“I have wanted [to be Mayor] since I was a child,” Rawlings-Blake continued. “I started running for office when I was in grade school. I was committed to building my city and putting the work in. To put the work in means to have an understanding of the learning process — in order to be a servant, you have to be willing to serve in the spotlight. It’s about compromise. You have to learn to work with people to get things done. That requires sacrifice, humility and understanding. True public servants sacrifice; people see the outward glory but they don’t know your story.”
Stephanie’s mom, Dr. Nina Rawlings, says her daughter was destined for a life of public service.
“Stephanie was a child of purpose and determination very early in life. She was outgoing and appeared comfortable around people of all ages. When she was six years of age, she told her father and me that she wanted to be the mayor of the city.”
Dr. Rawlings continued, “When children dropped their potato chip bags on the sidewalk near our house, she would instruct them to pick up their trash and admonish them ‘not to litter.’ She told them, ‘We have to keep our city clean.’”
Rawlings-Blake’s trailblazing mother was one of the first black female pediatricians of her generation. Her father, the late Honorable Pete Rawlings, served as the powerful Chairman of Appropriations in the House of Delegates of Maryland. Rawlings-Blake was raised by successful parents, and has come far, yet describes herself with humility. The mayor also freely admits that she doesn’t serve through her powers alone.
“I am truly blessed by my husband who is supportive; he rejects the spot-light,” the mayor said. “He keeps me balanced. He is not a behind-the-scenes adviser He is very happy being my husband and Sophia’s dad. He stands in the gap.”
And Stephanie’s daughter Sophia is well taken care of by a support system that includes not only her husband, but also her mother. “She is a great kid, independent, and says she has to fit her mom in,” Rawlings-Blake shared about how she balances career and motherhood.
“I have approached being a mom as ‘being there,’ and when I cannot be there, I have a support system in my mom, who is there for her.” Dr. Rawlings provides very hands-on support.
When asked who she admired most growing up, Rawlings-Blake named her mother as her shero.
Work-Life balance: Can a woman have it all?
Rawlings-Blake credits her mother not only with supporting her career by caring for her daughter when needed; she also saw in her mother the blueprint for how a woman can be both professionally and personally successful.
“My mom had me later in life, because she was going to be a doctor,” Rawlings-Blake explained. “She had a dream, she was determined, so she delayed childbearing. She made a condition with my dad that he was going to support her finishing school — no flipping the script. She was one of the first black women at the University of Maryland,” in the mid-sixties, she elaborated.
“She was a role-model,” Stephanie said of her mother. “She did not try to be wife, mother, and doctor all in the same year. She felt confident she could do all those things, but she made becoming a physician and wife her first priority. You don’t become a doctor or married by accident—you can become pregnant by accident but not the others. Marriage is hard. It’s a challenge, and you make a commitment between family, community and God.”
Stephanie’s mom agreed that women can have it all, as she has demonstrated with her own amazing life.
“With the right ‘help mate’ and support women can have as much as they want in terms of careers and family life,” Dr. Rawlings said. “It requires determination, planning, adaptability and blessings. For my patients and young relatives, I tell them all: if you want it, and you are willing to work hard for it, you can do it, and you can have it!”
What’s next for Madame Mayor?
Rawlings-Blake hasn’t given the impression she is interested in seeking higher office. She mentioned wanting to be a U.S. Senator, but has no plans to run for that office given that both of Maryland’s senators are Democrats.
“When I was growing up I saw myself as a U.S. Senator as an adult in public service,” Rawlings-Blake mused. “I want to grow in public service, but I don’t know what that looks like yet. There are very few jobs as fulfilling as being the mayor of a city. I wake up excited to do this job every day.”
Sophia A. Nelson is a journalist, award-winning author and entrepreneur. Her book, Black Woman Redefined, has been discussed in various media outlets. Follow Sophia A. Nelson on Twitter at@SophiaRedefined.