A Feminist Homemaker

Full stop.

Confession: When I read stories about men who stay home with children while their partners work I feel a twinge of jealousy. I am not jealous because I want to work instead of staying home with my son—I have absolutely no desire to trade places with my husband—but because it sounds so very feminist, and my relationship sounds so very traditional.

When new acquaintances ask me what I do, I cringe internally. The term stay-at-home mom has never sat well with me. Homemaker sounds like I spend my days vacuuming and baking chocolate chip cookies. Homesteader is a little too crunchy and misleading since my stead consists of a small front yard garden that provides only a fraction of our produce and stocks our pantry shelf with a few jars of jams and pickles. But each of those labels describes a piece of who I am.

Even knowing the truth of the labels, I want to tack on chapters’ worth of footnotes when I respond, “I stay home with my son.” I’m a stay-at-home mom, but I have a graduate degree. Or I’m a homemaker, but I completed a competitive international internship. Of course I never actually say that because it would (1) be awkward and (2) serve as a flashing sign advertising all of my insecurities. Even knowing that, I have to fight the urge to fill in the blanks lest the person I am talking to fill them in for me.

When my husband Neil and I were in graduate school, I came across the philosophy of Equally Shared Parenting and was immediately sold on the idea. The concept is simple: partners equally share the responsibilities of all areas of the household, including child raising, bread-winning, housework, and recreation. It seemed so very progressive and modern—like feminism in action.

Five years later, my life looks nothing like the life ESP promotes. Neil goes to work every day and provides all of the income for our family. I stay home with our son, cook at least six nights out of seven, do most of the laundry and more than half of the housework.

How did our reality stray so far from the ESP ideal? I have asked myself that question countless times and never found a satisfactory answer until I learned to question the premise. Maybe it never was our ideal. In theory, it sounds great. Who would not want to equally share life’s responsibilities with his or her partner? But if that theory were actually applied to our lives in a rigid way, I believe we would be less happy than we are in our current arrangement.

The truth is, I love staying home with my son. I love the slow pace. I love watching my son discover the world around him. I love going on long walks in the neighborhood. I love growing food in our front yard and preserving it in the kitchen. I love that when Neil gets home from work, the two of them disappear into our son’s room while I turn on All Things Considered and relax while fixing a meal for our family. I eventually hope to create a balance between my home life and my professional life, but for now, my home life is my professional life.

As much as I love being at home, my husband loves going to work. He has found a job that uses his degree, challenges him intellectually, and contributes to creating a better world. Before our son was born, Neil said that if the situation were reversed and I had a job that I loved and he was floundering to figure out his future, he would have gladly stayed home while I financially supported our family. After being a parent for several months, he confessed to me that he no longer thinks he could stay home, though could might not be the operative word. Of course he could stay home—he is loving, kind, competent, and responsible. But he knows that he would not enjoy it, just like I know that I would not enjoy going to an office forty hours a week during our son’s first years.

Our relationship looks traditional to passers-by, and of course it is in the sense that my husband is the breadwinner for our family while I am the primary caregiver for our child. But it doesn’t feel traditional. It feels like we are listening to each other, being honest about what brings us joy, and supporting each other and our family in the best way we know how.

Like the time I wanted to do an internship in West Africa that started less than three months after we got married and Neil encouraged me to take the leap. Most of our family and friends thought it was insane, but he thought it was important.

Or when I came back from said internship knowing that I did not want to pursue a career in international development—the very future on which I had staked my graduate school career—and he chalked it up to a good life experience and spent hours brainstorming futures that were a better fit for my passions and skills.

Or when I wanted to learn more about farming and growing our own food, he encouraged me to volunteer and intern in our new city garden even when the pay was minimal (read: non-existent).

We only get one shot at this beautiful, crazy, confusing life, and I think it is well established that we can’t have it all. Sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat just thinking about how hard it will be to get back into the career game years after completing my degree with little to no experience. But then I remember that I am happy. Happy with my marriage, my family, and the life we are living.

People will make assumptions about my life; that’s just human nature. But by constantly explaining away the traditional roles of our marriage (even if only to myself) I am perpetuating the idea that a real feminist would do it differently. A real feminist’s husband would cook. A real feminist would be rising in the ranks of her profession. A real feminist would only do exactly half of all household chores. And it goes on, and on, and on.

I need to stop making excuses for the life I have chosen.

I am a stay-at-home mom. I am a homemaker. I am a feminist.

Full stop.

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  • La’Marisa-Andrea

    I think the last paragraph in this essay is key: explaining our lives and the choices we make reinforce that idea that either feminism failed women (and through constant explanations, we our desperately trying to convince ourselves and others that it didn’t) or that somehow WE are failing feminism and are in danger of having our feminist card revoked.

    And the OP had a great solution: STOP explaining.

    I would go further. STOP explaining FULL stop. If you are a stay at home mother (because you in fact DO stay at home), then just say that. Point blank. No follow up. No explanation. There’s no “I’m a stay at home mother but I have a graduate degree” or “but I’m really smart.” No et ceteras. If you’re a mother who works outside of the home, that’s what you are. It doesn’t require explanation or justification; you aren’t doing anything wrong. Your choice to work outside of the home isn’t immoral. Neither is your choice to stay home.

    We are part of a generation that tells women, especially mothers that we have to feel conflicted about our life choices. How about we bask in the confidence of knowing that we are making the best choices for ourselves and our families right here in this very moment? How about we reject this desire to explain and reject the cultural push to keep us feeling conflicted and uncertain? It’s 2014. I think we have the power to move this conversation forward and stop apologizing and making excuses for ourselves and our choices. I know we can.

    • jashshea

      Exactly! I made a comment on yesterday’s letter from the Editor about how much polarity there is in our culture right now that fits here as well. It’s like every though/opinion/way of doing things is good vs bad (staying home vs working; disciplining this way or that; kids or not; marrying or not; etc etc) and few people see any value in a more neutral/nuanced view. Creating a family and a life isn’t a competition!

      The first step, for sure, is for more of us to stop apologizing for and explaining what we’re doing.

      • Meg Keene

        The tough part is HOW this vs. that it is. When I say, “Oh yeah, we sleep trained him,” then I’m often in the camp of Horrible Mothers Who Sleep Train, instead of just doing it in a way that worked. OR, people who don’t sleep train talk about it in a language that’s very chastising of those that do.

    • emilyg25

      “STOP explaining FULL stop.”

      This. This is my project for myself, as I practice learning confidence. Most people don’t need to know why I make the choices I do. They are mine to make. If they make me happy, that’s all that matters.

      One of my favorite things about my husband is that he rarely explains himself. I asked him about it once, and he seemed confused as to why it was even an issue. He knows himself and that’s enough.

      • jashshea

        Yes X10.

        A little something I’ve learned by working with slightly awkward, but super intelligent men: Use silence effectively. Don’t rush to fill the space.

      • Sparkles

        AND, you probably do have really good reasons for why you make your choices, so if you keep quiet about it usually, and someone does ask you, I imagine being able to calmly and cooly explain your reasoning, and stealthily cut down any possible criticism or doubt in the other person’s mind. Like a logical, rational, conversational NINJA!

    • Meg Keene

      And I’ll add that society is tough on women (at least mothers) on both sides of this issue. I intended to work, and didn’t have any qualms about it, and have been downright shocked at how often people are scandalized when I say that my kid is in full time daycare. (I’m also actually really surprised how uncommon it’s becoming to be a full time working mother in the Bay Area.)

      I usually respond by saying, “He loves it there, it’s very good for both of us.” It’s a little bit justification, but it’s more re-education. It’s important to me to explain to people that daycare is a great thing, not some sort of last resort.

      But the point is, it doesn’t matter WHAT you say, once you have a kid. You’re in for a tidal wave of judgement.

      • M from NS

        Exactly. Sometimes my dad, on his less sensitive evenings likes to say “men have a job and women have a choice”. I get what he’s trying to say, but no-just no. A woman is judged no matter what her choice is.
        We need to stop being so apologetic for our choices, but I don’t think there is any harm in reminding people that what they think is the correct choice may not be the correct choice for everyone.

  • Man, I hear so much of myself in your post. Everything from the desire independence to the incredibly supportive spouse to the need to make others aware of your accomplishments in an effort to shut them up.

    La’Marisa-Andrea is right on the money with her comment. Every word. Why must we care what others think of our choices assuming they were made with the best intentions and in collaboration with your partner? Truth of the matter is most of us do, but we shouldn’t.

    Simply stated, your situation is what’s best for your family. So if someone presses you for information, that’s all you need to say. I’m obviously still working on this.

  • Amy A.

    “I need to stop making excuses for the life I have chosen.” To me, that sentence is the flip side of the quote I shared with my husband just a few days before we got engaged, from Bill Watterson- “Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement . . . to invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.” One of my dearest hopes for my marriage is to build a life that we both love with my husband, and that’s going to be really, really hard work, and involve making choices together that are right for us and our family, and that may be different from the choices others around us are making for theirs. Making excuses in a (likely unsuccessful) attempt to deflect judgement from those choices is just going to undermine the foundation of the life we build together. Sarah, it sounds like you and your husband are building a life that you both desire and are invested in, and that’s something to be very, very proud of. Thanks so much for sharing a little glimpse of it with us.

    • mere…

      Love Bill Watterson! (that is all.)

  • lady brett

    oh, this gives me butterflies – the spouse and i are working so hard to be able to get to this sort of “traditional” place (and even so, i know i am going to struggle with trying to justify myself when it happens).

    • Meg Keene


      I find it particularly interesting that you feel like you need to justify it, btw. Given that your family life is otherwise pretty damn non-traditional. THAT would make for an interesting essay. COUGHCOUGH.

  • JER

    My mom struggled with the same feelings when she decided not to resume her career as a nurse after my two younger siblings and I were born.

    An illustrative anecdote: When she left her career she missed having business cards–understandably important in the days before Facebook and Google–so she had new ones printed with the title: “Nurturer of Human Potential.” This approach isn’t for everyone, but for my mom it was her way of reminding people that raising tiny humans into adult humans is labor worth valuing!

    • lady brett

      “Nurturer of Human Potential”! wonderful. also, your whole last sentence. it makes me furious that the work of keeping people alive, healthy, happy, and functional is so devalued (especially when it is placed below some of the truly value-less work i’ve done – but for money – in the past!)

    • Jenna

      That anecdote made my heart happy. :)

    • Kara E

      Now, mommy cards are a “thing” (at least in my neighborhood). It’s probably telling that I lost my “real” business cards at some point though and had to order new ones recently (I currently work part time and am full-time/day Mom part time too. I love it).

      FWIW, in my world equally shared rarely means total even. My husband and I both do what we do best with our daughter and sometimes things just don’t happen 50/50. Right now, he contributes financial flexibility to our family, while I contribute schedule flexibility. Things work out in the long run.

  • Maria

    I have one suggestion that my (brilliant) uncle taught me: when you are describing yourself (especially to yourself), embrace AND. You are a stay-at-home-mom, AND you have a graduate degree. You are a homemaker, AND you completed a competitive international internship. One does not negate the other, which is what you are saying if you use “but.” Be careful of the stories you tell yourself. You are complex and you are whole. “But” is the language of regret and I am not really hearing a lot of that in the rest of your essay.

    That said, when explaining to others, I find it useful to keep things short and sweet. If I have described something adequately and they need/want further explanation, that’s on them.

  • Louise

    This is exactly why we need feminism, and why it’s still important: Until women get to to a point where we don’t feel the need to apologise for or justify our life choices, there isn’t real equality. No woman should feel bad for the way they’re living their life, or that they’re not a “real” feminist. There’s no set way to be a feminist. There’s no set way to be a woman! :) Real equality means people being able to live their lives they way they want to, and if what’s right for you and your family means being at home with the kids for a portion (or all) of it, then more power to you.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I would also venture to say that it’s up for feminists to change the conversation and push the movement forward. I think there’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy going on here. We talk about how we shouldn’t have to apologize and justify our choices then we apologize and justify our choices.

  • ambi

    I tried staying at home with my daughter during her first year, and honestly I failed. I learned that I am pretty terrible at household work and I was more stressed out those few months than I have been when working outside the home. So now she is back in daycare, I have a wonderful relaxed “family-friendly” law job, and we are all much happier. I sometimes question it since my salary barely covers her daycare expenses, and don’t get me started on that math once we have a second child, but for now it works.

    • Sparkles

      I’m so glad to hear you’re happy with your arrangement. I think you need to celebrate that, just like OP is celebrating her arrangement. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about child rearing recently, and one of my main conclusions is that kids will most likely turn out fine if you’re a reasonably invested parent. Might as well experience as much life satisfaction as you can while you do it. There’s no need to feel guilty for our choices if your daughter is well-cared for and (almost equally if not more importantly) you’re able to care for yourself.

      • Meg Keene

        There are even studies that show that kids do better in high quality daycare than at home. That doesn’t mean we don’t all need to make the choices that are right for us. But we should all really work to re-frame the way we think about daycare and working women. It’s not simply just an ok second choice. It can be a phenomenal first choice.

        • Beth

          There are many, many other studies that show the opposite. We all choose the evidence that supports the decision that’s right for us-and that’s OK as well.

          • Meg Keene

            I don’t know that it’s true that there are more studies that show kids do better at home. Those studies are far more pushed and publicized, because that’s what our culture wants. But of course everyone should do what’s right for them and their kids. But shaming people with kids in daycare is a no go.

          • Beth

            Which is why I said that there are others, not that there are more! That’s the point that I’m making really-especially with parenting there is ‘research based evidence’ to support most points of view-we generally choose the evidence we are convinvced by according to what resonates with our beliefs and fits with our choices, and it’s generally fairly disingenuous to suggest there is an empirically better way (within reason! although everyone’s interpretation of where the edges of that reason lies will also be different….).

            I have to admit to being personally quite uncomfortable with the idea of putting a young infant in full time childcare. But I live in a society where that doesn’t really happen, unless circumstances are very extreme, due to decent mat leave and an acceptance of part time working (for me, 20 hours paid work a week after mat leave is the key to mental health and balance!), so it lies slightly outside the remit of ‘choices that, although different to mine, I have seen friends and accquaintances make to no ill effect.’ But this is personal discomfort rather than abject horror, and I certainly wouldn’t want to shame anyone.

    • Molly P. Kopuru

      I’m sort of on the fence about whether or not we can even afford for me to stay home once we start having kids, but, like you, I’m pretty sure that my salary will barely cover daycare expenses (if it’s the same as my recent salary history). I just don’t know if I’ll find it worthwhile to work just for the sake of working, when most of my income is potentially eaten up by daycare. That said, I’ve been at home while I’m looking for work after our recent move across country, and it hasn’t gone so well in certain ways. I am still a mediocre cook, for example (that’s the main one; I do most of the cleaning).

      But I am working on it, and I would love to get to stay home with the kids while they are small. It all comes down to whether or not we can afford to.

      We’ll see. I have a couple of years to figure that out.

      • ambi

        Molly, for us the math is basically that my salary pays for daycare and allows enough flexability that I can, for example, go to Target and buy basic stuff without freaking out over our budget. And my daughter is on my health insurance now, which cuts our overall costs down. But yes, sometimes when I leave her at daycare and she cries, I wonder why I am working just to pay for daycare, when I could stay home with her and our family budget would be pretty similar, if a bit tighter. I will say that in my case, I enjoy my job, but I don’t feel ambitious about building a “career” out of it. I do think that when we add more kids, I may want to stay home. But part of our decision-making is based on the fact that, when faced with nothing but little tiny humans and household chores and cooking, I am a very cranky person. My kid(s) would be be better of with a happy mom that cherishes the (significant) time I spend with her than a grouchy bitter mom who resents cooking all day long because we can no longer afford to eat out. That’s what really tipped the scales in favor of me going back to work. My husband is an associate at a law firm with drastically-increased earning potential when he makes partner (soon!), and my job has zero upward mobility, so those things may change our equation when we have a second baby. If our budget was a bit more comfortable and we could afford to do things like eat out and, maybe, possibly, pay someone to help clean the house sometimes, I would be all for staying at home with the kids. But then, I may question what I am actually contributing . . .

        • ambi

          I should add that, when I stayed home, my husband didn’t suddenly work more, but he did suddenly start doing less housework. He started to view it as my job. I resented that. It caused conflict. Another reason I went back to work.

          • Molly P. Kopuru

            It’s definitely a concern, and that’s started to happen for us too. I kind of worry that since our marriage has started this way, that it’s just going to stay that way when I start my job next week. I do the majority of the housework but my husband does pick up on cooking when I’m not feeling up to it. That helps balance it out a little bit.

          • ambi

            I still do about 75% of the childcare (or more). When she is sick, I am the one to miss work. He has after-work extracurricular activities about 2-3 times per week. I have them maybe once per week, or less. Our home is messier now that I am working. We eat out more. So some of the habits formed while I was at home have stuck (me doing most of the childcare) and others shifted (I don’t do as much cleaning and cooking now, but instead of him picking up the slack, it just doesn’t really get done). I should clarify though, that my husband has always been much better about cleaning than I am. I am a fairly messy person, so me being in charge of the cleaning wasn’t a good fit.

        • Molly P. Kopuru

          I’m not on a career trajectory at the moment, but I would like to eventually be. I have some experience in a particular field and am starting work in said field again on Monday. I’ve always valued being able to pay my own way, so I will say it has been hard in that way being out of work. I do tend to put a lot of my self-worth in the fact that I’m earning a paycheck even if it’s not a “career” job. I think it would be difficult for me to stay home (and it sort of is now). My husband is an engineer and does quite well with a lot more earning potential beyond his current salary, so we do have that going for us.

          If I can get excited about my work, I might feel differently. I am hopeful that will be the case here soon. I have had a mixed bag of results on that front in the past, though.

      • Meg Keene

        See my above comment on the long term math of daycare :)

    • Meg Keene

      Two important things:

      1) Women can’t compare their salary to daycare costs. We have to compare household salary to daycare costs. For as long as it’s women’s salary vs. daycare, we’re tied to being the ones somehow responsible.
      2) It seems like short term math, but it’s really long term math. The wages lost over a lifetime by being out of the workforce for a number of years with small children are huge. It’s a fact that’s been studied into the ground. If daycare costs more than what one partner makes in the short term, it’s still going to work out mathematically over the long term. And that’s acting like only the math matters!

      But beyond that, GIRL, I feel you on the cost of two kids in daycare.

      • ambi

        Oh, I should have explained that – we are comparing my salary to daycare because I was the one unhappy in my job and saying that I wanted to stay home and we were trying to figure out if the math would work for that. Could we afford to live without myt salary? Then we did (for a while), so when I was looking for work, it just kind of made sense that we would compare my prospective salary at any given job to daycare costs. Yes, we have household income and household expenses, and I know that it isn’t fair to immediately compare the woman’s salary with daycare costs, but in our family, taking into account how we each felt about our jobs (he LOVES his, is about to make partner, has great earning potential, etc., while I hated mine, thought I wanted to stay home, etc.), it just made sense.

    • Kara E

      I’ve been there (am there, really), so totally sympathize.

      My then-10 month old kiddo basically got kicked out of a fantastic (and affordable) daycare because she wasn’t napping (even if someone rocked and held her) and by lunchtime was completely miserable — and made everyone else miserable too, including the teachers. We have her with a nanny right now and she is SO much happier, but the (amazing) nanny plus the 2x a month cleaning lady that was the answer to a lot of my dh’s household stress wipes out a large chunk of my part time income. We finally decided that it was currently better for my mental health to work some–and that it was cheaper in the long run for me to keep my current (amazing, flexible, well-paying) job than to find something different or quit entirely.

      Ideal? No. Financially Painful? Yes Right thing for now? Absolutely. We, too will figure out baby 2 when he/she shows up (though frankly, the cost of a nanny for one kid and for two are pretty much the same).

      • ambi

        We are actually exploring the cost of a nanny vs. the cost of putting two kids in daycare. It may be an option once baby #2 comes along.

    • Cbrown

      Maybe it’s helpful to think of the costs as coming from your combined salaries, not just yours? Reframing it as both contributing to the day care costs might make the math a bit easier.

  • Sara R.

    Thank you for writing this. It is exactly how I’ve always felt but never able to articulate. I am on the precipice of being a stay at home mom, but haven’t pulled the trigger on that decision yet because I am afraid of those words: stay at home mom.

    There is a lot of fear that comes with this decision for me. Fear of ‘wasting’ a masters degree and the past 5 years I’ve put into a career, fear of not being able to make ends meet after all, fear of loneliness and boredom once I get there, and it’s unfortunate but true- fear of what others will think of me.

  • Sparkles

    Gosh, I love this. I’ve been struggling with this exact same issue right now, except I’ve recently decided to be a stay-at-home-wife. I feel like the cultural narrative around that is even more complex and makes me want to explain even more than if I was a stay-at-home-mother. Because we accept that children are a lot of work and are worth investing in.

    But you’re right. I’m a homemaker. My partner and I have decided this is a useful and reasonable arrangement for our family. I’m much happier here. I’m (still) a feminist. I’m (still) a highly educated person who can talk clearly and reasonably about why I have made the choices I have made, and how they fit with my ideas around feminism and social expectations. AND my job right now is to keep house, and feed my husband (I was going to say but, and changed it to and because Maria’s point in the comments is so on the money). I am a homemaker. Full stop.

    Now excuse me while I get ready to go to the farmer’s market on a Tuesday morning.

    • Sarah E

      Your last sentence triggered the thought that always crops up in discussions on this topic (and on a lot of economic decisions). Making money, having jobs, how we’ve set up our society, all started with getting food. The majority of households have to make money in order to buy food, but it’s the freedom to get and prepare good food for ourselves and our households that’s priceless.

      Heading to the farmers’ market on a weekday morning is rad for any number of reasons. When it comes right down to it, your household can’t do much unless someone is in charge of gathering that food supply (and finding balance with the money-maker to do so. Neither gets by without the other).


    • Violet

      I mean, once kids reach primary school age, they’re not even in the house for hours at a time, anyway. There’s really no point in all this rating one way of being home as more legitimate than another. Rock on!

  • del

    Here’s the problem: anything that is traditionally “female” in any way is undervalued and seen as un-feminist (okay maybe I’m inventing words here- but stick with me for a second).

    You get married- you’re a bad feminist. You change your name- you’re a bad feminist. You enjoy cooking or do most of the housework?-bad feminist. You stay home with your child?- bad feminist. As long as the over-all goal is equality and you are carving out a life that works for you, you are doing feminism right.

    And while we might get judge-y on ourselves for being bad feminists- but if you WERE working, or doing less traditionally “female” things, different people would get all judge-y on them for being bad moms or bad women, or bad wives. There is no way to win with this sort of thing.

    • Alyssa M

      The big issue I have is that I have no objection to those different people getting judge-y on me, and I think a lot of feminists would agree. It’s almost a badge of pride “I’m breaking away from your norms and you can suck it, patriarchy!”

      But when feminists pull the judge-y crap it really hurts women and the movement as a whole… I can’t tell you how many women I know who refuse to call themselves feminist because they feel attacked by feminism for making “traditional” choices.

    • Meg Keene

      The one place I want to hold up for a second here is changing your name. Yes, obviously that’s the right choice for some feminists. BUT. Please let’s not class that say, having a child, as “traditionally female.”

      There are some things that are traditionally female. And there are other things that are directly patriarchal. We can be feminists and do both, because sometimes you have to do what’s right for you. But I think it’s important that we are careful with our language.

      The obliteration of the matriarchal line in names is not simply traditionally female, in the way that giving birth is.

  • honey come home

    “People will make assumptions about my life; that’s just human nature. But by constantly explaining away the traditional roles of our marriage (even if only to myself) I am perpetuating the idea that a real feminist would do it differently.”

    No, you’re not. Feminism is about everyone’s ability to build the life they want, with whatever choices that make sense for them, without their gender as a significant determining factor. When those choices are “traditional,” or are the kind of choices that come with a “Patriarchy Approved!” sticker on them (stay at home moms, changing your last name, etc), I think feminists need to be extra careful and deliberate. There has to be an emphasis on “this works for me, but I don’t support a society that privileges this choice over another, even though I benefit from that privilege.” That is HARD WORK. But it’s what a “real feminist” does. If you are not challenging patriarchal assumptions in outward appearances, than I think you absolutely must be challenging them inwardly, for yourself and for your son and for every feminist out there. Feminism is belief AND action, and if your choices aren’t obviously feminist, you need the belief, the conversations, the explanation and the constant challenging of assumptions to carry the cause. I totally believe you can stay at home with your kid and be a feminist, but I absolutely don’t think you can also be silent on the matter.

    • Lauren from NH

      I disagree that as feminists we need to be vocal on every issue. That would be exhausting! I think it is completely fair to pick your battles and that doesn’t make you a “bad feminist”. We are only human and only have so much time and energy for discussing the complexities of inequality (especially with tiresome naysayers!). Maybe today I don’t want to pick apart the song on the radio but I am happy to call out the sexism I see on TV. And to relate back to issues we discuss often here, maybe I will argue til I am blue in the face over the name change issue but sparkly rings are not my fight. Sure I acknowledge other feminist issues but I don’t need to fight for them all. If you are a feminist who stays home, I would bet my boots that you are aware of the issues surrounding that choice, but I don’t think you are responsible to lead the charge on discussing it with the world at large all damn day.

      • honey come home

        I agree. I don’t think feminists need to be vocal on every issue. You’ll notice that I didn’t actually say that. I think we need to be vocal on the shape our lives take. I don’t even think that means “leading the charge on discussing it.” I’m not saying you need to go around challenging every person, all day. I’m saying total silence is a cop-out. I’m not talking about enjoying a misogynistic song. I’m talking about the fundamental way you move in the world. If the choice you enjoy is one that is endowed with a lot of patriarchal privilege AND you refuse to engage with the feminist implications around it, I think you’re doing yourself and feminism a disservice.

        Again, I absolutely believe you can stay at home with your kid and be a feminist. But I think you owe it to the rest of us to be willing to stand up and say, “This doesn’t work for me because it is traditional, this works for me IN SPITE of it.” Yeah, it’s hard. Yeah, it can be awkward. But it’s worth the effort. That’s all I’d encourage. It’s not a litmus test or something you have to shove down the throats of every casual new acquaintance, just what I’d hope everyone would consider when making these choices about their lives.

        • La’Marisa-Andrea

          I guess I’m not sure what you mean by total silence being a cop-out. If your second paragraph is any indication, it sounds like you think there’s a duty to be vocal on some level. I disagree with that. Not every woman is able. So many women do not even have the ability to speak even in their own homes. Or speaking can be very costly. I’m not prepared that total silence = cop out without first asking why there is silence to begin with.

        • lottie

          “If the choice you enjoy is one that is endowed with a lot of patriarchal privilege AND you refuse to engage with the feminist implications around it, I think you’re doing yourself and feminism a disservice.” This. As I noted elsewhere, I often think of choices in terms of role modeling to children: what are the messages we want kids to absorb. Seeing moms stay home without comment doesn’t set up society for feminism. I’m willing to consider that seeing moms stay home with commentary and vocalized thoughtfulness can be feminist, but the conversations have to happen.

      • Meg Keene

        I agree, but I do think we need to internally challenge and question our choices, if they are ones that fit within the patriarchy. IE, I wear a sparkly ring, but there has been a lot of internal thought that’s gone into that.

        But even if we don’t challenge things internally, we HAVE to challenge them for our kids. My mom changed her name, but not without comment. She discussed with me at length why she felt like she needed to, and what the feminist conversation about it was, and why not all women would change their names. Me not changing my name is definitely a direct line from those early conversations. I also know WHY she made the choice she did, and I know she only did it with a understanding of the greater feminist conversation, and fully support her on it.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      A different perspective here: Not every woman who is a feminist is in a position to be vocal or make feminist choices.

      • Violet

        Yes. Even HAVING a choice is a privilege that is often overlooked. That’s why we can’t define someone’s feminist cred by their actions only. Plenty of people act in ways that may look either feminist or not feminist because that’s their only option.

      • Meg Keene

        Another good point.

        Though I do think that if we have the ability to be vocal with our children about it (if we have them), and be vocal about it within the walls of our own home, it’s our responsibility to do so. Again, that’s not always possible.

    • Meg Keene

      OH. I love this. I think this is super true.

      The point is not that we have to be vocal and outwardly fight every fight. (If we had to fight every fight, we’d obviously just lie down and die of tiredness). But I do think that we need to challenge these ideas inwardly, and CERTAINLY challenge them with our children. I wear makeup, and my son watches me put it on. When he’d older, we’ll talk about that. Probably at first about how Mama wears makeup and his dad does not, but boys can wear makeup if they want too. And when he’s older, on a more complex level.

    • moonlitfractal

      Exactly! My mantra has been “choice feminism is meaningless if the choices go unexamined.” The trick is to examine your choices and still make the ones that are best for you…but always know why.

    • Julia

      “Feminism is about everyone’s ability to build the life they want, with whatever choices that make sense for them, without their gender as a significant determining factor.”

      + 1 gazillion

  • Emily

    I love this. You’ve described, pretty much exactly, the life I dream of having with my fiance in just a few years. But it’s taken me (and will continue to take me!) so much time to be okay with the fact that I want to stay home, that I am marrying a man who will be able to be the sole breadwinner for our baby family, that I will be completely reliant on him and his professional career, that I will have to introduce myself as… what?

    It’s hard to accept that people –vague, faceless masses–will likely belittle my role in our family, or consider it traditional, when in fact it’s a very thoughtful decision made by us both, as partners. But I’m working on it already, and I hope that with your help (especially the passage below) that I’ll be able to add another confident, feminist voice to the throng.

    >>People will make assumptions about my life; that’s just human nature. But by constantly explaining away the traditional roles of our marriage (even if only to myself) I am perpetuating the idea that a real feminist would do it differently. A real feminist’s husband would cook. A real feminist would be rising in the ranks of her profession. A real feminist would only do exactly half of all household chores. And it goes on, and on, and on.

    I need to stop making excuses for the life I have chosen.<<

    Thank you!

    • MDBethann

      How about: Hi, I’m Emily.

      Honestly, that’s how I introduce myself – Hi, I’m Bethann. And if DH is with me, I introduce him too. Unless I’m at something work related, or someone point blank asks me what I do for a living, my job title isn’t part of my introduction. My job doesn’t define me, and if I’m meeting people outside of work, my job is most likely irrelevant to my interactions with them. And I say this as someone who works in a town (D.C.) where the first question when you meet someone is “what do you do?”

  • Amber Smith

    Motherhood is the most important job in the world! I work in a child care center where we take care of children whose moms go to work (youngest: 6 weeks old). It doesn’t seem worth it to me to let your baby have attachments with other people so that you can work (sometimes 12 hour days these kids are there) and make money (including enough for the $2200/month tuition.) I admire what you’re doing, and I have no doubt it’s beneficial for your entire family. We need to get over the idea that feminism is all about making money.

    • emilyg25

      Because I love my job, enjoy the money I make, and want my kid to be comfortable around other people? We need to get over the idea that there’s one right way to do things.

    • Sarah E

      Babies will have and will need to have attachments to other people for their entire lives: families, friends, coworkers, schoolmates. What is the downside of learning relationships and extending communities beyond the home early? I’m not sure I grasp your perspective here.

    • Alyssa M

      Not all people are fulfilled by childcare. Work is not just about money, either. Daycare can often be beneficial for the whole family as well. Every family is different and has different needs.

    • Amy March

      I don’t think motherhood is the most important job in the world at all. For starters, I don’t consider it a job. A job is work you do for which you get paid. Being a mom is like being a wife or a daughter- it sure may be a lot of work, but it isn’t a job, it’s your life. And I think there are lots of jobs that are more important- I’m real glad we have neurosurgeons, and fire fighters, and artists. And I’m glad that some of those people are women.

      • Violet

        I agree, it’s not a “job,” per se, it’s a relationship. With (depending on the circumstances) jobs attached (http://askmoxie.org/blog/2012/09/free-but-not-cheap.html).

      • Meg Keene

        Not a job. A relationship. A damn important relationship, but a relationship.

        And I want to live in a world where women contribute in many ways. Where they run countries and banks and write books and make art, and YUP, get to work in childcare. Because you know what? Childcare is a job, and a DAMN important one.

        • moonlitfractal

          I think a lot of people are attached to “motherhood as job” because, increasingly, to not have a ‘job’ is to be seen as a worthless human being who is a drain on society and not worthy of things like food or health care…or so we keep being told by politicians and pundits. I imagine some of these same people are behind the ‘motherhood as job’ trope, promulgating it in a misguided effort to not alienate female voters.

          I mean, I lost my job due to an illness and I know it’s all a bunch of BS but it can be very hard not to internalize, anyway.

          • Meg Keene

            I think that’s part of it.

            But there is something else too, something around the intensity of the parenting we’re supposed to do. Because motherhood is supposed to be the hardest job in the world, even if you work outside the home. I mean, it’s hard, please don’t get me wrong. It’s REALLY hard if you’re home full time and don’t have help. It’s still not as hard as say, coal mining, I’d argue, but it’s hard. Valuing that is important. But… I think making it a job not a relationship is not always helpful.

          • moonlitfractal

            Making parenting a job rather than a relationship is very unhelpful. I believe that’s part of the reason so many people (but let’s face it: women) feel they need to give up so much of their identities for their children. It’s a sacrifice you ‘have’ to make for the ‘job,’ when is should be finding the balance in the relationship that works best for all participants. And the ‘if you don’t have a salary you’re useless’ mentality has absolutely got to change, for so many reasons.

    • Cleo

      Then you should make the choice that works for you…which I guess you have. And I’m glad it does.

      However…it seems extremely hypocritical to judge the people who put money in your family coffers and also quite short-sighted.

      What if these mothers go to work because they have a spouse with a disability at home who can’t take care of a young child on their own, or because they’re suddenly caring for an aging parent and need whatever bit of money they can, or because they need that second income for another reason, or they simply love the work they do and are a better mother, spouse, friend, and person because of it?

      There’s nothing wrong with staying at home (my mom did it and nurtured a successful career), and, when my partner and I have kids, we have decided that he’s most likely going to be staying home, but if that doesn’t pan out and we need daycare…then we’ll get daycare, because I know myself and know that I would not be completely fulfilled without doing the work that I’m passionate about, no matter how much I loved my kids.

      And what about fatherhood? Or parenthood in general? Why aren’t those as important?

      • Jess

        “And what about fatherhood? Or parenthood in general? Why aren’t those as important?”


    • Violet

      Even if it were a job (which I’m not sure everyone agrees on that), there’s no way to “rank” the importance of jobs. I don’t know what metric you’d use, or what internal logic system. Also, what might be important to an individual is not always important to the whole, and visa versa. (eg: It is hugely important to *me* that my parents had me and raised me, but in the context of the planet, completely insignificant that I was born and not at all important that my parents raised me.)

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      What’s wrong with your child having attachments to other people?

      • Meg Keene

        Something is way more wrong with our kids NOT having attachments to other people, for gods sake. We’re social animals, and it’s supposed to take a village.

        • ART

          For safety reasons (waterfront) we had a no-kids wedding. My now-husband’s cousin and his wife could not attend because they have never left their kids (like 6 and 10 maybe?) with anyone other than his parents, who were coming to the wedding, so they could not arrange any childcare. I was really bummed and wished there was a way we could safely have the kids there, but Mr. ART and I agreed that when we have kids, we want to have at least some non-family childcare for them early on to encourage their ability to make those attachments (and to give ourselves a fighting chance of a night on the town once in a while). I don’t know his cousin very well so maybe that choice works for them, but I think I will really value the “village” in my eventual parenting.

          • Meg Keene

            We recently went to a work event, and we got congratulated five or six times within five minutes for being out without the baby. People asked who he was with, and how we’d found a sitter, and all kinds of detailed questions. (Real answer: he was with his caregiver who’s basically his second mom, and happy as a clam.) Afterwards I was like “What was that ABOUT?”

            But I think it’s about this. Particularly in the Bay Area there is a culture of ALWAYS being with your kids. As someone with childcare, I’m away from him plenty, and actually miss him when I’m out. But the idea that it’s hard to find a babysitter you can trust is sort of crazy. Particularly when the issue under discussion isn’t affordability.

            Oddly, by the way, when I’m at places like Alt Summit for my work, the vast number of working moms (some full time, some at home, but all working) would never think to ask that. Where is the kid? Probably with someone who loves them.

          • ART

            That’s nuts. It’s weird, when I was planning the wedding, I wasn’t too interested in an APW meet up for whatever reason. But now that I’m married (for a whole whopping week and a half) and the conversation in my family has somehow instantly snapped to kids-and-other-life planning, I’m like where you at ladies, let’s get beer. Because you’re right, the Bay Area can be nutty about sooo many things and especially kids. And I have a feeling my current circles don’t/won’t do the kind of parenting we’re hoping to do and while that’s fine, that probably means they can’t be my *only* circles for too much longer.

            So, anyone want to paint hexagon boxes with me and Lawyerette? I have hella leftover wine from my wedding…

          • Victoria

            Absolutely :). My girl is 7 months. My husband and I both work from home and we have childcare and we have my mom baby-sitting all of the time. Having an infant has been…not miserable at all. Now that’s also because my baby is pretty easy and it has been hard sometimes but it still has a ton to do with getting sufficient childcare. And having a husband that is available to do lots of hands on parenting while I go drink wine.

            I did have to get over some slight guilt about how many hours of childcare I wanted. Because we could have made it work with less. But I told myself I did not owe it to anyone to be miserable just because other people have harder circumstances. I like being happy. (My husband has no guilt about this and would kind of like some more hours of childcare).

          • Jess

            To that end, my mom traveled a TON for work. She would always get asked, “Who is watching your kids this week?” The answer was always “Their father, obviously,” which somehow was revolutionary and dangerous. What?!

            Also, I was a daycare kid and I would have been so BORED at home with just my brother, or out to dinner with a parent at a business event or family wedding or pretty much anywhere without mud or other kids to play with.

    • Meg Keene

      WHOA. Let’s hold up there. Daycare is one of the best things in my kids life, and his attachments with other people are one of the best things in his life.

      I don’t work “just so I can make money” “including my EXPENSIVE tuition.” But let’s be super clear that one of the things I work for is, in fact, that expensive tuition, so he can have those super important attachments to other people that love him.

      And he started at seven weeks, for the record. I didn’t have a choice, unless I wanted to close up shop. Though, I was plenty happy to go back to work.

      • leafygreen

        I was a daycare kid. My parents both worked, and then they divorced, which made it even more necessary to have a place that could watch me. I have fond memories of daycare. We did fun things, I learned stuff, I had a bunch of friends and a playground to run around on and a bunch of toys to try out (even *gasp* a video game console, which my parents were not going to let me have at home). I got into kindergarten a year early even though I failed the screening, because it was at my daycare and they knew I was ready for it anyway — hello, concrete example of how daycare directly impacted my life positively, in that it pushed me a year forward in my entire education.

        But when I talked about that with my boyfriend ages ago he pitied me, because he is a child of a stay at home mom, and to him that was superior. This will be a conversation we need to have a few more times before we go about having kids of our own, clearly (although I think his coworkers having kids and putting them in daycare has softened him a bit on the subject).

    • Jacky Speck

      My grandparents influenced my childhood just as much as my mother did, and I can think of a few single fathers who might resent this idea that “motherhood is the most important job in the world.” Motherhood is an important job, but a child is not raised by his/her mother alone.

  • Becca Daniels

    Oh, this is exactly what I needed today. Even though we don’t have kids yet, my husband and I have some of those same on the surface traditional gender roles that often give me pause when someone asks what I do. For now, I say that I am a graduate student, and even though I do plan to pursue my profession, we both know that I would be thrilled to stay home with kids when we have them. I have been dealing with a lot of anxiety around school and work, and one of the thoughts that terrifies me is “what if I never use my degree and have just taken on a massive debt for nothing?”

  • Nicole

    This was my parents’ arrangement too. My dad worked, my mom stayed home, they both felt like they got the better end of the deal and were really happy. It can look really traditional from the outside and I know my mom struggled with that for at least some of the time I was growing up. Now they’re both retired. When my dad retired, he took over more of the chores which gave my mom a retirement from her work too.

    I feel lucky to have had such great role models at creating a marriage that is equal in a way that works for them, even if it’s harder for other people to see or understand the equality. Even though we don’t have kids yet, we’re already running into some similar issues. I love to cook and he does not – so I do a lot of cooking. Having my parents’ example of working that out has helped us navigate how to find our own balance.

  • Alyssa M

    First off… that picture. Baby feet are just the cutest things ever, aren’t they?

    Second… I feel you on this. Completely. I’m not a homemaker, although I likely will be at some point. But I am a white heterosexual cisgendered christian woman who loves to wear dresses, sew, garden, and bake and is getting legally married and will almost definitely quit my crappy low paying job to raise children… and I DON’T have a graduate degree or competitive internships. The things that I am and the things that make me happy don’t reflect my views or values in any visible way… and it’s really sad. My friends call me “quaint.”

    But, honestly, if I lived my life any other way, it would be disingenuous and pointless. Making myself miserable in life just to prove a point is almost as bad as being miserable to fit other’s expectations. So I simply have to find other outlets for my feminism by supporting others and furthering positive social discourse whenever I can…

  • sara g

    This rings true for me since I’m currently agonizing over whether or not to change my name when I get married. I am having this visceral negative reaction about changing it because I feel like I’m a “bad feminist.” To be fair, the origins of the woman changing her name upon marriage are quite icky… Part of me wants to not change my name as a protest, so I can get a weird satisfaction out of hearing people’s shocked reactions (“But dear, if you don’t have the same last name, people won’t believe your children are yours!”), and feel like somehow I’m changing people’s perspectives on gender roles.

    But… part of me wants to be Mrs. HisLastName too. Part of me wants the comfort of being “traditional.” I like the idea of sharing a name, but I’m not so keen on hyphenating. His name is short, and my current one is twice as long. It would be more practical. Etc etc.

    Yes, I know that it doesn’t make me more or less feminist if I change my name, or hyphenate, or don’t change it at all. I’ve always known that, and yet I’m still having this internal debate.

    (And can I just say it really bothers me that I even need to have this internal debate at all, and my fiance doesn’t.)

    • Mo

      I had such dread over this decision. Since I was a teenager and for several years before getting married I would obnoxiously declare to all my friends and family that I would never change my name. I offered these declarations without solicitation. But you know, life and love change you in ways you do not expect. Long story short – I ended up changing it and I am so grateful that I did. Every time I have to write our names on something important – mortgage application, emergency contact, beneficiary, it makes me feel more unified that people will look at our names and know that we are married without having to explain that we are. I changed my middle name to be my former last name and I make sure to not let it disappear. I insist that my credit cards have it all spelled out. It’s only been a year but now when I see my former name it looks like a young girl’s name to me and my new name seems like my rightful grownup name. Mostly my dread was about backpedaling on all of my previous statements and opinions on this topic but hey, we are allowed to change our minds and should be open to that. Just wanted to share my perspective about the really good aspects of sharing a name with your husband. And if you’re really not sure what to do now, you can always change it later.

      • Meg Keene

        I just want to interject that I don’t think announcing that your not going to change your name is obnoxious. It’s important.

        The same name does not make a family. We all three have different last names, and the world does not look at us as somehow less unified.

        • Jacky Speck

          I made a point of announcing it to family several times in the year we were engaged, even though my then-fiance thought it was ridiculous to do so. Nobody thought it was obnoxious, although it resulted in many conversations with the more conservative folks. But it was ultimately a good thing, and probably meant fewer wedding gifts addressed to the non-existent “Mrs. His-Last-Name.”

          There are still family members who chose to call me “Jacky His-Last-Name” even though they know better, but that’s another story.

    • ART

      I am in the process of changing my last name post-wedding now, and it’s a decision I struggled with for at least a year, but determined that for me it was the right choice. But it’s a big pain in the butt, announces to all my professional contacts that I got married (when I’d rather just not talk about my non-work life with many of them), and yeah…he never considered changing his (for reasons parallel to my own reasons for changing mine). Also, we got wedding gifts in the form of checks made out to “Mr. ART and Mrs. ART” with my new name, and my bank isn’t going to know my new name for about a month, and is going to give us a hard time if we don’t have a joint account. So, that’s sort of pushing the issue of the name change AND the banking decisions we hadn’t quite made yet. Blerg.

      • Violet

        We need to somehow send out a PSA that people should make the checks out to Mr. or Mrs. Last Name, and then the banks don’t give you trouble. Ran into the same issue, and only one guest (who is a lawyer) did it that way.

        • ART

          My landlord was really adamant that our rent checks be made out to “Mr. Landlord or Mrs. Landlord” and now I can really appreciate why!

        • Jacky Speck

          We had a few checks incorrectly addressed to “Mr. AND Mrs. His-Last-Name,” and deposited them into an account in only my name. The bank needed both of us to appear in person, he had to sign the back of the check to “sign it over to me,” and the teller asked to see his driver’s license so she could write the number on the back as verification. Not as big a pain-in-the-ass as I initially expected, but definitely more difficult than checks made out to him OR me.

          • Violet

            Oh wow, your bank was way more accepting than ours was! We were both there in person, but as I didn’t have a new ID yet, they refused to deposit it, because it was made out to two people, one of whom didn’t technically exist with that name. We reached out to those guests to let them know there’d be a delay in their checkbooks balancing. It was very annoying.

          • Cara

            Our bank refused to deposit one because I wasn’t yet on his account, so it was technically a 3 party check, and they don’t deposit those apparently. It took awhile to change my name, get me onto his account, and THEN deposit the check, finally. Super annoying.

      • Granola

        Fortunately we had a joint checking account already, which is probably why it wasn’t a problem. I signed them all in my “maiden” name and the bank didn’t even bat an eyelash.

    • Meg Keene

      I think you SHOULD be having this internal debate. And I think you should be having the debate with your partner, because this conversation should be just as hard for him as it is for you. PARTICULARLY if you’re going to change your name. I’ve written more about that here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2011/09/changing-name-marriage/

      Of course you can change it. But when we’re taking comfort in the traditional, particularly when the traditional is highly patriarchal, I think it’s really important that the decision is throughly investigated, and our partners feet are held to the same fire (till they’re just as hot).

      • sara g

        Yeah, I mean I feel like my fiance tries to understand my predicament, but he just doesn’t, at least not fully. Because he has absolutely zero societal pressure to change his name… he’s never even had to consider it. We are having lots of discussions about it though, and he’s been great. So we’ll see what happens.

        Thank you for that article link, btw. It’s really helpful for me to read right now.

      • MisterEHolmes

        We decided that my spouse would also change his name, so we’d both have FirstName MiddleName MyLast (as a second-middle name) HisLast. Changing my name was a pain in the butt…but it’s so much harder for him to do it, involving seeing a judge and a six-week minimum wait. I think that has really helped my spouse see how much of a challenge the name situation is.

      • Laura

        Since we’ve been talking about choice feminism here…I moved to Quebec where I met the man who is now my husband. When we first got engaged we were talking about whether I should change my name…and then we discovered that I can’t. In Quebec, you use the name on your birth certificate. The choice is made for you. The only possible way that you can take your husband’s name is to go through a legal name change process. Even then, it will probably be refused because the desire to take a husband’s last name is not considered a legitimate reason for a name change.

        At first, I was absolutely furious about this because I felt as though my right to choose had been taken away from me. Now, I find myself in the weird position of being soooooooo grateful that it was made for me! I don’t have to justify keeping my maiden name to anyone, because every married woman in Quebec goes by her maiden name. If anyone outside of Quebec gets judgey on me, I simply refer them to said Birth Certificate Name Law. Problem solved. I never get the whole “But don’t you want the same last name as your children?” argument because few women in Quebec have the same last names as their children. And if I do, again, I refer them to Birth Certificate Name Law and the judgey-ness then stops.

        It’s also super simple when I first meet other married women because I never have to ask them what name they’re using. So many potentially awkward conversations avoided!

        That said, though, I feel for women who have gone legally by their husband’s name for many years and then had to change back to their maiden names if they move to Quebec. I think that could be really tough for some people.

    • Jacky Speck

      I thought I would get a “weird satisfaction” out of people’s shocked reactions to not changing my name, too. However, I’ve found that people’s shocked reactions are 0% satisfying and 100% frustrating, so I would definitely not advise making the choice based on that.

      • sara g

        Heh, yeah, it’s not really a serious consideration on my part… I’m already experiencing the frustration preemptively with comments like “Oh, what’s your new last name going to be?” and “Have you practiced your new signature yet?” etc.

        • Cara

          That drove me crazy. I decided to change my name because I didn’t feel particularly connected to my maiden name (or so I thought… turns out it’s still weird) and wanted us to be seen as a unit. But when my grandma asked “So what’s will your last name be again?” it irked me so much! I understand that was typical for her, and expected, but I hope to remember to always ask if someone is changing their last name if I need to know, and not assume!

          • moonlitfractal

            This may go without saying, but you should remember to ask engaged men the same thing, rather than assuming that they *won’t* change their names because they’re men.

    • MDBethann

      Depending on the state you live in, you can take both last names & not hyphenate. I live in MD, which didn’t require me to hyphenate my last name on my license (and Uncle Sam didn’t require it for my Social Security card). I’m Bethann MyMiddle MyLast HisLast. Yes, it’s long (fortunately we both have 6 letter last names) and people mess it up all.the.time. BUT I get to choose who I am depending on the situation, and it’s kinda fun. Yes, legally I’m MyLast HisLast – it was important to me that we have a family name, and for both personal and professional reasons, it was important to me to keep MyLast (I write for a living, my agency will only use my legal name, & continuity is important to me after 10 years in this job). But at work, most people know me by MyLast and socially I tend to go with HisLast. And when I sign things, I keep it simple since there isn’t a hyphen – Bethann MI MLI HisLast – because your signature is whatever reasonable facsimile you want of your name.

      Good luck with your decision – I know it isn’t easy, but there are definitely more options than you think!

  • ummm I think this might be one of my favorite posts yet. I love the thoughtful and honest writing. And, your life sounds wonderful! I agree that it’s about listening to each other and deciding what brings you the most joy, as you perfectly articulated. I struggle right now as technically I am a “stay at home wife” as in, I am unemployed, trying to go back to school, and trying to chug along pursuing my dream career (that doesn’t pay you to pursue it!). A lot of my time is spent grocery shopping, going to the cleaners, walking the dog (and I mean A LOT, she’s a hyper pit bull that needs it), keeping the house tidy, and going to classes for myself. I feel like you get a pass card if you are mothering and staying at home but this place I’m in now just feels…ick. Anyway, love this post. and cheers to doing what is right for you.

    • anon

      I think that’s the difference between having made a choice and having it be thrust upon you…

    • Emily

      This is very much me… I’m staying at home but not exactly by choice (haven’t got the career thing figured out yet and my dream career, which I work at daily, doesn’t pay… yet). Also, I have step-kids and I feel like staying at home becomes a different thing with step-kids somehow. I get the feeling that it is okay (even fashionable in some quarters) to stay home with your own kids, but when people realize that I am caring for someone else’s kids I often get the sense they think of me as hired help. The kids live full-time with us and I’ve known them for the bulk of their lives, so, for me caring for them feels like a natural part of my day and life.

      Step-kids. Another thing not to apologize for or explain. :)

  • Amy March

    I just can’t shake the feeling that being a stay at home mom or housewife isn’t a feminist choice. It might be the right choice for you, but it does nothing to support women as equals. Staying home because you aren’t a huge fan of work, your spouse is, and you like kids and your home is the decision nearly all of my friends mothers made growing up. Some of them are delighted to finally have their retired husbands home with them. Some of them haven’t felt like they’ve done anything meaningful since their kids left. Some of them got great educations and then never worked, and their husbands left them for younger secretaries (yup. True cliche) and now they’re stuck working as part time receptionists because that’s the only job they can get after 30 years at home. Foregoing the opportunity to be capable of supporting yourself and your family by doing meaningful work is a dangerous decision, and I worry that celebrating it in the short term as a happy feminist choice because farmers markets/breast feeding/attachment parenting/canning ignores everything we have learned about the risks of those choices for women. It’s not an accident that men are financially better off after divorce and women worse.

    • hm, see to me its those expectations and pressures and boundaries that are the problem in the first place. to me, it’s about having the freedom to do what YOU want to do – which of course could be different than any other people.

      • Meg Keene

        That’s choice feminism. Which is valid. But I think Amy (and I) are not choice feminists. It’s just a different lens to look at things with. This is an interesting article about it: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/02/27/moving-beyond-a-self-defeating-choose-my-choice-feminism/

        • well there ya go. i always get schooled on this site (in a good way) – I love it! so awesome that a wedding website out of all places has been my sort-of-textbook for feminism.

        • lady brett

          i think for a long time i was confused about cause and effect with regard to choice feminism: no, being able to choose doesn’t automatically make it a feminist choice, but it is often a damn success of feminism that i have the opportunity to make a choice at all. i think sometimes we get mixed up about whether we are celebrating past progress or contributing to current progress.

          • Meg Keene

            Comment of the week. So smart.

    • NF

      Can’t a feminist be a stay at home mom even if it’s not a feminist choice? Every time that a discussion of whether a choice is feminist or not comes up on APW I struggle with this question. I know actions are very important (how else do you cause or perpetuate change), but I have trouble with the idea that any single decision about my name/career/etc. needs to reflect anything other than what is best for me and my family.

      • Amy March

        Absolutely! I don’t think any particular choice defines whether or not you are a feminist, but calling yourself a feminist doesn’t mean all of your choices are feminist. I’m a feminist, shaving my legs every day and hitting them with a dose of sparkle powder is not a feminist choice.

        • wait, sparkle powder for legs???? WHERE?

        • Meg Keene

          WAIT. There is sparkle powder?

          • Amy March

            Since I rock a translucent glow, I like Lush’s luster powder. A little sparkle without looking fake bronze.


          • Meg Keene

            Can you put it on your face? Important questions from a (cough) feminist.

          • Amy March

            It goes on a little thick for my taste as a face powder, and the color isn’t a great match on me. You could but I think Nars shimmer duo is better for faces.

      • Meg Keene

        As far as I see it, of course you can. I shave my legs. It’s not a feminist choice, but doing it doesn’t make me any less feminist. And, on some level, I’d argue that NOT shaving my legs because I felt like I had to to be a good feminist, even though it wasn’t true to who I am—THAT is actually the thing that would make me feel less feminist.

      • Nora

        Yes. And the title should not be “a feminist homemaker”. It should be “I’m a feminist. And also, unrelatedly, I’m a homemaker.” I don’t think “doing what’s best for me and my family” works as a definition for feminism. Because that’s what all people do.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      I agree with some of this. I absolutely think that feminists can (and do) make choices that are anti-feminist. I don’t subscribe to this theory that every choice a woman makes is feminist simply because it was a CHOICE. There are some choices that are anti-feminist. Choosing to stay home can be considered one of them. With that being said, I don’t think that every choice a woman makes (or a self-proclaimed feminist for that matter) NEEDS to be a feminist one and that by intentionally choosing the anti or less feminist option, you’re a bad feminist. You’re a bad feminist if you call yourself one and intentionally misrepresent what it’s about. I think we can acknowledge that being a woman in a hetero-patriarchal culture that privileges a lot of fuckery can be complex and on an individual level, we have to be able to negotiate the space for ourselves without being dishonest to others about what it is we are doing. And give each other the space bc the navigation and negotiation can be hard.

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        As a follow up, also intersectional feminist theory helps to uncover the levels of fuckery we have to deal with as women so for me, a black woman, the decision to stay at home is both feminist and anti-feminist. I think it’s important to have these conversations with nuance when we’re making statements like “such and such is not feminist” and “such and such is.” I think it’s a lot more complex than that.

      • Meg Keene


      • Laura

        I agree with you that the decision to stay home can be feminist or not depending on the reasons for it. What I have been startled to discover in my own marriage is that homemaking is a surprisingly wide open space for subversion. Western culture places value on work that earns money. Staying at home does not earn money and for that reason it is considered “lesser work,” or to a lot of people, not work at all. That is patently untrue. It is fully within the realm of feminism to interrogate how women and men who stay home are doing important work for their families. Staying home can also be incredibly subversive in some ways, as it enables the person doing so to opt out of some of the more objectionable aspects of consumer life, ie. wasteful gas consumption on long commutes, money spent on “convenience items” due to lack of time, and the entire screwed up food industry by gardening and cooking at home. I think it’s important to be aware that a homemaker doesn’t have to be a full-on “homesteader” to consider their work a valuable contribution.

    • Meg Keene

      Yup, as I’ve talked about before, I agree with some of this as well. I’m not a choice feminist, though I think as feminists we can make any kind of choice (they just aren’t all feminist choices). And I think the risks of dropping out of the work force are HUGE.

      What I love about this particular conversation, however, is the discussion of non-apology. I think that it’s really important for women to make the choices that are right for them (feminist or not), and then not feel like they need to apologize or explain, or somehow have their feminist card revoked.

      • NF

        I think the general feeling like they need to apologize/explain is why some women are drawn to choice feminism — if you think that making a certain decision will cause your feminist card to be revoked, you’re probably going to want to find a way to justify your decision as BEING feminist.

        So hooray for discussing non-apology! It’s a really important distinction that too often gets lost in discussions of feminism and choice.

        • Meg Keene

          Oooooo. This is really smart, I’d never put two and two together.

          True story: most posts justifying staying at home as feminist make me feel unsettled. This post made me feel very RAH! FIST BUMPS! And I think the reason is the conversation is about not justifying. Because I don’t have a damn problem in the world with women staying home (nor do I want them to justify it). But the constant re-framing of things as feminist (like name change, nope) really bother me. God knows we can’t fight every fight, or do everything in the name of feminism. I’d rather we do it with no apology, but without re-framing. Because re-framing can get dangerous. There is no way that the ongoing practice of obliterating the names of matriarchal lines can be feminist, to me. But it sure as shit can be the right choice for a feminist to change her name.

          And then there is the whole other radical homemaker conversation of valuing childcare and getting rid of work, which is a conversation worth having. Just want to acknowledge that it’s out there.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            This didn’t make me go RAH. It felt like an ongoing justification. I found myself asking why the writer felt the need to even explain about internships and her traditional marriage and closing the essay with yes, I’m a feminist. And it sounded like it was very much coming from a place of choice feminism which probably accounts for it sounding (to me) like “I’m a stay at home mother, but I’m so much more.” You’re a human being; of course you are.

            In terms of the re-framing, I have personally found it helpful to think of feminism in terms of macro and micro movements. There are things that are done at the macro level like fighting against maternity discrimination and there’s micro at the level of the individual (changing one’s name). Not everything has to be re-framed on a grand scale, but it can on a personal one.

          • Dacia E.

            “And then there is the whole other radical homemaker conversation of
            valuing childcare and getting rid of work, which is a conversation worth
            having. Just want to acknowledge that it’s out there.”

            This. I think that my impression while reading the article reflects this – that she DOES feel the need to justify her choice to provide childcare, and isn’t that kind of a major issue behind all of this? Childcare IS WORK, and legitimate, necessary, difficult work at that. The way I see it, choosing to stay home to raise children is a feminist issue because it can leave you vulnerable if you suddenly don’t have a source of monetary compensation, not because of any inherent feature of childcare.

            I guess my point is that if society valued childcare the way it should be valued, and if we provided better safety nets for stay-at-home parents so that they aren’t screwed if they lose their income source, choosing to stay at home would be much less relevant as a feminist issue.

          • Meg Keene

            I mostly agree.

            The other part of the conversation, however, is that women staying home is still (how is it still?) the patriarchally approved choice. As a working mother, I’m shocked that the fact that I work is regularly considered to be a selfish act, or something that’s hurting my child. (See the down thread comment that women work just for the money, and are causing problems because their child is forming attachments to people other than them. That’s actually a pretty common assumption.) So we still have a problem, until we get to the point where a woman’s choice to work isn’t any more questioned than a mans.

            And the value of childcare cuts both ways. Because we don’t value childcare, and because we judge mothers who use it, childcare workers in this country are underpaid and undertrained. We have limited daycare options, and they’re not part of any formal system, so the quality is all over the map. Daycare is very expensive, and quality daycare is VERY expensive, but the workers are STILL underpaid. We pay a lot for daycare, and I’m still very unhappy with how our providers are being paid. I just don’t have a lot of options, because they’re not paid better other places (and certainly not any place we could DREAM of affording.)

          • Dacia E.

            That’s a very good point. I’ve never planned to stay at home, and even though I have no kids yet, I’m already mentally preparing myself for the inevitable onslaught of judgmental microaggressions. I think the problem is that if you’re a woman, there ISN’T a good choice – you’re going to get messages that you’re selfish if you don’t have kids, you’re selfish if you work when you have kids, and you’re not contributing adequately to society if you stay at home.

            And the daycare issue pisses me off to no end. I firmly believe that we can’t come close to an egalitarian society until childcare workers are compensated fairly and daycare is accessible to everyone. (And doesn’t that all tie back to how little our society values the work of raising children?)

          • Alison O

            yeah the question of daycare affordability seems inevitably tough unless we start to treat is as a public good and devote significantly more taxpayer dollars to it. like, instead of wars or something. maybe? the recommended ratio of caregivers to children for young children is very low. with many products and services we purchase, we can get them for much cheaper than we could make/do them ourselves because the seller can do it more efficiently due to economies of scale, or skill (or outsourcing and paying people overseas even worse wages). but that’s not true for childcare (and other goods/services where quality/individual attention is paramount, including bespoke clothing, artisanal foods, art, some health services, etc.) so with childcare it becomes much more of a balancing act of should i do this or should i get someone to pay what i could do myself (and having SOMEONE care for kids is obviously non-optional). for many people, unless they make substantially more than a healthy living wage, they’re not going to come out very far ‘ahead’ financially speaking if they pay their child’s caregiver(s) a healthy living wage. at the same time, it’s not just a financial question…i can see some people actually taking a financial loss to do work that pays less than their childcare costs (assuming they have income/resources from another source) because they consider it preferable for themselves and/or their children for whatever reason.

          • Meg Keene

            Well, right. This is exactly why we subsidize childhood education in this country. It’s important that kids get access to good and quality care and education, at relatively equal levels. It’s, in theory, one of our values. But yet, we don’t apply that value to children (and their working parents) under five years old. That’s not universal, though I think we culturally assume it is. Countries like France, for example, do have subsidized childcare, and that childcare is assumed to be a good thing for everyone. Providing high quality childcare, on some sort of subsidized sliding scale, is one of the only ways that we can guarantee that women will be able to be full and active participants in the labor force, that children all will be cared for a universally high standard, and childcare workers will be properly compensated commiserate with the vital work that they do. Do I think that’s an overwhelming societal good, that gives more back than it takes? Yes I do.

            That said, the idea that parents don’t come out ahead if they pay childcare providers a living wage is somewhat false. It applies to nanny care, but it doesn’t apply to institutional childcare. The ratios of caregivers to children is low, but it’s not THAT low.

            Beyond that, it actually is financially beneficial, over time, to take a loss on childcare, because your lifetime earnings drop so drastically if you take enough time out of the workforce to raise young kids. In fact, in many places in the country it’s hard not to take a loss, even if you make a reasonably good salary, if you have more than one kid in daycare full time. Prices on two kids range from $1K (in really affordable areas), to $3K (middle range), to significantly higher than that in places like NYC.

          • Alison O

            ah, and here we are http://thinkprogress.org/world/2014/07/09/3458101/f35-boondoggle-fail/

            (fyi i did not fact check it myself)

          • Thiswasmeanttobeaquickcomment

            I think we can do the non-apology without re-framing by accepting that a choice that may not be actively feminist may be absolutely in line with one’s feminist ideals. If you make a choice because it’s the best choice for you, sure, it doesn’t necessarily make it a feminist choice, but it definitely doesn’t make it anti-feminist either.
            Choosing to work full time because your husband told you to would be way out of line with feminist ideals, even though from an external observer it may seem like a feminist choice.
            When my mum changed her last name at marriage, it was not an actively feminist choice. But it honoured someone who was a massive feminist. Were she to keep her original last name, she would be making a more outwardly feminist choice, but with less personal significance because she didn’t know the person who handed down that name.
            To do something for a system, even feminism, when it goes against your personal values or wants, is not a feminist choice.

      • Nora

        I think there is some slippage here between “apologize” and “explain”. She absolutely does not need to apologize. But, simultaneously, I think we absolutely can ask people to explain their choices when they say that they are working toward a particular shared social vision (in this case, feminism). For me, feminism means “increasing justice for women.” Is that the definition the author is working with? I wanted LOTS more explanation about how she defines feminism.

        Feminist” in the title is used as an adjective to modify “homemaker”. What is the author doing to modify homemaking to increase justice for women? Or, if she is working with a definition of “feminist” that is not the same as mine, how is she modifying homemaking toward that goal of feminism?

    • ambi

      As I get older, and life gets more complicated, and my perspective changes, I no longer really worry or care much about how my choices are viewed by others. I/we make decisions that work for us. I’d like to think that my feminist viewpoint, religious faith, educational/work background, etc. help me make good choices, but I don’t think about whether my choice is “feminist” or “Christian” or whatever. Not to say that it isn’t a valid academic exercise to talk about different choices and paths being feminist or not, but I am not sure that anyone, even feminists, actually live their lives that way. I know I don’t, and I consider myself a feminist. So really, I guess, the point of my comment is that I think it IS helpful to have discussions about the pros and cons of certain choices, including things like financial risk should you divorce, but I don’t think there is much value in labeling a choice or lifestyle as “feminist” or not.

      • raspberrycake

        I agree with you. I think when we get bogged down with labels in our day to day life it can be a bit unnecessarily stressful, and yet at the same time I’m happy that people are exploring it in an academic and thoughtful way outside of everyday life.

        The choices that I make in my life reflect my personal values and ideals, and my feminist values and ideals are just another part of that. Every important choice in life is followed by a tiny period of mourning for the other path that could of been–and that’s healthy. You accept you feel that way, you feel the sadness of it, and then you naturally become committed to the path that you chose.

        If I allowed how I feel about every life choice I have made to be contingent on other peoples values and ideals, I probably wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. When you do that, not one person will be happy, and expecially you won’t.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Even before I went to law school, I internalized the idea of not having a duty of care to strangers. I don’t live my life as an example to random young women to whom I’m really only a statistic. I do try to consider what my choices signal to my sisters, my cousins, and even their friends and my father’s students, whom I don’t know. But as raspberrycake is saying, if I had to consider all women, everywhere every time I made an important decision, I’d just collapse.

        Now, there are people who very consciously try to develop lifestyles to make the world or just the nation a better place – They buy American-made goods, or eat local and organic. I think “feminism” is a harder decision-making rubric to apply, though.

      • nora

        Right, and so you might not ever write an article titled “feminist homemaker”. And that’s totally cool. But this author did. So it makes sense to for readers to wonder what that means.

    • teafortwo

      I am with you that not all choices are feminist, but deriding women for leaving the paid workforce as unfeminist relies on both a narrow definition of feminsm.
      A feminism that focusses solely on economic equality and glass ceilings is pretty limited, and is the reason that a lot of (particularly non-white, non-middle class) women don’t identify with feminism. I, personally, am not interested in defining myself by how I earn money or by how much of it I have. When we reduce feminism to finances, we ignore a lot of feminist concerns that are just as pressing. And managing your own finances successfully is a wonderful piece of security to have, but I’m not sure how feminist it is on its own: is looking out for your ownself necessarily a choice that advances equality more broadly and enriches our common humanity?

      • La’Marisa-Andrea

        That’s interesting. I don’t think anyone has reduced feminism to money but making money and getting paid for labor is pretty important for women as a whole. It’s not the whole of feminism but it’s a huge part.

        • teafortwo

          Absolutely it’s huge to women. But the assumption that the most feminist choice is financial independence by way of a meaningful career leaves out a WHOLE LOT of people. The world is full of people who work because they need to pay the rent, not because they find their jobs creatively fulfilling.

          Yes. We need women who are neurosurgeons and rocket scientists and CEOs. But for every woman running a Fortune 500 company, there are always going to be thousands working subsistence jobs that are just a paycheque. And women (and men) who can’t earn a living because of a disabilty or other concerns.

          Not everyone finds their work fulfilling. It sounds like OP didn’t. I don’t like my work, either. It’s a steady paycheque, and the hours are regular and don’t cut into my “real” life. If if were financially sustainable, I would quit. (And I’m working on making that sustainable so I can.) I’m happy to do it while we need my income, and I’ll be happy to stop when I can.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            “But the assumption that the most feminist choice is financial
            independence by way of a meaningful career leaves out a WHOLE LOT of
            I don’t think that this is what feminism demands actually and I am not quite sure why you do. Having a meaningful career is WHOLLY different from arguing for economic equality and really has nothing to do with financial independence for women. Sure, having a meaningful career is great but I don’t think that’s ever been the goal. Being paid for your labor, YES. Loving your labor, not so much.

            That being said, foregoing financial independence is decidedly anti feminist. That doesn’t that it’s bad or wrong. But does it further your security as a woman individually (or even women globally)? No. I don’t think being disingenuous helps anyone.

          • teafortwo

            I don’t think that is what feminism demands – I was responding to Amy March’s specific and repeated references to meaningful paid work.

            Feminism does demand access to and protection in the workplace. Of course. But I don’t buy that leaving the workforce is anti-feminist. When I ran a sexual assault crisis centre, many of our best volunteers were stay-at-home parents who were supported financially by a partner. They had flexible schedules to provide incredible support to our clients, and they were raising sensitive, egalitarian, feminist kids. Was it anti-feminist of them to have chosen a lifestyle that let them drive survivors of sexual assault to court and medical appointments?

            In my family, I’m currently the one who earns an income, and I am SO THANKFUL for all of the other work that my partner does to keep our household running. I hope that we’ll be able to reverse those roles in the next few years. But if we have enough money to keep up our (fairly simple) lifestyle with only one of us working, then why on earth would we go back to having both of us commuting, rushing around to cram errands and housework into evenings and weekends? We live in a jurisdiction with community property laws, which protect the spouse with a lower (or no) income, should we divorce. But even though I’m the one working at a job (that I don’t like) at the monment, I can tell you that our lives run so much more smoothly with only one income, and OH BOY does this system free up more time for other (often political and feminist) pursuits.

          • La’Marisa-Andrea

            Ok thanks for clarifying that. In light of this last comment and I went back reread your comments and I get what you’re saying now in terms of meaningful work.

            Re not buying that opting out is an anti feminist choice, I think my problem with that viewpoint is that feminism is primarily a mass movement that has a goal to advance women as a collective. It’s not an individual movement and frankly, I view choice feminism that says hey, ladies making CHOICE is in and of itself feminist, something that developed so that women who identified as feminists wouldn’t feel bad about making choices that did not further the feminist agenda. Bc while it’s a mass movement, it moves a great deal through our INDIVIDUAL choices and how collectively they impact the general condition of women. I also don’t think that was necessary but we make women feel SO badly that here’s the result. So when put into context, no, foregoing paid work by choice is not a feminist one when financial independence and access to jobs is such a core piece of feminism. That doesn’t mean that people aren’t allowed to make anti feminist choices yet identify as feminists. I’m sure the people you volunteered with (or who volunteered there) were great people who had the time and resources to do what they did. But that doesn’t mean that their choices were feminist ones.

          • Julia

            So I politely disagree with your line of reasoning (“it’s generally a good thing for society when people are financially supported by their partners and can contribute their time and energy to volunteer causes”).

            Yes, it is a good thing that you had people to help out at the sexual assault crisis center (a great thing, actually). But wouldn’t it be better if those people were being paid for their work? Why do we as a society expect so many important tasks to be done for free? Why do schools have to rely on PTA moms and crisis centers on volunteers?

            The more we depend on volunteer labor, the less likely it’ll be for schools and crisis centers to get proper funding, and the less power the women volunteering there will have (and it is mostly women) because on average, they’re not going to have the same financial, political, and social freedoms as their partners who financially support them.

    • H

      I have to agree with this. After seeing my mom give her entire life to raising children, only to be thrown into financial turmoil when my dad decided he wanted to trade her in for a newer model, it’s hard not to see staying at home as a very dangerous choice. She’s very bright, had a great lawyer – none of it mattered in the end. He’ll keep working in the lucrative field that he’s built for himself and she’ll be qualified to work…pretty much nowhere.

      • Mooza

        Exactly. What bothers me is that in todays world, it is a big, huge, risk to decide to leave the workforce for 20 odd years. I mean – at 50 or 60 years old, you’re still looking at 30-40 years of life, without children to raise (and that’s being generous – even at the age of 10 most children start developing independance from their parents, or they should be, at least). Studies have shown that idleness can actually cause desease and depression, especially at old age. People need to DO something. Of course – it is absolutely possible to fill your time up with worthwhile pursuits (like volunteering, as one commenter suggested), but what if you don’t? Jobs are a pretty good way to keep people active and socialising.

    • Kelsey

      I think the author might agree with you. She doesn’t claim that staying at home was a decision that furthered the equality of women. She claimed that, despite her decision to stay at home, she still subscribes to a feminist world view, and that, even in light of that world view, the decision was right for her.

  • raerose1984

    I have to say I read these posts with a tinge of… envy, I guess? My future husband and I (less than a month out!) are struggling with similar, but flip-flopped, issues. At 30, I have a teaching career which I find meaningful and challenging, while at 36 – he has never truly had a “career” and bartends/serves/works with people with disabilities. He is one of those people who just never quite figured out what they want to do in life. He struggles a lot with stepping away from the provider role and I struggle a lot with the fact that in all likelihood I will work full time while he stays home – mostly – with our kids. Honestly, there is a large part of me that wishes I were in a financially secure partnership, at least one with equal income levels. I do wish I had the opportunity to stay home with my future babies, but realize that would take years of dedication on his part and a whole lot of time and money with an uncertain outcome. I guess, for me, acceptance of him, his choices, and his decisions is what I need to work on.

  • Amen. Thanks for articulating this so well. Also, being a “stay at home mom” is the first time I have ever felt truly valued in a job, like I am making a difference. Something I yearned for and never found to be true in real-life corporate jobs. And I wouldn’t go back to a 9-5 job unless it was something that truly made my heart sing… which for me that means applying my veterinary and biology degrees in ways that will make the world a better place.

  • lottie

    I want to (carefully) push here. My resistance to stay-at-home homemaker/mom/wife whatever as a feminist choice is that it requires marriage (or a trust fund) to do it. A single person (nonparent or parent) can’t make this choice and pay for rent, food, etc. So I guess I find myself a little stuck because it’s a choice that relies on someone else’s waged labor (or inheritance/investment), and I’m not sure what to make of that within a feminist realm. A choice that relies on marital/partnered status hardly seems like a model to offer to young girls, which is where I get real tripped up, real fast.

    • lady brett

      yes. but also.

      it does require a relationship and someone’s paid labor, but it doesn’t require marriage – i mean, being a house*wife*, sure, but the model is so much broader than that. the model is about a relationship where waged labor and unpaid labor mutually support each other. it is the same model as my friend who works full time and lives with her mother, who stays home with the kids. or forms of co-op living.

      i think offering up a model that relies on functional, trusting relationships (romantic or non) as an option just as viable as self-reliance and earned income is pretty inspiring. it is, in a lot of ways, riskier and more vulnerable, which i think we should be honest about (as with what you said). but i do not think we need to be teaching anyone that vulnerability or interdependence are bad things.

      • lottie

        You’re right that it doesn’t require marriage. But while I’m all for
        co-ops and villages and mutually sustaining relationships, I see very
        few models that aren’t dependent on a romantic relationship. It’s not to
        say they can’t exist (and I’d love to encounter more examples of
        interdependence separate from romantic relationships), but I remain wary
        of female home-making, with a male partner in the paid labor force, as a
        social/economic/gender-roles model.

        But honesty about choices and vulnerabilities, yep, I’m all for that!

    • lovelystrangeness

      Maybe we can solve this problem by promoting “homemaker” as an equally appealing option for both young girls and young boys? It’s true that adults often choose to forge cooperative lifelong bonds (marriage) but both men and women can work out of the home/in the home/or primarily take care of the home and children. We just need to perpetuate the image of gender equality across these roles.

    • Beth

      Or you can live in a country with a decent welfare system, that recognises that sometimes people are single parents, and sometimes their kids or their circumstances need them to not be in the labour force for the early parts of their childhood, and neither adult nor child deserve to starve for that. As a non-american, I find these discussions so very confusing……

  • AMEN!!!

    This. This. This.

    I actually printed up calling/business cards that list my “profession” as “Scholarly Wife & Mother” and have handed them out on occasion. I do not like SAHM as a label because it’s not a word for one and doesn’t describe who I am or what I do at all. But people love to fill in whatever blanks you leave for them.

    Our version of Equally Shared Parenting acknowledges that earning a wage is part of parenting. We don’t split each chore 50/50, but the total work is split between us.

  • Cara

    Thank you for this post. It bothers me that having a dad stay at home is this revolutionary feminist idea, because when I was little, my mom worked and my dad stayed home. It was a matter of convenience because of jobs and who had a career they loved, and it wasn’t particularly a feminist statement or anything. I’m proud of my mom for being able to do that, but she was a highly motivated person, amazing and brilliant, and my dad lost his job and it was easier for him to take some time off than worry about daycare and everything. Everyone’s situation is different, and I fully support people making decisions that are right for them, without worrying too much about appearances.

    I feel like I don’t have the same drive, motivation, and career path mentality that my mom had, and have always liked the idea of staying at home with kids, or even just as a “housewife,” should the opportunity arise. I don’t feel like my work is meaningful or important, and I haven’t found a career, I just have a job right now. But it doesn’t make sense right now, so I’m kind of biding my time until I do figure out what to do with my life. If I do end up staying at home, I don’t want to be labeled as anti-feminist, and I worry I’ll struggle with that. It’s good to know others have made that decision, struggled, and accepted it.

    • Kara E

      You know, I’m sure your father had to sacrifice a ton to stay at home too, especially 20-30 years ago. Congrats to him too.

    • ElisabethJoanne

      My mother worked, and Dad was mostly home with us sisters until I was in high school. Mom had the more obvious career path all the way back when they married, 5 years before I was born, and the decision to pursue her graduate education before his rippled into all areas of our family life.

      My grandmothers also had college educations and careers. I understand my maternal grandmother was motivated by careerism; it wasn’t a financial thing. I think my father’s family needed the money.

      But no overtly feminist ideology reached me. I understand all these people just made the decisions that seemed best for their families at the time. It’s hard for me now to think of a stay-at-home-dad (or stay-at-home-mom) as any kind of political statement. It’s just one of many options upper-middle-class families have for organizing their lives.

  • moonlitfractal

    For women, staying home to manage the household or raise children may be the right choice, but isn’t a particularly ‘feminist’ choice. However, it can lead to some feminist choices, like choosing (as my mom did) to take on all the household plumbing, carpentry and other home-maintenance. I grew up thinking of those traditionally male tasks as part of a mother’s responsibility (or at least the stay-home parent’s responsibility).

    Additionally, the patriarchy and other factors can mean that whether to work or stay home is not a real choice that many of us have. If the ‘choice’ is to stay home or work full time and pay more than your salary for childcare you do not have a meaningful choice. If (like me) illness forces your career early while your partner is still lucratively employed, it is not a meaningful choice. Staying home under these circumstances isn’t really feminist or anti-feminist. I guess what I’m saying here is that before we criticize certain choices for being “anti-feminist” we should give some serious consideration to whether there were ever real options at all.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      I just came in to catch up on the conversation, but THIS THIS THIS.

  • Guest

    INTERNET HIGH-FIVE TO THIS WHOLE POST! I am not reading the comments today because I am lazy, even though I have no doubts that they are all wonderful, but yeah. High-five to you, your relationship, your supporting each other and yourselves in the way that works best for you. A feminist would do what works for her and her family. Rock on!

  • Sarah

    I, too, feel like my life reflects somewhat traditional roles from the outside but it very feminist from the inside. I would love to think that when our baby arrives in October that my husband and I will share the parenting and workload equally but it just can’t happen. He owns a business and can’t be replaced without a significant hit to the success of the business (and by extension, our family). I am a teacher in Ontario so I’m off on maternity leave until September 2015. I’m so so so grateful to have so much time to be home with our baby without having to make the difficult choice to give up my career. So for the next year I’ll be taking care of the baby, the housework, the groceries, the cooking, etc. about 22 hours a day. My husband will be working 10-14 hour days and hopefully be home for a few minutes before the baby goes to sleep. It’s not ideal. We’d both like for him to have more time with the baby and I would like a more even balance but it’s just not the way it’s going to work out. My job is more family friendly than his is. But I’m very happy at least one of us gets the chance to stay home and watch our baby grow. But none of our set-up makes me feel less feminist. Not at all.

  • missyelliot

    you are only able to stay home because you are privileged enough to have a husband that is able to make enough for the both of you, I honestly dislike essays like this that really only applies to a select segment of the population.

    Also, methinks the lady does protest too much. Nothing wrong with being a homemaker, but this choice obviously doesn’t sit well with you since it causes you to wake up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night.

    And seriously, a graduate degree and then choosing to stay at home? What a waste.

  • Andrea Hiegel

    I have been looking for an article like this. I was raised to fend for myself. first in my family to graduate college. my mother was a law enforcement officer and always taught me to never let a man control my choices. I am No domesticated housewife of the 50s but I am a homemaker. it is a choice I made. my husband supports me and I support him. in this way as the author has said I believe I am a feminist homemaker.
    yes people assume I am a lowly housewife. it may take society a while to abandon that mind frame. on that note let me invite society to not judge by a label. instead get to know a person. there value and worth is much more than a label