As far back as I can remember, all the women in my family had jobs outside the home. Maybe this is one of many reasons why it was never a question for me whether or not I’d return to work after having each of my kids. Not only was it a necessity, since I'm raising a family in New York City (one of the most expenses places to live), but I was was fortunate to find passion and purpose in my work and wanted to continue to be fulfilled by it. Becoming a mom only cemented my desire to keep growing professionally. I wanted to do great work and for my children to be proud of me for it. I didn’t even consider choosing between work and family; being a working a mom was the only choice that made sense to me. And I think that's the thing that made it a feminist choice for me also.
I can’t imagine me off-ramping from my career to solely run my household (though I am in awe of those women who know that's what they want and go after it with gusto). Even though it is utterly impossible to work full-time and keep things at home humming along without a hiccup, I can’t be true to myself in any other way. Humans are complex, contradictory beings. I never felt I was easily labeled. Why can’t I be both a mother and a producer? Especially if my husband, by way of the simple fact that he's a man, was unquestionably expected to be able to pull it off.
Every woman makes the best choice for her and her family, and feminism means we support one another’s decisions, even if they don't reflect what we would want for ourselves. These are some reasons why being a working mom is a feminist choice… for me.
I have needs that can only be met within the context of my job. While there is nothing more important to me than my children, nurturing my career is a close second. I was cultivating a profession in the TV industry as a writer/producer before I started a family, and while I made some lateral moves in my career to accommodate motherhood, I am still motivated to reach new milestones and further evolve in my career. Watching my kids grow is even more motivation for me to grow too.
I can’t sew, I don’t cook, and I take no pride in folding fitted sheets. I grew up being told girls could be anything they wanted. And while I wanted a family, I wanted a career just as much. I care about my work. My children see me taking pride in the effort I put into my job. This doesn't make it easier to be away from them during the day, so I just hope this is my way of teaching them how rewarding an interest outside the home can be for some people.
We’ve learned that daughters of working mothers benefit, but I think it helps our sons just as much. Not only does my little guy see a woman going after her goals, but he also sees his father — another working parent — sharing household responsibilities that most men a generation ago didn’t embrace. This is what it looks like to be a working parent. My son has a more realistic reference for his future, if he intends to have a family and pursue a career. And I have to think he's more likely to be that much more supportive of his potential partner to do the same.
Financial independence is important to me, even though I'm married (especially because I'm married?). I work hard for my money, and I keep the splurges to a minimum. Stressing over retirement funds is not a hot look, and being dependent on someone else entirely for the security of my future is not something that would ever make me comfortable.
Let’s repeat that word: integration. Not balance. Not juggle. My life is not about multi-tasking. When I try that approach, I just end up doing a bunch of stuff really poorly. When my kid’s school calls during the workday, I don’t try to cover the fact that I have offspring and they sometimes get sick. If we can’t show our humanity in the office, what’s stopping the world from replacing us all with robots? And when I’m home, I do check in with work, but not while my daughter is beating me in Uno. I try to save any work until after the kids are in bed, but if I do have to be on the computer when they are around, I am clear that it is for a certain amount of time, and that the more they pester me, the less time I’ll have to fully play with them. I’m done siloing the different aspects of myself; Career and parenthood can co-exist and my goal is to get everyone on board with that.
For too long, feminism meant rejecting the notion of women occupying domestic roles. The concept of man-serving housewife had to be rebelled against if our moms wanted to pursue work outside the home. But to be feminist is to be inclusive of all women’s choices, knowing that one-size-fits-all just perpetuates the idea that women can be singularly defined. I want to work. And there are women I deeply admire who choose not to work outside the home, but are pursuing other goals that fulfill their needs. Perpetuating any type of “war” between groups of moms is evidence of some shallow thinking. No woman has to pick a side. Choosing to be a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, or a work-outside-home mom can all be feminist choices, so long as they are our choices to make.
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