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While Breaking Glass Ceilings, Family Still Came First for This Famous Diplomat

Madeleine-Albright_400The busiest working moms in the world still have to care for their children. Glass ceilings may be broken, but family is still the priority. As children grow, roles reverse and the children start worrying about their mothers. Read more in What I Told My Daughter: Lessons From Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women.

From Madeleine Albright, Diplomat:

“Mom, did you really need another pair of shoes?” my daughter Anne would ask while reviewing my bills for the month. My daughters took over the management of my finances after I became ambassador to the United Nations in 1993 and secretary of state in 1997. With all the travel those jobs require, I had no time to manage my own affairs. That amounted to a role reversal that was illuminating for all of us.

One of the tensest moments during my tenure as UN ambassador came in 1996 during a trip to Croatia, less than four months after the signing of the historic Dayton Peace Agreement that brought an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I led a UN delegation to see firsthand what life was like in the Balkans under the accord.

At one stop, I got out of my car to walk through the Serb-held city of Vukovar. As we approached an open-air market I heard people yelling insults. “You whore” sounds just as awful in Serbo-Croatian as it does in English. As we returned to our cars, stones began to fly and our motorcade was pretty banged up as we left the area.

Later that day CNN ran a report with the headline “Albright Stoned in Serbia.” That prompted my daughters to make frantic calls to the State Department to see if I was okay.

When I got home a few days later, I got an earful from my girls.

“Mom, this is outrageous. You can’t go off to dangerous places and not tell us what you are doing. You’re being very irresponsible.” It sounded like something I might have said to them as teenagers if they had broken curfew. They were very upset with me for making them worry.

These experiences reinforced the strength of our bond as a family—something I tried to demonstrate to my daughters not with words so much as by my actions. The hardest thing that working women face is the struggle of balancing the needs of your job and the needs of your family. But when push comes to shove, family always comes first. The care and concern my daughters have shown for me in their adulthood tells me that message was received loud and clear.


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