When my first son was born 10
years ago, I took the semester off from my college teaching job, with plans to
return eventually. But when I looked into childcare options, I found that I
would actually lose money by paying a
babysitter while I worked, and so my husband and I decided that I would stay
home with my son.
There was certainly a part of me that instantly fell in love with that idea. My son and I were attached at the hip (and the boob for that matter!), and I couldn’t really imagine anyone taking
care of him besides me.
But there was another part of me
that worried profoundly—not just about finances, or the future of my career,
but about my place in the world as a woman. I was raised by a single mom who was
an unabashed feminist in her own way. She told me that I could be anything I
wanted to be regardless of the sex I was born into. She taught me that women were
strong, amazing people with immeasurable strength.
And she taught me that it wasn’t
wise to rely on a man for money, or much of anything.
I trusted my husband, and he
supported whatever choice made sense for our family, but it was definitely
difficult to feel totally comfortable relying on him financially 100%. Ever
since I was a senior in high school, I’d worked, and I couldn’t really relax into
the idea of not contributing to our family’s finances.
Not only that, but I’d worked my
way up in my career as a writer and college instructor, and was finally getting
to the point where I thought maybe I’d start publishing in more distinguished literary
journals, and would start applying for full-time professorships.
To be perfectly honest, when I
thought about being a SAHM, especially before my son was born, I thought of it
as quite the opposite of feminist. To be a mom meant letting all your ambitions
slide away into a dark abyss. It meant giving up your identity, your needs, your
voice, and basically becoming a slave to your family.
But I soon found that being a
SAHM mom was actually totally empowering, and a very feminist venture
In fact, having been home with my
kids in some form or another for a decade now, I can say that doing so is
perhaps the most feminist thing I have ever done.
Being a SAHM mom means so much
more than being mommy-in-chief. I do my fair share of cuddling, listening, nurturing,
and tending. But I am also a top-notch scheduler, seasoned chef, chauffeur
extraordinaire, on-the-fly math and science tutor, resident health expert,
conflict resolution specialist and well-versed psychotherapist.
If raising two feminist boys isn’t feminist enough for you, then I don’t know what is.
And the most miraculous part of
it all? I do many of those things all at once. I’m a brilliant
multitasker. And I do it all on about six or seven hours of broken sleep. Also?
I work 12 hour shifts most days, with zero co-workers past the age of 10.
Maybe one of the most profound and
utterly feminist things I’ve learned is to be a loud, passionate, advocate for
my family. From fighting with our health insurance company so that my kids get the
proper asthma medication, to calling up their school to complain of a bully, I have learned more than ever what it means to have a strong voice in the world—for
my children, and for myself.
I am not a doormat. My family
doesn’t walk all over me. As the mom of two boys, I am unwilling to play the
role of servant in their lives—not just because I literally don’t have the time
to wait on them hand and foot, but because that is not the image of a woman I
want them to see.
I am teaching my sons that
everyone in a household contributes
to chores, not just the mom. By the same token, I am teaching them that
expressing one’s feelings and being kind and considerate is not just something
reserved for women. I am teaching them to see beyond the confines of one’s
assigned gender role.
Most of all, I have learned that
life is long and careers aren’t over just because you take a break from them
to raise your kid. Remember how I said being a SAHM has made me a master
multitasker? Well, in the past few years, I’ve carved out a career for myself
as a freelance writer that allows me to stay home with my kids and work.
I’m using the writing skills I
honed all those years ago, and making more money than I ever made as a part-time
college instructor. Most of all, I’m my own boss, and I’m doing it on my own
schedule, on my own terms, all while getting to play the role I have chosen to
play in my family.
When it comes down to it,
feminism is about owning your life, making your own choices, and not letting
the gender you were born into determine your ability to achieve your goals and
aspirations in life.
And if being a SAHM is part of
that picture for you, you’ll rock it as the most badass feminist in the house.