I am a Feminist Housewife.
It has come to my attention that there are some out there who believe that I am an anomaly. Some don’t even believe that those of my kind can truly exist – or that by my becoming one thing, I then negated myself as the other and so became nothing at all. It’s all very existential – which is very much my bag, baby. Ya dig?
But, I digress. I’m at home with a toddler all day, people…my mind wanders.
Anyways. As this ‘Feminist Housewife’, I often find myself wallowing in an emotion that I never really encountered until I entered this new state of being. I have called it Feminist Guilt.
I was always a smart kid without having to try all that hard. I did well in college while spending most of my time worrying about my love life, graduating in four years with two degrees including an area of secondary study. After school I went through a few certification programs, tucking some more random skills into my belt. (I collect hobbies and skill sets – it’s what I do.) Over the years I developed a career in floral design, specializing in bouquet and bridal work.
Then, I got pregnant. I always knew I was going to have a baby. It was part of the master plan that I had laid out together with my husband. I just didn’t always know I was going to be a stay at home mom. But, it was how things played out. Day care is not cheap and – surprise surprise – even when you work on some of the most posh weddings in the state, floral design does not pay all that well. Financially, it simply made sense for me to stay at home. We also believed it would be best for our family to have a parent at home since BG is on daily medication and for the first year had frequent doctor’s visits.
Did the choice for me to stay home have to do with the fact that I’m a woman? No. It had much more to do with the fact that I can identify artwork by period and artist, can tell you how to care for cut flowers, and how to best compose a portrait…and those skills simply pay less than IT, which is my husband’s field. Plain and simple. I chose my path because I love it, not because it made me a lot of money. Yay Feminism for giving me that choice – if I’d had to give into my father’s wishes, I’d be an accountant or something.
So. Feminist Guilt. What makes your guilt all feministy, you ask? T.Swift, Beyoncé…everyone is jumping on the feminist bandwagon. Why must everything be feminist these days? Well. I’m glad you asked.
The Merriam-Webster definition of Feminism is as follows:
: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities
Nothing there about hating men or high heels. Nothing about a bunch of unshaven activists wanting to take over the world. Just a ‘belief that men and women should have equal right and opportunities.’
Now, I don’t know when exactly the words ‘Feminist’ and ‘Feminism’ became dirty words or when they became words that people didn’t want to become associated with. It is a phenomena that simply blows my mind. People actually go out of their way these days to say that they are not a feminist. Which, according to the very definition, means they do not agree that women should have equal rights as men.
It’s 2015. If you don’t think that men and women should be equal, look your mother or wife or daughter or sister or closest female friend in the eye and say it out loud. I dare you.
I would say through observation that my husband, although I have never forced him to officially declare it, is a feminist. He washes dishes and helps clean the house. He helps take care of BG and is a pretty awesome guy. He supports me in all of my decisions, just as I support him. He gave me the choice to either work or to stay at home with my child. But I do constantly worry whether or not I made the right choice for me.
Some women out there were made for stay at home mothering. They thrive in the household with several children under their watch. I honestly don’t know if this life is for me, although I am happy to have the opportunity to share so much time with my daughter and to watch her grow. But I still find myself daydreaming about returning to work. And I’m sure that when I do reenter the workforce, I will feel guilty about sending BG to daycare and wonder what I was thinking. But it seems like that single guilt is small compared to the list that I have accrued below…
I feel guilty for not working.
I feel guilty for not pulling my weight financially.
I feel guilty that other mothers are at work while I am at home with my baby.
I feel guilty that some days I wish that I was at work instead of at home with my baby.
I feel guilty that my husband only gets to spend a couple of hours every weekday with our daughter because he works to support our family while I get to kiss her cheek and hold her hand whenever I like.
I feel guilty that women before me struggled for the right to work outside of the home. Now, here I am – educated, healthy, and at home washing diapers…
I feel guilty that my husband is able to provide for us singly when others can barely scrape by working together.
I feel guilty for thinking these thoughts.
I feel guilty for feeling guilty.
I look at my little girl – and I feel guilty for ever wanting to leave her alone.
My insides are fighting against themselves. One moment I realize that I have been gifted with an opportunity to raise my child myself. I get to see her make discoveries and help her learn new things every day. It is magical. I am able to take care of my home in a way that would be so much harder if I was also working. I understand that some women desire this with all of their hearts and I do not take it for granted.
But the next moment, I am crushed by the idea that I am losing years of myself. I will lose work experience, friendships, opportunities for personal growth beyond the familial. I hope to return to work when BG goes to preschool – but while I don’t know if we will have a second child, the chance has not dwindled to zero quite yet. What then? By the time I reenter the work force, things will have changed. I will have changed. I will need to relearn what my fingers once knew by heart. My beloved coworkers will have moved on and forgotten me. Maybe the job I once had won’t even exist.
How do we remain relevant to the outside world when we step away from it to become mothers?
Yeah, yeah. I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side.
It’s hard, this whole motherhood thing.
C’est la vie, n’est pas?