Kathy Granchelli graciously led me through the historic halls of this beautiful building and explained the services and programs that Carolyn’s House offers to homeless women and children.

With apartments, daily GED classes, vocational/life skills training, college enrollment assistance and pre-college workshops, Carolyn’s House offers several opportunities for homeless women to make a better life for themselves and their children. The house is named for Carolyn Van Schalk of Niagara Falls, an initiator of this work, and an advocate of life improvement for women, who died in a tragic accident before this program came to fruition. Carolyn’s House opened in 2005, and in 2009, the YWCA of Niagara received the Hallmark Initiative Award for Economic Empowerment from the YWCA USA for its programs.

Carolyn’s House is wonderful. I was glad to learn that the YWCA has recently been granted funding to transform their Lockport kitchen facilities into a culinary training kitchen. This new facility will be used to help give disadvantaged women or survivors of domestic violence an opportunity to gain employable culinary skills. How wonderful it will be to have yet another place of new beginnings for women and their families right here in Lockport.

Not long ago, I was reminded of the “Neo-Traditionalists” of the 90s, the “Mommy Wars” of the 80s, and the “Feminist Movement” of the 70s. It was when I saw the interviews, and read of the actions of two new top women executives of two major corporations. One is a young CEO who took a two-week maternity leave, arranged a nursery next to her executive office, and cancelled work from home privileges for all other working mothers of her company — thus ending a family-friendly aspect of her corporation. The other is Facebook’s newest COO. You may have seen her interviews promoting her newly released book “Lean In,” thus re-opening a national discussion of women in the corporate workplace, and gender inequalities. (Could this be the Gloria Steinem of this millennium?)

As I listened to her, I felt that I had “heard this before” a lifetime ago as a new Cornell graduate, beginning a career in energy management. My life, before children included corporate conferences with similar discussions teaching us that we could “have- it- all- at-the same-time- with- the -same-level—of-intensity.” (It’s amazing how my views and priorities changed after I had my first baby).

Twenty-five years later, I can’t believe the debate continues for the many “faces and hats” of womanhood. I have been the full-time working mother, the stay-at-home-mom (with a 5-year-old, a 3-year-old and newborn twins), part of the “sandwich generation,” (caring for infants, pre-schoolers and a disabled aging father-in-law who lived with us). I went back to work part-time in a different career years later. None of it was easy, and I have heard the judgment of others every step of the way.

There is no “one and only” perfect way for women to live an excellent life and care for their families. I did what was best for my family at each stage of our lives together, with the loving support of a wonderful husband. Rather than judge, perhaps, like the YWCA, we can find a way to love, help, and encourage the women around us. They would probably appreciate our compassion.

Jackie Davis is an inspirational vocalist, musician and speaker with more than 20 years of television broadcast experience. You can contact her at jjd.22344@yahoo.com.