Feminist housewives and stay-at-home moms. Yes, we do exist!
So, here I am. A 35-year-old woman with a beautiful, 17-month-old daughter and I have made the decision to become a full-time parent and quit my job in finance. A decision I made with my husband for the good of our family as a whole.
I say to myself:
“Isn’t it a great time to be a woman? I can make my own choices. I’ve had access to education and fantastic job opportunities. All that experience and knowledge will stand to me in the future if I decide to go back to work later on.”
“It’s ok to take some time out to raise my child. Yeah, it’s ok to do that. I’m going to do it!”
“Look at me everybody, making my own choices.”
Cue uplifting background music as you watch me sterilise baby bottles in slow-motion. A quick flip in my Mummy montage to me multi-tasking. Look! I’m hanging out the washing, pondering the possible effects of Brexit on Ireland’s financial services’ industry while warning my daughter that compost is not a major food group so she should stop eating it. What a woman!
Who scratched my new record?
Hang on! Wait. The Vangelis-type soundtrack is becoming warped and scratched, replaced by a droning noise. What the fish is that? It’s getting louder and REALLY annoying.
Uh! It’s the unasked for opinions of other people. Thanks for muting my montage folks.
I was surprised and, to be honest, a little hurt, by some people’s views on my choice to be a stay-at-home-parent. Opinions ranged from,
“You need to go out and get yourself a job. You’ll be bored at home all day with a small child.”
“Do you not think it’s a bit of a waste, all that education that you had and all that work experience? And now you want to stay at home and mind your child?”
I managed to ignore the majority of such remarks, reminding myself that they were only throw-away comments. Maybe the person didn’t intend to sound so judgemental, and I shouldn’t take it personally, and I should let it go? But then, this happened.
The camel’s back ain’t broke; now the camel’s just mad!
I thought I should “get myself out there”. I’ve recently moved back to Ireland. I don’t really know anyone. I should make an effort, try to make a few friends. Or if I can’t make friends, at least a few acquaintances so that when I walk through the village, I have someone to salute, tricking myself into thinking I am “part of the furniture”.
So, I meet another mother who has a baby not much younger than my own. She seemed relatively normal. We went for coffee. As is the case a lot of the time in these situations, we both realised we had very little in common with each other, apart from the fact that for a nine-to-ten month period, a tiny human took up occupancy in our wombs.
Our conversation turned to work. When she told me she was returning to her job soon, I was genuinely interested in how she was feeling about going back, what she would be doing when she returned, etc. She had great passion for her chosen field, and I thought “Good for her”.
I explained that I was a stay-at-home-mom. Her response baffled me.
“Well, I myself would have to go back to work. I mean, I love being with my child. But I’d have to work. I’d have to! I almost feel women should go out to work to set a good example to their children”.
Crikey! What do I say now? I could recite my professional CV to this woman, but I’ll look defensive. I could debate the advantages of being a stay-at-home-parent, but I’ll only make her feel guilty for wanting to go back to work. Maybe one of the babies will cry or soil themselves, and that will diffuse the situation? I know what I’ll say.
“Well, that’s the great thing about being a modern-day feminist, isn’t it? You can make your own choices, and you’re not answerable to anyone.”
Feminism advocates equal rights for women. With equal rights, comes choice. A stay-at-home-mom or a housewife is no less a feminist than a woman with a high-powered job who has broken through the corporate glass ceiling. Likewise, the mother who is a CEO of a multi-national corporation and who works full-time is no less a mother than a stay-at-home-mom.
We all make different choices, choices that are made for differing reasons. As women, we should support each other and celebrate the diversity and talent offered by all different types of women.
So, c’mon sisters. Stand next to your fellow woman, even if her choices differ to yours. It would be a fairly boring world if we all did the same thing, wouldn’t it?
Irene Halpin Long is a stay-at-home parent to a beautiful little girl and an aspiring writer. She is currently working on a novel set in the Channel Islands and a children’s book set in Ireland. She is the author of two blogs: one for flash fiction at irenehalpinlong.com and on life as a parent over at, hervoicefromthekitchenwindow.com.
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