Hello, my name is Jamie and I am a feminist stay-at-home mom. I know: I'm so brave and trailblazing to come forward with this seemingly impossible declaration but... Wait. What? There are bajillions of us? And we're loud and proud about it? And most people are totally chill and realize that being domestic and being a feminist are not mutually exclusive? Oh. Well, now I feel like a jackass. Oh wait, what's that? A few people are still labored under the impression that being a SAHM contradicts feminist ideals? OK, cool, I can go ahead with my spiel then. (Which is good, because I have this whole article prepared.)
Let's clear this up right away: I would never argue that being a SAHM is inherently feminist. But neither are most other things, right? And like most other things, a confluence of intention, choice, and context can make it either feminist or in no way antithetical to feminism. Like a bikini! A bikini isn't inherently feminist either, and in some situations can be used in decidedly un-feminist ways (it's called the male gaze, and it's the worst), but if someone decides to, for example, put on a bikini to proudly display her body despite societal or personal pressure to cover up: bikinis for feminism, y'all!
Being a SAHM is kind of like that. Pressure to take on that role has been used as a tool of female supression... but that's not all there is to it. Automatically believing that choosing to be a stay-at-home mother is antithetical to feminism relies on several axioms about men, women, the value of particular kinds of work, and the measure of value that were created and perpetuated by the very forces feminism fights against.
Traditionally Female Work Is Not Something One Should Look Down Upon
Millennia of male-dominated systems have assured us that women are "less than" so obviously (says the Patriarchy), whatever we do is also "less than." I don't think I'm at tin-foil-hat level conspiracy theorist to be skeptical of the fact that female-dominated fields are often underpaid. (To add insult to injury: men in female-dominated fields are still usually paid more. Sit with that for a minute.) Stay-at-home moms get the double whammy of committing themselves pretty exclusively to "traditionally female work" and not pulling their own paycheck for doing so. But I put it to you that the work done by stay-at-home moms is just as important and valuable for the continuation of society as any job I'd get paid to do.
We're Indoctrinating Little Feminists 24/7
Obviously any parent is going to be capable of raising feminist kids, but SAHMs have the benefit of pretty constant access. It's incredibly convenient for turning them into the next generation of angry, caterwauling, buzzkill feminists!
You Can Still Model An Equitable Division of Labor With Your Partner
Just because you're at home most of the day doesn't mean all the household chores fall to you now. Most of them? Sure. It makes sense. You're home, so you will (in theory) have more opportunities to pop in a load of laundry than your partner who's at work most of the day. So, yeah, you're probably going to be doing more of the laundry and vacuuming and errands and whatever. But your partner coming home doesn't mean you keep chugging along like The Little Engine That Could while they kick up their heels because their shift is done. You're both parents: Your shifts never end. The only difference is that their shift is split between two places — their job and home — whereas yours are all in one spot.
No One's Worth Is Defined In Any Way By Their Paycheck
Going back to some of what I talked about in point one: Say I chose to be a working mom rather than a SAHM. Now say I work in a female-dominated field like we discussed before. Let's say I work in a daycare, performing many of the same tasks I do at home. Is it merely the fact that she's paid and I'm not that makes me a "better" feminist in this scenario? "Well," you might reply, "the working mom has more financial security than you have and therefore doesn't rely on anyone to provide for her." Well, that's assuming a lot about my finances for one and hers for another. The average daycare worker earns about $9/hour. A quick trip to MIT's living wage calculator will show you that this may not be enough to gain complete financial independence. Still feminist? And isn't there something really, really creepy about essentially using affluence to determine one's feminist cred?
The Workplace Is Not The Only Locale Where One Can Demonstrate Their Feminist Accomplishments
One can continue to be hella feminist at her local art collective, in her band, at a local women's shelter where she volunteers her time, in her local government, or for a non-profit she fundraises for. Yeah, leaning in gives that opportunity and its importance cannot be overstated, but believe it or not, progress is made outside office walls too.
You Can Bring Your Ideals To PTA, Girl Scouts, Little League, Etc.
As a SAHM, you have the opportunity (especially as your kids get older I'm told) to volunteer at your kids' school and in their extracurricular activities. You'll also — thank God — have the opportunity to say, "Eff that noise!" But should you choose to wade through these often notoriously murky waters, you can bring with you your feminism, and infuse that commitment to equality in your child's community of peers, teachers, and mentors.
SAHM Is One Of A Million Roles We Have, Just Like Any Other Woman
Being a mother is a large part of how I define myself... but it still only constitutions a fraction of who I am and how I see myself.
The Only Agenda I'm Promoting Is My Own
It's nice to only really be working for your own family's goals instead of worrying about how what you are doing is going to affect your company. It's also nice that I don't have to promote an organization I am philosophically at odds with because they sign my paychecks. It's a privilege, I know, but it's also something I happily tick off on my "Girl Power" checklist.
Your Tenure As A SAHM Doesn't Have To Last Forever
It's not like one day you decide to be a SAHM and that's written in stone as your only job for the rest of your life. Yes, it's often difficult for stay-at-home moms to re-enter the workforce, but it's far from impossible. Case in point: I am writing this article, right now, because I am a stay-at-home mom with a part-time job. I know: what a meta twist this is!
The SAHM gig isn't for everyone. Neither are sushi, James Joyce, or Brazilian waxes. No matter how you land on any of these issues is fine, and is no indication of how good or bad a feminist you are.