Self

Can I Set A Feminist Example As A Stay-At-Home Mom?

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I never thought I’d be a stay-at-home mom. Yet, here I am. And I made this choice.

I wreak of privilege, and I certainly feel some type of way about it, but it’s a fact I must acknowledge. So many other women are forced into this role out of need or circumstance, financial or otherwise, and don’t have the luxury of deciding whether or not they want to stay home with their children full time.

And, of course, there are women who would love to stay home with their kids full time but can’t for the same reasons. It’s a catch 22, and I’m privileged enough to get to choose.

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No one was more surprised than me when I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to work. Covid played a pretty enormous role in that decision, and I also decided to use the time to reinvent myself from a career perspective, but at the end of the day, I just couldn’t imagine not being the one that took care of my daughter —even if that meant writing during her naps and after her bedtime.

But even though I very willingly made the choice to become a stay-at-home mom, and even though I love spending my days hanging out with a burgeoning toddler, accepting this role and the title has been a hard pill to swallow.

I spent my college years fine-tuning my feminism and burying myself in women’s and gender studies, and I really came into my own as those ideals took shape in my mind.

Those ideals, of course, were predicated on the notion that women are strong and smart and capable and should be given shoes and liberated from the kitchen, that women didn’t need to have husbands or children to be fulfilled, that women should have every choice available to them that men have and that we could occupy the same spaces as men in more powerful ways.

Women fought for centuries - we are still fighting- to be seen and heard equitably, to be valued as more than wives and mothers (and sisters and daughters- in other words, apart from our relationships to men).

So how could I, an intelligent, educated, enlightened, pussy hat-wearing, nasty woman, when given the choice, make the one that puts me at home raising a baby? How dare I! Part of me feels like I’m letting our foremothers down.

And it’s not just that. I want my daughter to know that she can be and do anything she wants. I tell her that multiple times a day, every day. But will she really know that’s true if her most immediate female example is the woman who stays home with her?

Will she look to other women as role models of female empowerment? Will she know I am a patriarchy-smashing, bra-burning, Gloria Steinem-worshipping feminist? The thought alone is soul-crushing.

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The thing is, I still absolutely consider myself a feminist, but I question whether or not I deserve the title.

Do I still get to call myself a feminist if I’m not a working mom who’s chasing the “have-it-all" dream? Do I still get to consider myself a feminist if I’m not advocating for gender equality in a brick-and-mortar workplace?

Do I still get to consider myself a feminist if my job duties these days consist of changing diapers, going for walks, preparing snacks, and reading board books? Do I still get to consider myself a feminist if my husband is the sole financial provider for our family? That last one gets me every time. I’m clearly in the middle of an identity crisis.

Several months ago, I read a very validating essay by one of my favorite Medium writers about whether or not there is room for stay-at-home moms in the feminist movement.

For so long, housewives and mothers were seemingly ostracized from feminism as the second wave very passionately rejected “traditional” gender roles for women. You couldn’t be both a stay-at-home mom/wife and a feminist. You had to choose. But like all things, the movement evolved and became more inclusive, and we realized that, at its core, feminism is really about choices.

That’s the feminism I believe in. I believe in women having choices. All the choices.

Women can choose whether or not they want to get married, whether or not they want to have children, whether or not they want to pursue a career, and exactly how they approach all of those decisions.

But it’s more than just the freedom to make our own choices. The feminism I believe in also gives women freedom from judgment when it comes to any and all of the choices they do- or don’t- make.

And I’m not just saying that to make myself feel better.

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When it comes to feminism and women’s empowerment and gender and identity, there’s no one I trust more than myself to guide my daughter through those ideas.

I’m not claiming to have all the answers or to be the most qualified person to teach those subjects, but I do know that the movement that molded me taught me to be open-minded inclusive, and willing to learn. And that’s an example I know I can set.

I’m the best person for this job, just like I knew I was the best person for the job of raising her full time.

Of course, I’ll be sure to point her in the direction of other smart, diverse, and ambitious women who will teach and show her more than my experience allows.

And when all is said and done, my daughter will know that she is strong and able, and she’ll feel empowered to make every decision in her life exactly the way she wants to make it, knowing she’s loved and supported no matter what.

So to answer my own question, yes. I can set a feminist example as a stay-at-home mom.

And I can do it just as well as I could have if I had chosen to go back to work. In fact, I can set a better example now that I’m pursuing my true passion. I can say, “you can be anyone and do anything you want no matter how long it takes,” and she’ll know it’s true because she will have seen me do it first.

Jordan Peden is a freelance writer and the Associate Editor of Ask Us Beauty Magazine. She writes about her experiences as a woman, a wife, a mother, and a member of the Great Resignation. You can see more of her work at www.jordanpedenwrites.com

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.