I was up way past my bedtime last night reading the cover story in the recent New York Magazine. On the cover was a white woman (like me) with mixed race babies (like me) and the title The Feminist Housewife (like me?).
Having just finished The Feminine Mystique I was interested in reading today’s take on feminism and motherhood. I thoroughly enjoyed the article, much more than I enjoyed reading Betty Friedan’s book. The problem I had with Friedan is that she assumed that all women felt trapped by being at home and if they didn’t they were either lying to themselves or just plain stupid. I don’t begrudge her however, I would probably struggle more with being a stay-at-home mom if I felt I had no other options, and I absolutely recognize that without the work of women like Friedan we would not have so much freedom to work outside the home, work part-time, or not have kids at all for that matter.I think the beauty of this article was it highlighted the choice to be a stay-at-home mom not one of abnegation but honoring it as a profession in and of itself.
Five years ago my husband and I were living in San Francisco, we both had budding careers and I loved my job. But I knew I wanted more out of life than work, I wanted a family and so I got pregnant. My husband and I both figured I’d have the baby and go back to work and everything would be fine. The first year of my daughter’s life I did continue to work full-time, but it wasn’t fine. In fact I struggled so much with being spending so little time with my child that I started resenting the job I had previously enjoyed. My work all the sudden seemed frivolous, here I was testing recipes and writing articles about ice cream treats and meanwhile my daughter’s life was being shaped by some stranger. It was no longer liberating, I felt trapped. I had to keep working because it provided all our benefits, but the meager salary was now only enough to pay the nanny.
So my husband started applying for any and every job possible and when he was hired at a small university in North Dakota I was elated (everyone around us thought we were crazy). I was ready to change jobs, do something I felt would be more meaningful, and if that meant moving to North Dakota where we could afford to live on one salary then so be it.
I will be the first to admit the last four years have been the hardest of my life. Just like any other profession this one has its ups and downs. It is not the gratifying work I had imagined. There are certainly days when my biggest accomplishment is making the bed and definitely days when I don’t leave the house….like at all. On those days I yearn to work outside the home, to go back to my desk in the test kitchen and have adult conversations with interesting people. But I will never regret the time I’ve spent with my children and I think what I am doing is important work.
I don’t think I am better than you because I choose to stay at home with my children full time, I simply think my decision was the best one for my family and that is what I loved so much about this article. It was the first one I have ever read on this issue that highlighted what a personal choice this is and that no choice is right or wrong. I think being a mother is very, very hard and we should be supporting one another so we can all feel like we are doing it well, or at least the best way we know how. Is this the new definition of feminism? Agreeing that we all make different choices and supporting one another none-the-less? Well if it is, I am absolutely a feminist. To the end.
And now because you don’t read this blog to hear me ramble on about women’s rights, here is a really delicious recipe for carrot fries, just in time for Easter.