Is Staying At Home A Feminist Choice?

The argument goes that staying at home with our children isn’t anti-feminist. It doesn’t undo the decades of fighting and marching and bra-burning. The argument continues that what feminism grants us is choice. The movement gives us the CHOICE whether to stay-at-home or work versus before second wave feminism, we HAD to stay home.

I don’t buy it.

I want to buy it. Because then I feel more comfortable staying at home. I am empowered. I can say that any mom can do what she wants, but I CHOSE to stay home back in 2006 because I just happened to think that staying at home is what I needed to do. I don’t have to feel like I’ve let down the thousands of women who fought not only to attend college and medical school but to be taken seriously in these endeavors.

The problem is that I don’t believe staying home is often a choice. I agree that working is now a very viable option for women, but it’s often not a very GOOD one

Let’s take ME for example.

My choice was to go to pediatric residency with 6-8 weeks off for maternity leave and then an easy rotation tacked on the end as I shifted back into 60-80-hour work weeks with 30-hour shifts peppered throughout. And let’s not forget timing my breast pump schedule around medical rounds and children coding.

Granted, not every month is this intense. But most are. For 3 years. The first 3 years of my son’s life. And then I join a practice most likely with nights and weekend hours.

However, in my case, I wanted to specialize so that’s another 2-3 years of working long hours.

Therefore, in order to pursue my career choice, that my feminist fore-mamas paved for me, I would’ve worked the equivalent of 2 full-time jobs for the first 5 years of my son’s life. Or not had my first baby (who was a surprise so that would’ve been a whole new set of choices) until I was 33 years old, which means I would currently go from 2 children to none.

If I could’ve worked a 40 hours a week job for 5 years in order to practice the medicine that I wanted to practice, I would’ve said yes. I worked hard for those years in medical school. I liked medicine. It wasn’t enough of a passion to work as much as residency asked and to sacrifice as much as residency demanded. But I liked it. And I would’ve made a good doctor.

Maybe medicine isn’t a great example. Except it’s not that different from being a lawyer. In fact, in order to become partner in a law firm, you have to keep up that pace LONGER. And becoming a partner doesn’t mean 40 hours a week job either.

And let’s not forget jobs that don’t pay enough to cover childcare. Or have hours that don’t coincide with the average childcare.

So why aren’t there more female senators, CEOs, chiefs of medicine?

Because we all chose to stay home?

Even if the idea, that children are more important than working, is a feminist concept (and I think either way can be argued), therefore, we, as a society, should be more focused and supportive of families, does staying at home actually accomplish this? Or does it continue to isolate the work world and home world? Making them separate. Perhaps even setting them in opposition to each other.

Of course, there are women who only want to stay at home (which includes women who are staying at home and women who are forced to work because they can’t afford to stay home) and women who only want to work. However, I know no woman on either side who does not have pangs of guilt. I wonder if those pangs of guilt are truthsayers exposing a barrier to living the lives that our feminist fore-mamas believed we deserve.

I think that the feminist movement wanted REAL choices for us. Today, I see improvements and forced sacrifices. And I believe that it’s dangerous to view those sacrifices as choices.

What if we fought for longer maternity leaves? Paid maternity leaves? More breastfeeding support? More flexible hours and work spaces? If these existed to a greater extent, would more of us make a choice rather than an acquiesce? Would we need to chose at all?

A study came out a few years ago, and if I could remember who ran it, I would link to it, but it found that moms, who work part time, are the happiest. I wondered why since usually people, who work part time, are paid less to do more with no benefits.

I wonder if it’s because once we can afford the basics of food, clothing and shelter, we really need to feel whole. Loved. Ourselves. And I don’t mean that work fulfills one part of us and staying at home fulfills the other. I believe that many of us need the opportunity to overlap our worlds. To have a single experience of work and family and friends and life.

In a feminist utopia, we wouldn’t need to make a choice at all, but in today’s world, perhaps part time is our closest scenario, which means we, as feminist and as women, have far to go.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

48 thoughts to “Is Staying At Home A Feminist Choice?”

  1. Great post.

    I honestly believe that you hit the nail on the head when you wrote of choices vs. sacrifices. I’ve done a lot of research into various maternity leaves world wide and, for a country that touts “family values” at ever turn, we have an awful long way to go.

    We have the shortest maternity leave of any industrialized nation. And that maternity leave isn’t even legally mandated for all employees, including part timers. We don’t have a system in place that requires employers to grant sick time which means when children are ill, parents have to make very, very tough decisions. In most places, we don’t pay a living wage for single income homes. There’s only one place in the US that supports a minimum wage salary. We still have people who believe that breastfeeding in public is obscene. The list goes on and on.

    I get so frustrated when I see the “choices” that we have to make in order to spend time with our families. When I went out on maternity leave in my high paying, very fulfilling, government job, my female boss told me, “Enjoy your time off. Those first couple of months with your baby are priceless. But just for the record, if you think you’re going to get a free pass when you come back to work to take time off when he’s ill or needs to go to the doctor’s, you have another thing coming. We can’t pick up your slack.” Needless to say, I left a ten year career in favor of staying at home.

    And now? Well, I’m very happy working 25 hours a week in a position that gives me the flexibility to be at home when my children need me. But in return, I gave up my career, my certification, my pay and all the work I put into advancing. I think I made a good decision. It would have been nice not to have to make the choice.

    I think our foremothers had it wrong. I think feminism is about celebrating our womanhood and not demanding to be a man’s equal but being a woman who is respected for her intelligence and capabilities. Instead of demanding to be treated as men, we should have demanded to be treated as women, who are equal to men.

    1. Wow what she said! I agree with everything. Women have to make so many tough choices when it comes to raising a family. Our country doesn’t put in place many options to help in these choices either.

    2. Mandy, your last paragraph is brilliance. I could not agree more.

      I chose to stay home. I wish that did not make me feel like I’ve wasted my education or that people see me as less intelligent. I wish my friends who work part time didn’t feel like their careers couldn’t really progress. I wish my friends who work full time felt less stretched. I wish many things. But, utopia or no, time, energy, money are all finite. We ALL make sacrifices in any of our choices.

  2. Yes! I agree! And I really like what Mandy said about feminism being about treating/respecting us as women for all our innate abilities, intel, etc. This oversimplifies it, but feminism may have earned us respect to not follow traditional roles and gained us stature in the working world, but at the expense of motherhood. Funny. I wholeheartedly agree it should be about promoting family values/life as it pertain to making families thrive – for both men and women. Great post! What brought this about?

    1. I had just seen a lot of the ‘feminism gave us choice’ comments and a few different posts and articles on feminism and I kept getting tripped up by the word ‘choice’ and the realities of motherhood. So I decided to hash it out here with y’all. Because you (and other commenters too :)) are so smart and thoughtful.

  3. Ugh. The stay at home feminist dilemma. It plagues me daily. THank you for this post. I did a series on Feminism Gone Wrong and could sense the alienation oozing from the people reading it :). It’s so true though. Things are better on a social level, but far from ideal. High five, sista’ friend.

  4. We as women have fought hard for the choices we now have. I will defend anyone’s right to choose, kids or not, work or not.

    Is it easy to make that choice? Nope. The more options we have, the more we have to second guess ourselves.

    I don’t regret giving up my practice. But I do sometimes wish I hadn’t.

  5. Excellent post.

    What causes problems for me, is that now the women I know, since I”m older, are the ones who fought for the feminist movement in the 70’s . Fought hard…and now they see? That a lot of us choose to stay home.

    I’ve often heard these women, who are now in their 70’s, express their disappointment in seeing how things didn’t go as they had fantasized.

    I often ask, “did you fight for the right things?” They answer” there was so much to fight for…”

    We have to look back to see that what was won was acceptance in the workplace.

  6. It’s a privileged choice. You can only “stay home” if your partner earns enough to allow that choice.

    If women with the money to make that choice really, desperately needed to keep working (or wanted to) maybe they/you would fight a lot harder for the structural political change necessary to make that possible for everyone. It’s easy to write these pieces from the comfort and safety of the choice that you get to make — one that many others do not.

    1. While I can stay home due to “privilege”, statistically, most stay-at-home moms are from low income families, which is why I mentioned not being able to afford childcare as limiting our choices as moms as well as not having family-friendly work environments.

      And I do fight hard to make changes. I’ve written letters and made donations and educated myself on what are the real barriers to the choices I wish for all of us moms. This post is a tiny fraction of what I have done in my lifetime.

    2. I always wanted to stay home, but planned on working part-time until our second was born. I was happy, everything was perfect, but when my husband lost his job when I was two months pregnant with our second, my part-time pay didn’t pay all the bills. He, luckily, started a new job a month later. But the damage was done and we had to make choices. Hard choices. By March, in order to keep our home we had to sell our second car, and since we worked in completely opposite directions, there would be no way for me to get to work. So no, not everyone makes that choice from “privilege.”
      And since I worked part-time, when the snow storm hit in December (when my husband was laid off) I didn’t get paid for the 3 days I couldn’t go into work because we were snowed in. And if we had to pay for child-care (which thank goodness we didn’t since husband wasn’t working and when he was my mother babysat) we would still have to pay for days my daughter wouldn’t be there, which we wouldn’t have been able to afford. So no, not everyone gets to make that choice because of “privilege,” some people have to make the choice out of necessity.

  7. I love this. I work, but would rather be the one raising my son rather than the sitter. But I love my job. Staying home would mean taking a step back in my career which I would eventually need to do again once my child(ren) is in school and doesn’t need me home all day. My plan is that I stay home for at least a year with the 2nd. We can afford it. If I want to stay home longer, I’ll have to do the part time thing – which I don’t mind because I do want my worlds to overlap. But why does it have to be so hard for me to be able to do this!
    I agree that we have yet to be given the true choice to work or stay home. We are almost forced to go one way or the other. And yes, we do need to fight for more for mothers. I want us to follow a European country where creating a family is valued – maternity leave is salary plus, you get a year or more of it, it is easy to be a nursing, working mom, and it is easier to go back to work when you want to.
    No matter what feminism may have done or will do – we are still part of the animal kingdom. And most women have a natural, unstoppable desire and need to raise their young. We have to stop making women fight that if they don’t want to.

    1. I just quit a job that I loved and one that was extremely flexible. Once I had kids, they allowed me to work from home and only come into the office when I wanted to. They allowed me to make my own hours – and to work as few or as many hours as I needed to get the job done. They told me to take paid sick time to take my kids to the doctor or stay home with them when they were sick. They even started a FSA program just for me so that I could deduct my childcare expenses. It was the best case scenario.

      But I still quit because, unfortunately, it is still a man’s world. As a woman, I was busting my [email protected]# to run a household and raise kids on top of working. While my husband works 60 plus hours a week and spends 15 hours a week commuting, I probably still clocked more hours taking care of “my” responsibilities. Something had to give and, unfortunately, it was my job.

      When a Swedish researcher asked married couples how they divided up household chores when they got married, the majority of the responses basically boiled down to gender stereotypes – with women doing the majority of household chores and childcare. Most stated that there was never a conscious decision; things just kind of fell into place. It’s sad that gender roles ultimately force some women out of the workforce. Maybe with a little more help at home, it wouldn’t be that way. But society doesn’t expect much from dads, so why should they step up their game?

  8. Um, I actually have a guilt post on this topic scheduled to go up on Friday.

    But my ideal scenario? 3 days a week at my current employer. Even though I know they can’t afford to lose me, I still think they’ll laugh in my face when I eventually ask for it.

  9. I also think a part time job helps because even though you are working you are using a part of your brain/self that isn’t MOMMY. You get to be yourself for 4 hours a day three times a week.

  10. Let me share something personal. My first wife was a SAHM who wanted so much to work somewhere, anywhere. My second wife has a great career but longs to be a SAHM. Both were very unhappy. After the divorce wife number one will never leave the “home”, and wife number two is the sole income for her new relationship and can never be a SAHM.
    Go figure.

    PS: They blame me.

  11. What a great post. I am on the opposite end – I work, and I don’t feel like I have a choice, I’m the breadwinner – and I always feel the guilt. Even when my husband was home with my kids for a year (due to unemployment), I was jealous…and we were too broke for him to really enjoy it. Now we’re both back at work and kids are in daycare all day and I barely see them at night and I think “Is it worth it?” But then I have bills to pay and groceries to buy and I know that it’s our only option. But, aside from the fact that I’m just perpetually broke…you’rer right and some of your commentors are right…as a society we need more support for Maternity Leave and Family Leave and breastfeeding and all those things that make us women. My company is horrible. I actually have a female boss, who has three children, and each time I’ve said “I’m pregnant” her first response is “When will you be out and for how long?” Not congratulations or that’s wonderful or how can we help support you. She just wants to know how it’s going to affect the company. We need to get to a place where a company actually cares for it’s employees. Unfortunately, in the current economy I think we’re going in the opposite direction. Companies are taking things away and witholding things. We do have a long way to go…I hope my son and my daughter live in a better world.

  12. Excellent post!

    I agree with you. I, before my 2 children, was in the culinary field and the hours are long and hard. I chose to stay home because I knew that if I continued to work I would never see my family that I worked hard to produce.

    I don’t feel guilty about staying at home, but society, I feel, still looks down on the women who choose to stay at home. When you introduce yourself at a party and say you stay at home with your kids, they immediately write you off and put you in the dumb housewife box.

    We are women, smart, powerful and resilient and we made the choice to stay at home and put our lives and our needs on the back burner for our families. Why don’t people take that and really understand what that means. That is sacrifice and that is why women have kids and not men. Pussies…

    1. Funny that you feel guilt from others for staying home. Because I feel like there is judgment these days towards me – a working mom. I guess it depends on the circle you keep and what the majority of them have done? I don’t know. Wish we could all just appreciate that most are doing the best they can and the best they know how!

      1. That’s my biggest gripe about this whole dilemma — that the moms themselves judge each other. My children go to a public school where the vast majority of moms are stay-at-homes, who spend A LOT of time volunteering at the school. I work part-time, and although my schedule is somewhat flexible so that I can occasionally volunteer during the day or chaperone a field trip, there’s no way I can be there as much as most of the other moms. I try to compensate by volunteering a lot for night and weekend things, which irritates my husband, who has childcare duties when I’m off volunteering! But the effect on my kids of my working is: not as many playdates as the kids whose moms become friendly and are at home in the afternoons, subtle discrimination when kids are showcased in PTA-sponsored activities, like the First Grade Musical, etc.

        Also, working part-time is not the best of all worlds. The biggest problem is that there are not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything asked of mothers or of employees these days. I am constantly rushing from one thing to the next, and I feel that my performance of each is negatively affected. Also, my career advancement opportunities have pretty much stopped. My pay is much less, and although I am fortunate to get pro rata benefits, it is not the perfect solution that many believe it to be.

        1. I do think a huge part of the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” feeling is due to moms hatin’ on other moms. I experienced both sides of the coin. When I was working full time I had COWORKERS say the rudest things to me about putting my daughter in daycare. The comments ranged from “Oh, don’t you miss her/want to be with her?” to outrageous criticism such as “My wife stayed at home with our youngest son and not our oldest and my youngest son is SO MUCH SMARTER because of it.” I also had the head of our HR department say “Oh no! What a shame” when I told her our daughter was in daycare while I was at work. SO LAME. Then on the flip side when I started to do the SAHM thing then the opposite comments started coming “What do you DO all day anyway?” (Sit on my ass and laugh maniacally about how I’m living the good life on Hubby’s salary, of course!” …oh wait, no I’m relentlessly taking care of the neverending needs of my 7 month old. A job I was paying the daycare $900/month to do for me!)

          I was joking with another mom that I was going to start selling SAY NO TO MOMSHAMING bracelets like Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets so I know which playground moms to befriend and which to avoid :-p

  13. Great post! I am one of those who unfortunately does not feel like I have a choice. We cannot afford for me to stay home so I continue to work every day and spend time with my family when I can. I have worked hard to develop a career, however due to the economy I don’t feel like I even have that anymore. But I continue to go to my job every day to receive my paycheck to allow us to do the live and sometimes even do the little extra things we enjoy doing.

    It has been a strain for my husband and I to continue to work hard and yet still struggle financially because we pay a small fortune in childcare and other expenses, but it is what must be done. Do I wish I could stay home? Sometimes. Am I glad I work? Sometimes. It is a brutal catch-22. What I would love to happen is to receive the well-deserved paycheck that every stay-at-home-mom should get. (I think there is even a website that will tell you how much you should receive. 😉 )

  14. Hmm. I think this is a great post.

    This topic is something I go around & around about in my mind.

    I am among those who must work. There is a part of me that is a little grumpy about that. It manifests itself as a “gee, it must be nice…” attitude toward women who can stay home. Which isn’t fair…but it’s honest.

    Conversely tho, after a few years of being a working parent and feeling the guilt that goes along with that, I have come to the conclusion that given the choice? I probably would still prefer to work. Perhaps just part time for now, but I don’t think I would be good at or happy being a SAHM.

    However, I also am not pursuing advancement, etc. too hard core because that would require me putting in time I’m not willing to sacrifice. There are still elements of being a mom that I want to be a part of (parties, field trips, etc.) and those elements would be eliminated if I were trying to advance at this time.

    So, essentially, both my career and my parenting ability are somewhat stunted. Often, I end up sacrificing vacations & the like to deal with sick kids or so that I can participate in kid functions. It’s not ideal, by any means, and I do think that we, as women, are not offered “good” choices in most circumstances. Often? The choice is career or family and one of the two is going to suffer for the other.

  15. I agree with you. My “choices” are based on what is best for my family financially, not necessarily what my children need emotionally. Having said that, I am extremely lucky to live in Canada where we have 52 weeks paid (52% of salary minimum pay out – the amount may increase depending upon province, and place of employment). That has made the world of difference. Although, at 52% of your income, some mothers are compelled back to work before their child has their first birthday.

  16. Wow, Alex – great post and great conversation.

    I stay at home with my kids, technically by choice. Then again, I would not be able to practice my chosen career anywhere within an hour of where we moved for my husband’s job and, given that my salary in said career would be hardly more than what we’d pay in childcare, my working would not be worth it from a purely economic standpoint.

    While I hear what Caitlin is saying, I think the reality isn’t just about privilege vs. non-privilege. There are many iterations of choice – and ways in which choices, when you factor in two careers and the demands of young kids, are really fait accompli.

  17. The guilt… It is never ending.

    I’m a stay at home mom, who chose to give up an advertising career that demanded, like you, 60-80 hour weeks. With my husband preparing for deployment to Afghanistan, it wasn’t so much a “choice” but a necessity.

    I think the only women who truly have the opportunity to choose, are the women who have an incredibly supportive spouse who’s happy to take on the role of primary care giver. Then, and only then, are they able to choose if they would rather take this role or return to the work place. And after this choice is made? There is still the guilt of “ending husband’s career”, “abandoning babies”, or, alternatively, “giving up an incredible salary to wear PJs all day”.

    As we prepare for my husband’s return, I am struggling with what my next life path should be. His deployment has been incredibly difficult on our children, which makes me hesitant in returning to work full time. After being isolated for so long, I crave a new challenge, with grown ups. Yet, part time positions in my profession are limited to non existant. I also have to be mindful of the fact that the military will always take precedent over our lives, as their orders are not requests. They are mandatory. This makes it incredibly difficult to commit to anything.

    So, I am stuck. And in total agreement with you. I have been left with very little choice here, as much as I appreciate the increase freedom we, as women, enjoy. I have choices, but unfortunately, these choices? Are of no use to our family.

  18. I love that you touched on the “choice” some people make to be a stay at home mom, where the choosing is really done for them. I love being a stay at home mom and once I’m done with my masters will probably continue to be one until my (theoretical) next two children go to school. But this choice was forced upon me.

    Before I got pregnant I had a great job. I was a Director for a large corporate daycare center with hopes of going on to higher level positions. My boss even told me if I did 1year at the school I was at (the hardest school in our district and also 200miles away from home, I moved for the job) I could go anywhere in the company. Then I got pregnant. I didn’t tell anyone until I was 4 months (I have had multiple miscarriages and didn’t want to deal with coworkers if that happened) and was offered a school closer to home during this waiting period. I of course said that I wanted the school and put everything into motion to come back home. My husband got his old position back, we found somewhere to live, and I started the prep for my Assistant to take over my job. Then my boss found out that I was pregnant she started dragging her feet and finding fault with everything I did. Then 2 weeks before we were scheduled to move I found out that I was not taking over the school I had been promised 4 months earlier, she cited the fact that I was going to have to take time off for maternity leave and then would be too distracted with breastfeeding and taking care of a new baby to be at a school as a Director, but instead was getting demoted to an Assistant Director at another school. I accepted it gracefully and was sort of thankful that I could stop working 60 hour weeks 7 months pregnant. I did the assistant thing for a year. I had to miss work occasionally, because I had an infant in daycare and they get sick. And then came the edict from my boss that I could no longer miss work due to my son’s illness ( I only missed 7 days in a year and worked extra hours on the weeks that I did miss a day) even though I worked more hours that anyone in the school, even the Director ( I put in 10 hour days/ 5 days week most weeks and sometimes even more). She started making it harder and harder for me to take time to pump or breastfeed my son, requiring me to make a daily schedule for the teacher’s breaks and in order for me to take a break to either breastfeed or pump I had to deny one of the teachers her break. I finally let her bully me out of the company and quit. I regret this because I spent 5 years there. Because of the economy I couldn’t find a comparably paying job with all of the benefits that I had (one of which being working with my son in the same school) so we decided that I would stay home. It really has been the best thing for me, my son, and my marriage but I still miss my identity.

    1. I find it interesting? Ironic? That you faced this situation while working for a daycare – a business that should, more than any other, be proactive in working out a positive work/family balance.

  19. I hear ya Caitlin… where I come from staying home is a privileged choice and honestly I never really thought that was a bad thing…it’s pretty awesome if you are in a position to stay home with the kids and not have to worry about how your gonna feed them…if you are able to stay home you should and that’s cool. I have no idea what that is like,I only know the side where you have to work and still have no insurance and still receive food stamps and still be a mom. So to me it would seem a privilege(but not in a bad way)
    Guess I’m just out of touch.

  20. I wrote this originally as a response to the comment you left on my post regarding the same issue but it looks like you’ve got a great discussion going here so I’ll re-post to see if anyone else has had the same experience:

    Hey Alex,

    I completely felt like I lived that – was it a choice? Well, yes, but what were my alternatives? Keep plugging away at working parenthood with the knowledge that both baby and job were being severely neglected? Not to mention my relationship with Hubby and any personal pursuits. When you frame it like that it DOES seem like less of a “choice” and more of an “OK working parenthood is kind of killing us all even though that’s really what I wanted in the first place.” If that makes any sense. I also know lots of ladies whose salaries barely cover the costs to put their children in daycare or who had to take alarmingly short maternity leaves, which left the wondering if they could PHYSICALLY go back after 4 or 6 weeks. Both of these issues seem like a huge, horrible stumbling block to equality in the workforce.

  21. Yep, this is why I am not working as an RN. Because a 12 hour hospital shift (which really means 13 or 14 hours, once you tack on travel time and account for often having to stay late) which usually begins and/or ends when my family is still asleep did not sound very appealing. And I wouldn’t be making enough money to justify it. Unless I pursue my NP license, which is another 2 years of intense schooling, nursing is pretty much out. Because I tried to find one of those part time cush outpatient jobs, and they don’t exist. As for feminism, it could actually mean that we are embracing all things “feminine” like motherhood. Hmm.

  22. I appreciate you taking the time to hash all of this out with us.

    Growing up, my mom had her master’s degree but decided to stay home until we were all in school. I feel like that gave me a good model of a women, a mother, who valued education and valued family and found a balance that worked for her and her family.

    After I finished graduate school, got married and had Ezra–I decided to keep working. My work is practically stress-free, 9-5 and close to Ezra’s daycare–those factors helped me make my choice. For a hot second, Husband and I talked about him staying home but we both decided to keep working.

    Do I feel guilt? Surely. Do I have about a million other conflicting feelings about working or staying home or what I want to eat for dinner or wear to church? Surely. That saying “…the grass is always greener…” didn’t come about for no reason. It is human nature to want something else that is seemingly more appealing.

  23. I love this post. You have fully encaptured the way I feel about the whole issue. I love my job, and given the choice to work, I would choose work over staying at home, but it wasn’t really a choice. I have to work. I am the one bringing home the most bacon right now. I think it rarely is a choice for women today, and that goes against the feminist ideals my mother and her peers fought for! We should stop talking about it as if it were…

  24. Alex,

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, however, I really become annoyed when women use the word “sacrifice” in the same breath as talking about having their children. You did make a choice. You made a choice to be a mom instead of having the career you initially set out to have.

    Pre-feminism, women didn’t have that choice. They were told to shut up and have babies and keep house.

    We do have choices today. We just don’t have all the choices we want.

    We definitely have a long way to go before we can be utterly and completely satisfied because our society forces us to choose between work and the being the ideological mother.

    1. I had to reread what I wrote to really think about my choice (heh) of words. And yes, I definitely chose to have children. Although I’m not sure if I realized what that would mean to my career. Of course, I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I’m much happier today than ever before. But I assumed that we (women/feminism) had come so far that I wouldn’t have to make such tough decisions. Perhaps, I went into medicine and motherhood quite naive.
      I appreciate you reminding me of how far we have already come though. Because some days especially having been in medicine and seen what an old boys club it is today, I forget. And I think forgetting is an insult to the hard work of the first two waves of feminism.
      I don’t know if “sacrifice” bothers me the way it bother you. I don’t think what I did was a straight up choice as I think of choice (two or more (roughly) evenly weighted options). Maybe characterizing it as difficult decisions that we need to make easier? What do you think?

      1. Hey Alex,

        It is unfortunate that sometimes choices/decisions are difficult. I think what you did was more of a “sacrifice” than what many women do in order to become a sahm. I essentially put my career on hold. For you, it’s different because of the high demands of medicine.

        I think all parents have to make difficult choices. Mothers seem to be the ones who have to make more strikingly difficult decisions. But that’s only because our society heavily weighs the importance of career/jobs.

        I think we should consider looking at this from a different perspective. How would you see this issue if you weighed motherhood as more important than your career? Would the decision be so difficult then?

        I hope that doesn’t come off with a poor tone. I mean it to be a very serious question, and something I ponder.

        Our society doesn’t give much weight to the task of being a mother. In one breath we say that “it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love,” and then in the next we talk about all the long-suffering we do for this difficult job.

        I try to see mothering is an important task and noble chance to help a human being enter the world. (I’m not implying that you don’t see it that way. I think most moms do.)

        I don’t mean to sound all high and mighty. Believe me, I have plenty of days where I’d love to just go into an office and work. There is a part of me that is simply not satisfied with the everyday duties of being a mother. But most of the time, I try to view it as important work, and that helps satiate me, for a time.

        I also know that the task of mothering is only intensive for a few years (per child) so it’s not like we have to give up a lifetime of work in order to do it.

        Choices surrounding life decisions are never easy. I do think that our society has a long way to go in order to find a happy medium for all human beings to be satisfied. But sometimes I think that we simply need a new perspective from which to view it.

        1. Oh, something else, kind of amusing and sad all at the same time.

          Last year I went into the Texas Workforce Commission to take a class on re-entering the workplace. The teacher told me that I should list that I had been self-employed during my stay-at-home mom time because if I put down that I had been staying at home to raise a child, nobody would take me seriously.

          He also said it would have been more helpful if I had been in jail during that time instead of being a mother.

          Yep. Can’t make this shit up.

          1. A reader left this post on my blog’s facebook page and it gets at the heart of your question of valuing home & family first (and agrees with you): http://sharonastyk.com/2007/02/03/home-economics-sustainability-and-the-mommy-wars/

            A different take on the whole parenting thing is discussed in the satire Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (a first wave feminist).

            Thank you for your discussion here. As long as no one calls anyone names, I’m 100% for strong discourse and disagreement.

            I need to think again on the idea of children are the greatest thing that we could nurture and take care of, which is an idea I firmly carried since early in my pregnancy of my first… another controversial blog post perhaps? Haha.

            PS. good to know I can always recommend arrest to any SAHMs

      2. Too, we’re a generation of women who were raised to believe that we could do anything a man can do. We can have the career and the family. We could be a lawyer and a mother, a doctor and a mother, a politician and a mother.

        While this is certainly true, there are a few things that weren’t taken into consideration. Namely, we’d have to do it all without a wife.

        I don’t mean to oversimplify the situation, but how many women work full-time, come home and then put in another full-time day? I’m sure there are a lucky few who have husbands who are stay at home dads, but for the vast majority, continuing in their careers means that they have little to no support from home. Unless they make enough money to hire a housekeeper, nanny, and cook.

        One of my friends is a SAHM. She was telling me that no one takes into consideration how this has helped her husband’s career. He doesn’t have to take sick days to stay at home when their son is sick. He doesn’t have to think before agreeing to work late because he knows their son doesn’t need to be picked up. He can volunteer to attend meetings across country, take a client out to dinner, etc.

        When a woman makes the decision to continue working, emotionally she can’t put her career before her children and she’s penalized for putting her children before her career with loss of promotional opportunities and pay.

  25. I just skimmed it, and will read it later with more concentration, but thanks for the link. This is something I give a lot of thought to. I am single, and only have one child, so this type of life is not in my future. But I am leaning more and more toward sticking with self-employment/work at home stuff so that I can be more available for my daughter and live within my own schedule. I think that’s the ideal, for me anyway. And I think, also a better option to jail. 🙂

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