Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) opened up about her experience as a stepmom in a personal essay for Elle in honor of Mother’s Day.
The 2020 presidential hopeful became stepmother to her husband Doug Emhoff’s two children, Cole and Ella, when they married in 2014. In the essay, Harris explained that she and Emhoff “took it slow” when it came to introducing her to the kids.
“As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people. And I was determined not to insert myself in their lives until Doug and I had established we were in this for the long haul,” she wrote. “Children need consistency; I didn’t want to insert myself into their lives as a temporary fixture because I didn’t want to disappoint them. There’s nothing worse than disappointing a child.”
When Harris did finally meet Emhoff’s children, she was nervous about making a good first impression, but she found they were incredibly welcoming.
Fast forward a few years, and she’s their “Momala,” a word Cole and Ella came up with after agreeing with Harris that they didn’t like the term “stepmom.” She said she’s developed a close relationship with their mother, Kerstin, as well.
“They are brilliant, talented, funny kids who have grown to be remarkable adults,” she noted. “I was already hooked on Doug, but I believe it was Cole and Ella who reeled me in.”
When Harris became a U.S. senator, Cole was off at college, and Ella was entering her senior year of high school. Splitting time between California and Washington, D.C., caused her to miss quite a few family events, including Ella’s swim meets and much to the senator’s dismay, her high school graduation.
“And it was Maggie Hassan, the senator from New Hampshire, who offered me some sage wisdom. ‘Our kids love us for who we are and the sacrifices we make,’ she said. ‘They get it.’”
Though it can be difficult for all working parents to strike a good balance, Harris said she’s fortunate that, just as Hassan said, her stepchildren “get it.”
“They are my endless source of love and pure joy. I am so thankful to Doug, to Kerstin, and most of all, to Ella and Cole,” she wrote. “And as our family embarks together on this new journey … I can say one thing with certainty, my heart wouldn’t be whole, nor my life full, without them.”
Read the full essay on Elle.