This week’s thoughtful reflections were triggered by two very different viewpoints I ran smack dab into out on the internet. I don’t want to make this a political post, but I do want to point out a few things that I struggle to reconcile in my own situation.
- I am a feminist.
- I am a stay-at-home-parent homeschooler
Those two don’t mix well.
It’s something of a raw point. I always swore that I would be different than the example of some people in my life. That I would be successful, have a career, and do great things with my life. Instead, I’m here, raising kids and teaching them myself. It’s one of the last things I ever thought I would be doing, yet here I am.
To many feminists, I am a traitor. Feminist leadership would not consider me to be feminist at all – I’m doing all the things they fought so hard to free themselves from. I rely on a man for income, I don’t have any control over where the money goes (bills guys, bills) and my college degree is rotting in the sun as we speak, sacrificed to the altar of small children. No self-respecting feminist would allow herself to be put in this situation, right?
Nothing is simple, right?
Well, as always, it’s a little more complicated than that. If you look at the core message of feminism, it’s about the right to choose. To make choices for yourself, uninfluenced by social norms, gender roles, and expectations. That’s grossly simplifying feminism, of course, but it’s really the heart of things.
In our case, I chose to be here. Grumpily, frustrated, and screaming to the wind about pitiless fates at times, but ultimately, it was my choice. If I had said “I don’t think I can do this” or my career had been in a different place, my husband would have gladly taken this cushy parenting spot. He still pushes me to go “publish a book and make lots of money so I can stay home with the kids.” That hasn’t exactly worked out yet, to his dismay!
It’s not just about me
When it came right down to it, this was the right decision. My kids are all high needs, my career hadn’t even gotten off the ground yet, and my husband had just gotten his master’s degree. Financially, it would have been irresponsible to try to fund 3 kids in daycare on an entry-level job. We weren’t planning to homeschool at that point, so I looked at it from a temporary standpoint.
After we embarked on a long journey of “what the heck is going on?!” with the Engineer, we realized that traditional school wouldn’t work for him. Literally, he was the square peg, and trying to pound him into that round hole wasn’t a choice we wanted to make. So temporary became permanent. And here I am.
Contented versus happy
Am I always happy about it? Of course not! My kids are challenging little dirt bags sometimes, even on their good days. Going to work outside the home would literally be a relief – a vacation! Are parents who work outside of the home always happy about their choices too? Of course not! We all get frustrated and annoyed with life, our work, and our families. It’s normal.
Because I am a feminist, I can honestly tell you I chose this. Yes, it was a sacrifice. Yes, it wasn’t the best choice for me, personally. It was the best choice for my kids, and that mattered to me more than what I wanted. It was my choice. I would make it again if I had to, and I’m constantly reminded that my choice isn’t set in stone. Things change, situations change, and who knows what the future holds?
I’m still a feminist
Because I am a feminist, I am still quite bitter about that college degree because it’s completely useless now. And I’m still paying for it! Because I am a feminist I’m mad about how pricy child care is in the US. I’m pissed off that maternity leave sucks, and paternity leave doesn’t exist at all in most cases. I’m all about women having the freedom to make their own choices, be it in their career or as parents. I am a feminist. I just don’t fit into a neat little box. Not that I ever have, honestly.
Being a feminist makes me honest about how some of my choices were not really choices – if there isn’t a viable option, then is it really a choice? Still, with all of that, I knowingly chose to do what I do. I made a sacrifice – one that my husband would have made if the scales were tipped in the other direction. Parenting is a hard thing. Sacrifices are part of the deal when you bring a new little person into the world. It’s called being responsible – and that has absolutely nothing to do with feminism or not.
Ditch the mommy wars
We don’t need the mommy wars. We need to support each other. There is no “best” way, because families are so different with different needs. This is what is best for my family, and we’re privileged that we can make that choice. What’s best for your family may look completely different than mine, and that’s ok. At least, it’s ok if that’s what you choose. Because the minute you feel like you don’t have a choice, there’s a problem.
Think we can do something about that child care issue anytime soon? I hope so!