Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

The Stay-At-Home Feminist

20 Comments

(With thanks to Lia of the Yum Yum Cafe and the Red Tent blog, where this is cross-posted.)

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.

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Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

20 thoughts on “The Stay-At-Home Feminist

  1. I see nothing at all contradictory about being a stay at home feminist. Feminism to me is about having a right to be your own person and believe in your choices, without restrictions of stereotyping by others. I’m one too and reserve the right to share cheesecake recipes any day of the week.

    I’m sure that when the time comes you’ll make the leap back into the work world with panache and confidence.

  2. I love this, Charlotte.

  3. It’s not what a woman (or man) does that defines her (or him) as a feminist, but rather how she (or he) thinks about things. And you’re absolutely right: it’s not possible to have it all at the same time (well, at least without horrible burnout and depression), but it is very possible to live a life in which one looks back at age 85 and can happily say, “I had all I ever wanted” (whatever that might be).

  4. I would gladly embrace the profession of stay-at-home feminist too… if somebody had some part-time freelance space engineering work that needed doing… when my wife’s computer maintenance business pays the bills. Maybe this will come sooner than I think.

  5. Good stuff, Charlotte!
    To support your point: many studies show that most leaps and bounds – careerwise, that is – happen later in your career anyway.

    It’s great to be with your kids now and it’s great that you can be comfortable as a progressive (can I call you progresssive?) woman doing that. I’m glad you met Thomas, as well.

    Equal rights for sure. I still think we’re made differently and do things differently, but deserve equal opportunities.

    Good thoughts. What a great illustration of how to live out that “stay at home” feminism.

    Rock on.

  6. Nice post. I am a very outspoken feminist, yet also find myself in the position of working from home so that I can be around for my youngest child. I have found a way to stand up for my rights and balance the “home” environment too.

    Thanks for the post, it made for interesting reading.

  7. There’s nothing contradictory about being a stay-at-home mom and a feminist.

    I consider the idea which says that if a woman isn’t in the world of work and getting paid then she isn’t doing anything valuable to be a patriarchal one; it denigrates all the non-paying work that women have traditionally done by saying that mens’ work is more valuable because it is in the public sphere.

    You can have it all but having it all at the same time normally isn’t worth the trouble.

  8. Kit, I am so grateful that I am lucky enough to choose, and, as I said in my last post, I realise that is a privilege not everyone has.

    Thanks, Karrie!

    Emily, to look back with satisfaction would certainly be my goal. I would add to that: “I made my dreams come true.”

    Mandarine, if that’s what you really, really want, then I hope it happens for you and your wife. My husband and I imagine a scenario panning out in our forties where he spends more time at home and I spend more time at work.

    Thanks John. I am rocking that stay-at-home look.

    Hi Stellar1, I guess it’s all about finding a balance that works for you and my family. I have learned how to handle working at home and my three small children, but it’s not always easy and it’s not the perfect work environment, but I feel lucky that I can do both.

    Hi Jamila, you’re right of course. I value the non-paying work I do and if parts of society don’t that’s a pity but not my loss. The more our world does value unpaid work, the more things will change for men and women.

  9. I’m glad I stumbled onto this post! I’m someone who has struggled with having the “right” to call myself a feminist when I’ve ended up in such a “traditional” phase of my life. You are right, though – this is just one part of my life, while my kids are young – and at some future phase I’ll hopefully be able to help move feminism forward.

  10. Charlotte, wonderful post as usual. Right now I’m a bit brain dead so I can only say…I wish I had a weekly cleaning lady!! Also, I don’t despair about my career, I have only to look at my husband who has been a mechanical engineer, a creature effects artist in Hollywood, a computer factory quality manager, a programmer, and a college registrar. Lots of careers for someone under 40! Just serves to remind me that the days of committing to a career or employer for life are long gone.

  11. Hi Velma! I’ve battled with that “traditional” concept too, especially in the early days of being home with a small baby, but now I relish my time with my kids. It’s by no means perfect or happy families all the time, but the fact I can be around is wonderful. I also let myself off the hook by saying that I didn’t give up my career to keep house but to be with my children – that gives me license to ignore the laundry and have really grubby windows!

    Henitserk, I wish you could have a weekly cleaning lady too. It is my only luxury and I am so grateful for the fabulous job she does – so much better, more willingly and graciously than I ever would.

  12. “how do you look will decide what you see…”

  13. As I was reading your excellent post, I had the same reaction that many of the above had. There is nothing contradictory about being a feminist and staying at home. I particularly agree with Jamila Akil in her comment.

    In this country, it is considered quite radical to decide to raise your own children rather than fob them off on a day care and work outside the home. I have always wondered, why have a child if you are going to let some other person or string of people raise it?

  14. What happens when your partner can’t support you and your fantasy any longer, through death or disability? Or god forbid, you get divorced? You’re all dreaming if you think you are feminists.

  15. If you want to see real Feminists in action look at the single mothers who have no choice but to work or starve…or go on the dole. Deferring career is not an option for the millions like me who find themselves suddenly at need of an income. I spent the first 10 years of motherhood as a stay at home, content with a less-than-lucrative part time job in the arts. After putting out an abusive spouse there was no option but to scramble for enough income to keep me and mine afloat.
    An actual career was not an option since 9-5jobs rarely cover the cost of day care for 3. The prohibitive cost of child care has lots of single parents working part time here and part time there and a little bit of part time everywhere in order to make ends meet. “Career” and “Feminist” are terms I used in a life before marital disaster. While discussion of ideological commitment is nice, financial options for women and support for our children makes alot more sense to me. Feminism walks, who cares where it works.

  16. Pingback: Can a Woman be a Feminist and a Stay At Home Mom? « Feminism vs. Stay at Home Mom

  17. Oh my gosh! I had the exact same idea. It drives me nuts how today’s feminists only promote and respect one kind of women and dismiss the rest

    I even titled my new blog the same thing. You should check it out and maybe we could swap links

    nataliegowen.wordpress.com

  18. Hi,

    I have a question about your blog. Would you mind emailing me when you get a chance? Thanks so much!

    Kristin Babiarz
    kristinbabiarz@gmail.com

  19. I’m with ya! I stay home and I haven’t given up any rights. In fact, my friends would probably say I’m more feminist than most people… but I still appreciate being able to raise my family, support my husband, and do things in my own order.

    I never stopped being the independent woman with high goals. I just applied them differently. I focused my talents on my husband’s career and used it to both our advantages, all while I raised our children. With those goals now reached, I am starting my own business (wingspouse.com).

    Good for you for saying what many need to hear.

  20. Pingback: I Watched This Game: Canucks vs Bruins, June 10, 2011 | Vancouver Sun Sports Blogs

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