More than being the newly-elected vice president, Kamala Harris is a mother to her stepchildren, reinforcing the importance of family and strengthening relationships with them.
Eyes are on Kamala Harris as she officially takes the seat as the U.S. Vice President. Hailing from a family of immigrants, she is the second Black woman elected to the U.S. Senate—much to the delight of some like immigrants and the African-American community who have been struggling to exercise rights, especially under the previous administration.
Beyond her new role and as a politician known for her daily ensembles including sneakers, Harris is notable for being vocal about her family. From her lineage with her Jamaican father and Indian mother—both activists in the Civil Rights Movement—to her family with Doug Emhoff and his children, Harris is proud to call her loved ones her inspiration, constant support, and sources of joy.
Forming new ties
Harris’s background has been in the public’s conversation since her presidential nomination and campaign. Her father, Donald Harris, was a Stanford University professor and became an economic consultant to the Jamaican government. His wife, Shyamala Harris, was a breast cancer scientist. She carried a tenacious spirit that Harris claims influenced her. After the divorce, Shyamala single-handedly raised Harris and her sister Maya. Her mother instilled many values in her, including the significance of family. “She taught us to put family first,” Harris said in a speech accepting her nomination, “the family you’re born into and the family you choose.”
Later on, the importance of embracing family trickled into Harris’s life. She married Douglas Emhoff, an entertainment lawyer. With his former wife, he bore children who became Harris’s stepkids, Cole and Ella. They are both named after jazz artists, saxophonist John Coltrane and singer Ella Fitzgerald.
In an essay about motherhood, Harris admitted she had to be mindful in becoming part of Cole and Ella’s lives. As a child of divorced parents, she knew how tough it can be to accept the reality their parents are dating again. Thus, Harris knew she and Doug had to take things slow, especially since Cole and Ella were teenagers then. Thankfully, they were smart and incredible children. Although they were immersed in their respective worlds at the time Harris and Doug began seeing each other, Doug’s children were welcoming.
Mom in town
Harris’s stepchildren are now in their twenties, each one set to live their paths. Cole chose to step into the world of show business after his mother, Hollywood producer Kerstin Emhoff. He works in Plan B Entertainment as an executive assistant while Ella is a Parsons School of Design student set to graduate this year. She is passionate about knitting—taking commissions for crocheted cardigans, bucket hats, and basketball shorts.
Cole and Ella understood Harris is a special person their dad met. At the same time, Harris knew she is in this family for the long-run. She and the children agreed to call her, “Momala” rather than “stepmom.” This term of endearment stuck throughout the campaign period. The nickname is almost like an additional source of strength for Harris—a lovely reminder of her role as a mother with a family who will always support her especially now as the U.S. Vice President.
A big blended family
Harris’s relationship with Doug’s children has always been tight-knit. Ella was part of her high school’s swim team and played basketball so Harris attended her games and meets. However, Harris knew she won’t always be present given her tight schedule. This rang true when she had to attend an important hearing back when she was a California Senator and thus, missed Ella’s high school graduation. Nevertheless, Ella completely understood. Fortunately, Harris was able to catch up during the graduation dinner.
Family dinners are sacred for Harris’s family. Every Sunday, they would all come together and talk about their lives and switch to intellectual discussions, all while indulging in their cooking. Harris cooks (Ella loves her spaghetti, meatballs, stir-fry, feta chicken), Doug takes the role of a sous chef, Ella creates desserts, and Cole sets the table and chooses the music. When the pandemic happened, however, they resorted to weekly Zoom calls. From their usual conversations, family gatherings to virtual celebrations, the blended family remains connected.
There is much to expect with Harris as the U.S. Vice President. Her election, together with U.S. President Joe Biden, has been a relief for many, especially after the end of an administration defined by inhumane policies, blatant lies, and infantile leadership. With the new leaders—one a “Momala”—there is a spark of hope for the future.