Kamala Harris, the California senator and now vice presidential candidate, has another important title: momala. Harris is a proud stepmom to husband Doug Emhoff's two children, Cole and Ella.
In a 2019 personal essay for Elle, Harris calls the pair, now adults, her "endless source of love and pure joy," and shares that in the early days of dating Emhoff, who she married in 2014, she was adamant about waiting until the right time to meet them.
"As a child of divorce, I knew how hard it could be when your parents start to date other people," Harris wrote. "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. 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."
When she finally met Cole and Ella, Harris was nervous. They gathered for dinner at the kids' favorite seafood restaurant and she brought them a tin of cookies wrapped with a ribbon.
"The ribbon was probably a little extra," she joked, "but over the years Cole and Ella have spared me by not telling me that."
The years have brought Harris even closer to her stepchildren, who gave her the nickname "Momala," because they disliked the term "stepmom." And, Harris has found a close friend in Emhoff's ex-wife, Kerstin, who she calls "an incredible mother."
"She and I became a duo of cheerleaders in the bleachers at Ella’s swim meets and basketball games, often to Ella’s embarrassment," wrote Harris. "We sometimes joke that our modern family is almost a little too functional."
Like all mothers, as Harris' career and work responsibilities have grown, she has felt the pull of figuring out how to be present in her kids' lives while also meeting the requirements of her position. In the essay, she describes first feeling sad about missing Ella's swim meets, then being devastated about missing her high school graduation in June 2017 due to FBI Director James Comey's scheduled time to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee about his firing and the Russia investigation.
Ella was understanding, and Harris got some sound advice from a fellow senator, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire: "Our kids love us for who we are and the sacrifices we make. They get it."
Harris has a constant in her family life that helps her stay connected, even during busy times: Sunday dinners.
"We come together, all of us around the table, and over time we’ve fallen into our roles," she explained. "Cole sets the table and picks the music, Ella makes beautiful desserts, Doug acts as my sous-chef, and I cook."
Harris closes the essay by explaining that her family is what keeps her grounded during these hectic times in her life.
"I can say one thing with certainty, my heart wouldn’t be whole, nor my life full, without them."