Yes, I am a feminist housewife


The response to Natasha’s Queer Parent 101 post was so overwhelming that we asked her to write another post!

On a new road

I am a feminist. I believe firmly that a woman’s “place” is wherever she wants and needs to be. (I wish very much that we lived in a world where that were possible for all women). I also believe that happy (reasonably) well-adjusted parents make happy, (reasonably) well adjusted children, regardless of whether those parents work outside or inside of the home. So why is it that I find it so difficult to answer the question: “What do you do for a living?” I find it equally distressing to respond to the ever present: “So, when are you going back to work?”

I hate the word housewife. I hate the word homemaker. These words are so loaded with patriarchal bullshit that I can barely utter them in any seriousness, much less use them to describe myself or what I do. Yet that’s the check-box that applies to me. And because of it, I get dismissed by the folks at the bank, the car dealership, and occasionally, other parents. It feels like a pretty limiting check box. But what else do I call myself? How can I encapsulate what I do, day in and day out, without sounding either overly-simplistic or self-denigrating?

I have a master’s degree in Gender Studies. I’m a nerd and I love researching and writing. In fact, it’s one of the only things I’ve ever been really good at. I always thought I’d be an academic, and was planning for a return to school for my PhD immediately following the birth of my son. But things didn’t quite turn out that way.

Being at home with my son was a real learning experience! Some days were amazing and I felt thrilled and gratified at being able to witness and guide the growth of this little being. Some days were horrendously frustrating and tiring and what I couldn’t wait to get “back out in the world.” All of the days (and often nights) were long and challenging. But when that first birthday rolled around, and it came time to look at putting Oliver in daycare, I simply couldn’t do it. The very thought of it made me want to cry and throw up at the same time. I just wasn’t ready to let go of my role as stay-at-home mama. When Ollie was just shy of two, I started to feel a bit suffocated, and decided to look around for some part-time work outside of the home. And then, I got pregnant with Lucy. So – I’ve been out of the paid workforce for almost three years now. But not out of the workforce.

To say I keep my household running would be an understatement. I make it possible for my partner to focus on her paid work because of all of the behind the scenes work I do. Cooking, cleaning, child care and sock washing. (It is invisible and undervalued work, but work nonetheless).

I don’t deal in the economies of paychecks (at least not mine) – I deal in the economies of scraped knees, band-aids, juice boxes and swing pushes. I struggle each day to instill creativity, love of life, respect for the earth and for humanity in my children. I am working my ass off to raise children who will not be sexist or racist or homophobic, who will value difference and do their part to make this world a better place. I do this while struggling not to let my identity become subsumed in the world of my home and children. Some days are better than others. There are many days when my cats rubbing against me for attention at the end of the day makes my skin crawl, because if one more thing “needs me”, I will die/cry/spontaneously combust. And seldom a day goes by when I don’t find myself wishing I had more contact with a world outside of child raising, more money, more time on my own, more positive feedback to nurture my sense of self and importance in the world.

But this I know for sure. Child raising is labour. A labour of love, most certainly, but labour nonetheless. Hard labour. The hours are crap, the pay is worse, and the acknowledgement from the world around us pretty non-existent.

What do I do for a living?

I’m a teacher and a doctor and a therapist and a laundry mat. I’m a playgroup leader and a chef and a nutritionist. I’m a personal shopper and a cleaning lady and a librarian. I’m a taxi driver and a soccer coach and the occasional jailer. I’m the CEO of this operation, and I’m pretty good at it. I’m up to my eyeballs in laughter and tears and dirty diapers and snotty kleenex. I’m on call 24/7. Fit that in a check-box.

Comments on Yes, I am a feminist housewife

  1. Awesome. I think I need to send this to my mother. I plan to work part-time when the baby comes (after awhile of working not at all) and she's devastated. She didn't raise me to be a housewife! Ugh! But what is the point of working just to pay someone else to raise your kid, especially if you hate your job!? My husband would be more jazzed about the idea if I could cook and clean, because currently he works, cooks and cleans, but I'm learning!
    PS I love the "I manage the family business" line from that commercial.

  2. Awesome!! and I agree with you. Feminism is about the choice. I choose to stay home with our kids.

  3. HELL yes! I would love to be a stay-at-home-awesome when we eventually have kids and then eventually when they are old enough work part time. The idea of sticking a kid in day care is just not something I like.

    You rock.

  4. I'm a feminist who isn't married and has no children and never plans to. I loved this post! yes feminism is about women having choices, doing what makes them happy and not being judged for those choices. Being a mother and managing a household is important fulfilling work and no one should think less of someone for making that choice.

  5. When are you going back to work? You're never OFF work! 😛 Awesome. Don't let people put you into a box … mothers and fathers who take care of their kids and their homes are almost never given the respect and appreciation (at least from outside the home) that they deserve.

  6. AMEN. I get told I cannot be a stay-at-home mom and a feminist at the same time. To that, I say fuck you. Obviously you can, because I'm doing it.

    Besides. I was a kindergarten teacher. What am I going to do, go pay to put my kids in daycare so I can teach some other ones? It's fine for people who do that, but it didn't make sense for me.

  7. Wow! I actually laughed so hard I cried, and that never happens. Being a mother is a full time job and it's a very important one! Thank you for sharing.

  8. Love Love Love this post! We should never feel we have to justify our choices …whether it is to go back to work or to stay home. We decide these things for very personal, very different reasons

    • yes! totally. I feel the so-called 'divide' between working moms (paid) and working moms (unpaid) doesn't really exist – except maybe in the media. Women just want(and need) to be free to make the best choices for them! NP

  9. WOW! Thank you for putting words to emotions. It's conversations like this that change our language and thus our worlds. I just want to hug you all!

  10. I totally agree 100% with this. I'm a mom of triplet baby boys. It's been an interesting ride and I had to take time off of university to be home with my guys. I agree that feminism is about choice. Unfortunately the way our economy is my husband and I are going to both have to work. My goal is that by completing school and becoming actively involved in community advocacy I will be able to work from home.

  11. I think I might be loony but this made me cry. HA! I don't want to go back to work in a few months…but I will have been home with my babe for 14 months and we need the money to plan a big family move. It's heartbreaking…
    I'm so happy that you're able to stay home with your kiddies, the rest of the world needs to step the eff off!

  12. Thank you for this post! I am planning on entering law school in the fall of 2011 and so desperately want to begin a family soon. I'll be in my early 30's when I'm done and will have to begin starting a law career (I plan on going in to children and family law, there is no way in hell I'd be a corporate lawyer working 10+ days) and well having a child then would be a lot tougher as I couldn't stay at home the first year. So my fiance and I have both decided that I'll go to school part time and start our family while I'm in school.

    Most of my friends and family look at me as if I'm crazy. I have been told to pursue more "pink collar jobs", focus on a family, or focus on the law career. I have come to learn that as a woman that none of my choices will be easy. But thank goodness I have a choice!

    • OMG Faith as I reading this for a second I thought, "Did I write this?" I am also starting law school in the fall of 2011 and planning on having a baby around the same time AND I"m going into family law. Weird right? This will be our second baby but I'm so nervous about going to law school and having a newborn. The first year of crazy sleep schedules combined with all the coursework is a little scary. And soooo many of the moms at the playgroups think I'm nuts for trying to do it and for a quick second I let me get into my brain.

      But just like you said the choice to do both isn't going to be easy but seriously what in life is easy. And I want to teach my child(ren) that you have to work at the things that are really want. And just like you said even though I absolutely want to be a lawyer I refuse to work past 5 or 6pm. I'll take the pay cut to be at home with my babies. So yeah you aren't crazy. And if you are I'm right there with you!

  13. I hear you. My fondest, dearest wish is that somehow, someway (perhaps through a lucky break at the lottery tonight) is that when I have children, I could stay home. Raising kids is a thankless job and I hate it when people ask SAHM/SAHDs what they do/when they plan to go back to work. They are child development specialists, nurses, drivers, chefs, maids, conflict mediators, and cheerleaders. Sometimes they are also seamstresses, woodworkers, general contractors, roofers, electricians, plumbers, and car repair people. So, what does a stay at home parent do? EVERYTHING.

  14. I so completely and utterly relate to the dread of "…soooo, when are you going back to work?". I used to be in engineering and where I am it's totally male-dominated, so I feel even worse for "opting out" or whatever people want to call it these days – but is it like I owe anyone aside from myself anything?! PHAH! I don't. I owe me and mine the happiest, healthiest life and best choices we are capable of, and the judgey types and a*holes can totally eat it.
    Thank you for this, I needed to read it today.

  15. I love this!!! you rock! I am best at and most enjoy looking after children (my own and others!) cooking, sewing and (bizzarely!) cleaning. these things make me happy and i'm great at them so why doesn't society see them as a valid choice?!

  16. I'm very happy to read this article. I am not a mother yet but it will happen at some point in my life. It seems a hard concept for people to understand that yes you can be married, have kids and still be a feminist. As Lola has said before "She saw it as anti-feminsm, backwards, thankless to the women who have worked so hard to give me the choice of doing whatever I want." It wasn't my Women's Lit prof but fellow women. They were offended when I disagreed with them and saw my point of view as 'backwards'.

    Thank you for putting this in the forefront!

  17. Awesome post! I'm also a "housewife" and feminist and we don't even have kids yet! (Although obviously we're planning to, given that I'm hanging around here. I'm taking my folic acid every day!). It's wonderful that society (at least some of it!) allow us to do this, whereas men don't (socially) have that option. I just love making stuff, whether that's dinner, art, or programming web applications ^-^. I'm really thankful I have the option to do that instead of working at a soul-killing office job. Luckily my husband also has that kind of freedom as an academic that mostly does computer work… it's just so awesome being able to go kayaking on the river with him on a really nice day. I just want to say to all the women out there that feel pressured to work at stressful, boring, high-powered jobs, that you have to live for yourself. And while it's important that women be able to work those jobs if they want to, it's also important to spend time with your kids; it's incredibly important for society to raise a generation of civic-minded, feminist kids, and only you can impart your values to them.

    I hope that wasn't too preachy, I was just really inspired by this post ^-^.

  18. "I hate the word homemaker. These words are so loaded with patriarchal bullshit"

    So making a home for your family is being oppressed by men, yeah?

    Housewife isn't a "enslaved by evil, evil penis-bearers" slave-title, it's a word of dignity. A woman that is trusted to handle the household, that is able to cook the meals, clean the house, raise the children, do the washing and make her husband happy is not something shameful and wrong.
    It's a job that takes a lot more than putting on a suit and going to the office to answer phone calls while the kids are in some stranger's daycare.

    You're a housewife, say it with pride.

    • I think you missed out on the fact that she doesn't have a husband to "make happy", she has a female partner, wife or otherwise, but other than that you've said it perfectly. Being a mom is the hardest, and best job in the world.

  19. My ex told me I was "too fucking lazy to get a real job" because I only work 20 hours a week while raising three boys as a single parent. I'd rather be fiscally poor and life rich!! I wish everyone could have the choice to be at home with their children, and I wish everyone would be supportive of all the hard choices parents have to make. There is no "right" path, only your own.

  20. ABSOLUTELY!!! I hate it too, the "So, you're not working anymore?" or the "When do you plan on going to work?" I AM AT WORK. This house is my work, these kids are my work, taking care of this small world inside of a bigger one is my work. I am not a housewife, a slave to the labors of children and men, I am much bigger than that.
    My exhusband said that staying at home with a child was NOT a REAL JOB. Fuck him. That is why he is my ex husband. Funny how when I needed to get out for an hour into the rest of the world he couldnt handle the kid or the house. Hmmmm.
    We are just as important to the rest of humanity as those in the career field.
    So preach it, sister, and keep on rockin!

  21. I have never had a high opinion of stay-at-home moms. I've always thought of them to be victims of a male-dominated society. Thank you for showing me that this is not the case, and I apologize for having such a narrow-minded view.

    All the best,

  22. I myself am a feminist, as well as a Domestic Engineer. I got tired of friends and people I used to work with calling me a housewife, or a stay-at-home mom. Like it was something not worth noting. Just because I didn't actually bring in a paycheck for what I did it wasn't a job. Yes, I call parenting a job. It is by far the best job I have ever had, don't get me wrong, but it is something you have to work at everyday. I wish I did get paid for what I do. I am the live-in 24/7 maid, laundress, chef, and chaffeur, among other things. So, in regards to people saying I don't work, I tell them I do, and that I have the best job of all. I am a Domestic Engineer. (And Mother extrodinair, but thats more like a special skill. Hahaha)

  23. Great blog. Nothing gets me more riled than when the media trivialises this subject and turns it into an us and them argument. I hate seeing women pitched against each other like that. As you say, feminism is about choice and having the choices that our mums and grandmothers never had. We're all in it together and should support each other no matter what our choices are. My partner and I are both working part time so that we can share the child rearing and so far it's working well – it's not the best option financially but it's the bext for our sense of work/life/balance and out kids love it. Staying home is hard work and should never be demeaned or trivialised.

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