The other day I finally found a chance to watch the much anticipated movie Hidden Figures. Complete shock and awe of these featured women filled my hopeful heart, tainted with a glimmer of self shame. You see I am “just” a stay-at-home mother of two. Women broke down insane racial and gender barriers to reduce discrimination at universities and jobs, and here I am, not realizing my full potential.
To be honest, even before I had children I felt that I didn’t deserve to identify as a feminist because I did not have “enough” to show for it. I was not a leader in my field, or “great” or “extraordinary.” But now, now that I am a SAHM full time, I wrestle daily with what I’m doing. I strongly believe in female empowerment, but here I am using my high-earned degrees to care for two children, two and under.
What is worse? …Is I actually love it. I cherish the simplicity (and chaos) of taking care of my two little children. This is truthfully more enjoyable then any job I have occupied to date. And in some ways that makes me feel GUILTY! Staying home wasn’t a decision about what was best for our family necessarily. Most days I really don’t know if I am a “good enough” Mom to claim my daughter thrives more under my care than someone else’s. For all I know she probably would enjoy her life just as much if she was in full-time day care.
But this is what is best for me — What I needed. I did not want to feel the pressure of trying to balance work and children. Most of my life, I have been in such a hurry, I missed precious moments. I couldn’t miss this.
So where does that leave me? Will I be able to find a fulfilling career when my children are school age? Will my daughter still see me as a role model, yet know she can have both a career and family, if that is what she chooses?
You see, I get confused about the feminist message and values in terms of motherhood. Do we honor the role as “mom” and the choice to stay home and care for our children? Do we place higher value on the women that balance work and family life? Do we place an even higher value on sacrificing one over the other?
The truth is we cannot have it all (and neither can men). Having a family increases your plateful, but the plate doesn’t get larger. There will always only be a certain number of hours in a day, and where we spend time in one aspect we inevitably pull from another.
So we, as men and women, make choices. Honestly, my husband would love to be a SAHD, but we couldn’t live solely off of my social work income. Therefore, that was not an option for our family at this point in time.
We fight to have equal rights and protections for all women. We fight for the right for females to be GREAT.
But “I” do not have to be GREAT to care about the potential and propensity for any female to be as GREAT as she chooses.
There are two ways I have seen feminism advocated in the workplace. One, is for women to gain access to careers and education trajectories that have been traditionally male dominated and have higher pay (such as engineering and computer sciences). The other, is for careers that are often female dominated to be more respected and paid more (such as teacher and social worker). I would hardly guess that any feminist would claim a career centered on caretaking other people’s children or parents to be unworthy. For some reason though, there seems to be an implicit fear that advocating for the SAHM could equate to an acceptance and regression of the 1950s housewife.
How then, do we as feminists, advocate for the SAHMs, while at the same time, tell our daughters they can be anyone or anything they want to be?
That is how. By telling our daughters they can and should be anyone and anything they want to be… from astronaut to social worker to engineer to President to SAHM to self-employed to CEO to unemployed. Married or not married. With children. Or without. Let us advocate for choice and access to fair health, employment, education, and human rights, without judging those choices.
Because fellow feminist SAHM and feminist working mom sisters, I need your help. I need to feel like I am not letting you down or doing my daughter a disservice. I need you to tell me it’s not only OK but freaking awesome for me to want to just be a mother for now.