Stay-At-Home Feminist: It’s Time I State My Case

I don’t burn my bras. I wear them, begrudgingly, as an extra layer to catch leaky milk. I don’t know the names of famous Suffragettes and I’ve never attended a Women’s March, primarily because I can’t quite muster the motivation to get my kids out the door and fight my slightly enochlophobic instincts. I don’t hate men, except maybe the dude that whistled at me as I wheeled my garbage to the curb. {I’m not a dog, so my ears don’t find a whistle irresistible so much as irritating.} I’m a stay-at-home mom whose primary roles are cooking and cleaning and childrearing. I am not the archetypal face of feminism, but I am a feminist and it’s time I state my case.

Suffrage protesters, Circa 1910s. {Courtesy: Library of Congress}

Growing up, I learned about feminism in the past tense, as a movement that existed to bring girls the freedoms we now enjoy. Women could vote, we could work, and perhaps most importantly, we could begin to think of ourselves as respectable, capable, and equal to our male counterparts. Still, as a high school girl, my mind was aflutter with boys boys boys and so, without intention, I adopted the behaviors constructed by a society that has never paid me or my sisters quite as much.

It wasn’t until college that I thought of myself separate from who I was to men, and perhaps not so ironically, it took a break up and a pixie haircut to do so.

It was clear to me that I would never settle for a life that I considered degrading to me as a woman. I’d make my own way and it wouldn’t be at the heels of men. I was a feminist, I thought, and as such, I sought to deny the parts of me that fit into traditionally “female roles.” Plus, I’d read that tradition was really just peer pressure from the dead, and that stuck with me.

But life had other plans, and so despite writing off domesticity, I made decisions which led me to become the very thing I’d stood to oppose: a stay-at-home mom. Naturally, this shift required a great deal of soul-searching and mental adjustment. Six years in, I wish I could proudly profess my position as a stay-at-home mom, but I can’t. I still don’t feel I do enough as a woman, let alone a self-proclaimed feminist.

But here’s what I do know:

I know that it wasn’t until I experienced pregnancy and childbirth that I was able to love, and I mean truly love my own body. The fact that the female body is uniquely designed to grow, birth, and sustain a human is incredible. Male anatomy plays a role, but reproduction is largely on our shoulders and that makes me hella proud to be a woman. Don’t even get me started on birth. I basically worship it. I don’t care how women birth, as long as they are supported, encouraged, and empowered by their experience. Why? Because birth is truly one of the only things that is biologically a “woman’s work,” a fact that brings a whole new meaning to “I am woman, hear me ROAR.”

Photo: Yamile Branch Photography

I know that as a feminist woman, I am proud not only of my body but other womens’ as well. To me, that means accepting other body types. Encouraging women to sit confidently in their skin, whether they have a lot or a little, whether it’s white or brown or tan or dry or smooth or stretched or wrinkled. It is good because it is yours. Don’t hide it if you don’t want to and do hide it if you do want to. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that women feel good about their body and teach their children to do the same.

I know that as a feminist mother, I will raise my daughters AND my son with the same expectations of kindness, compassion, and humility. I will raise my son to respect women as much as I raise my daughters to, recognizing that we all have a role to play in how our society views sex and gender. I will teach my daughters that they can be anything, and teach my son the same. Sex does not determine interests and that is as true for boys as it is for girls.

I know that as a non-working feminist, my value lies not in my financial contribution, but in my relational, educational, and personal pursuits. Sometimes that looks like cooking and cleaning, sometimes it looks like reading the same story book 20 times a day. Either way, that’s ok. My contribution to my family is important and necessary and above all, my choice as a woman.

I know that as a feminist wife, my relationship with my husband is: give and take. I view our marriage as a partnership. Who plays what role is less important than appreciating one another for our individual contributions. We do our best to work as a team and although our marriage is not without flaws, I can confidently say that I respect my husband as a feminist ally and my primary source of encouragement to pursue my own passions and interests.

I know that as a feminist “mom among moms,” it is my pursuit to encourage women in their own motherhood. Because like birth, motherhood is unique to us as women and vital to our society. Mothering is a challenge, and every mother deserves a tribe of women to uplift and encourage our quest to raise children. I don’t care how you raise your kids. If they are healthy and happy, you do you and know I am honored to be standing beside you as a fellow mom.

I know that feminism isn’t a dirty word. Most of us aren’t man-hating, trouble-stirring, bra-burners {but if you are, more power to you}. Most of us are probably moms, like you and me, hoping to raise our children into a better, safer, more equitable world.

I know feminism has no face. It can be anyone. So, no, I’m not the face of feminism. I’m something else. I’m a stay-at-home feminist.

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