I am a feminist because without feminism women would not have the choices they have today. I am a feminist because I feel patriarchy, and its nasty little brother sexism, as dark and heavy weights that need to be lifted from the planet. I am a feminist because I care about fairness and equality and opportunity for all. And I’ll be a feminist until women and children are no longer abused and raped. Until a certain kind of man stops acting out his fear of women as violence. Until a certain kind of man can recognise all women as his equal, and not use a holy book, or a stick, or his body to beat them down.
I recognise my feminism as a process. I’ve come a long way, from competing with men, from trying to play as hard as them, from using them, from being virulently angry with them. I clearly remember the point when I let go my anger and decided not to bother with men until the right one came along. Falling in love with him softened me. It opened my eyes to the fact that there are good and kind men in the world, who also want fairness, non-violence and equal opportunities, and who not only pay lip service to those words but actually act on them. Having been around so-called “progressive” men who were just as sexist and idiotic as the next unreconstructed dude, it was completely refreshing to love a man who didn’t mess about with principles, but who was – and still is – kind.
So having found my love, it was an easy decision for me to choose to stay at home with our children. Much of it was circumstantial – had I been still in South Africa, where we would have been locked into a mega-mortgage that needed two salaries to service it, where home help is affordable, where grannies live, I think I would have stayed in the workplace. When we left, I was about to enjoy a promotion to editor of the inhouse magazine I worked on, and I imagine, had I stayed at that company, I would have make steady progress upwards.
Instead to my shock, I find myself a stay-at-home mother in Germany of all places. Instead of setting goals and dealing with politics and motivating employees, I’m raising three children, cooking nourishing meals, keeping things tidy without being obsessed, making sure people have clean clothes to wear and shopping for food. I am doing the jobs I once ridiculed and which I once saw as degrading drudgery. Yet I’m happy and I’m still a feminist.
How do I manage to reconcile all this? It helps to have a partner who does his bit domestically. Sometimes he has to be asked, but he never says no. It helps to have an astonishing cleaning lady who comes once a week and makes things sparkle. It helps to have part-time work that earns some money and gives me something else to think about during my day. It helps to have wonderful, inspiring, interesting friends who are doing fascinating things with their lives, who are trying to be positive and creative parents, with whom I can talk books, movies, life, men and the best cheesecake recipe. It helps to blog and have made fascinating and varied blog friends whose ideas inspire me daily.
It also helps to have a role model in my mother-in-law who went back to work in her late forties, started her own business in her fifties and now, twenty years later, still puts on her spiffy business clothes and goes to the office. Her success inspires me. We seem to think it’s imperative to build a career in our thirties. Not so! I’m delaying that gratification until my forties. I know without doubt that it will happen.
I think it’s possible to have it all. It’s just not possible to have it all all at the same time. That road leads to madness, or extreme dissatisfaction. With that knowledge, I am happy doing the jobs I do now, knowing that in ten years time the jobs I do will have shifted. I had my me-time in my twenties, and believe me, I’m going to have it again. Until then, I remain the stay-at-home feminist. And a happy one, at that.