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I’m a work-at-home mom. I blog, and that does take up a lot of time, but I also spend a lot of time cooking, cleaning, and raising my kids. I prefer it this way: I specifically wanted to have a baby as soon as possible after I graduated from college so I wouldn’t be bored at home and I wouldn’t have to “get a real job.” I had and have no desire to enter the corporate world, have regular out-of-home responsibilities, or forge a career. I am perfectly content to run my blog from home, and just be mommy.
According to some, that means I’ve failed. And I haven’t only failed myself — no, I have seriously setback feminism in a damaging way.
What is Feminism?
To hear a few very vocal feminists talk, feminism is about female power. And this power is found in the corporate world, having careers, sexual freedom, avoiding marriage, emancipation from their families.
In this blog post, a feminist was quoted as saying this:
“My generation fought for what women have nowadays; careers, contraceptives, busy lives, relationships without marriage, equality and freedom. NOW there are a load of lazy hippy mothers WANTING to undo all that fight and stay at home to breastfeed their babies until school age, carry them around, sleep with them until the child wants to leave the bed and even home school them when there is a perfectly good education system. And that’s not all. They are trying to guilt-trip all mothers into doing the same by implying that a mother who wants children AND a life is less of a mother and damaging to her child. Why? Attachment parenting is DEGRADING to women.”
Excuse me, but that is not what feminism is about. Feminism is not about having to have a career, or eschew marriage or use birth control. No, true feminism is about choice.
That’s right. Choice.
Feminists fought because women did not have the option to have careers or lives outside the home the way they do today. They were, in some cases (whether subtly or overtly) forced to stay home and raise children, when that is not what all of them wanted.
The tables have turned now. Women are, whether subtly or overtly, being forced to have careers. No — they don’t “have” to. But being a mother is denigrated constantly. Just look at all these headlines! And look at that quote! Women are actually coming out to say that attachment parenting is ‘degrading’ to women!
Would the Real Feminists Please Stand Up?
I couldn’t resist the subtitle.
Here is what you must understand: There is no woman who has the life that she chose freely that is in any way ‘degrading to women.’
A woman may choose to remain single, have a high-powered career, have no children, and exercise sexual freedom. She may choose to live barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, seeking to serve her husband and large family, never working outside her home a day in her life. Or she may choose anything in between.
It does not matter.
The point is, she has the right to choose the life that she wants.
A true feminist does not put forth the idea that one path is superior, or that one path is more valued than another. She does not say that women who are choosing a different path are ‘denigrating women’ or that they ‘hate women’ or that they are ‘setting back feminism 50 years.’ (Yes, I have heard so-called feminists say all of those things.)
Instead, a true feminist supports a woman’s right to choose the right path for her. It doesn’t even make logical sense for a woman to stand up and say, “Look at those stupid attachment parents, they’re making everyone’s lives worse and setting back feminism, they really hate women. What terrible people.” I don’t hear the attachment parents insulting feminists! In fact, plenty of attachment parents are feminists! Anyone who would stand up and talk that way about someone else and decisions that do not affect them must really, honestly hate other women (or at least those who don’t agree with them).
Parenting Isn’t Feminist
I am not a slave to my children just because I enjoy keeping them close to me. Parenting is incredibly sacrificial, any way you slice it! Is the fact that wearing my baby in a wrap so that he’s close to my body and comforted making me a slave? Does using a nice woven wrap (which I seriously love to do, especially when out and about) mean I am somehow denigrating feminists?
I have the freedom to choose the parenting style that works for me. My worth is not less because my primary role is “mother.”
Recently my mother brought me a newspaper clipping. It was about a girl I’d graduated from high school with. Nine years later and she’s earned a Ph.D. in industrial chemistry. The entire clipping was self-written and clearly bragging about her research, degree, and her husband-to-be’s degree and job (both have doctorates and are working for a major chemical corporation).
It made me angry. She’d always hated me in high school, so there was that. But more importantly, she was bragging about how “successful” and high-powered her life was. Worse, society would agree with her. The fact that she’s now 27 and is just now finishing school to start a career, with a doctorate, is far more valued in society than a woman like me, who finished school at 22 and now stays at home, raising children.
It’s that part — that her lifestyle is more valuable than mine — that grates at me.
Motherhood is not somehow less valuable. And “exclusive” (read: stay-at-home moms) motherhood isn’t the least valuable. That’s how it’s treated. We’re told that if we do have kids that we ought to pack them off to daycare so we can continue to have an independent life, shipping the kids off to daycare, planning out our careers and futures. Our children are supposed to be accessories.
Isn’t that treatment of the issue rather selfish? (Not that I think most mothers who work actually feel that way. That’s just how the ‘most successful’ women are ‘supposed’ to act.) How is that somehow more valuable? Aren’t mothers who put their children first — whether they work or stay home — really the most successful women? (Obviously this doesn’t apply to women who don’t have children, who can also be perfectly successful.)
There is nothing that is somehow anti-feminist about being a mother. Nothing. We need mothers. And we should value them. Women shouldn’t be more or less valuable as people because of their motherhood status!
Feminism and Attachment Parenting
So, can you be feminist and an attachment parent?
Well, I sure know some. I wouldn’t necessarily define myself as a “feminist” because frankly, after the feminists who’ve gotten a lot of attention lately (like the one quoted above), the word gives me a bad feeling. And that’s pretty sad since obviously not all feminists are like that. The few militant “you must have a job” feminists out there are ruining it for the rest.
But back to the issue at hand.
I breastfeed my babies until they self-wean. That does not make me “tied” to them. I can still go out and have an evening with friends or even spend some hours each day working on my blog or other projects and still nurse them when it’s convenient for both of us. Not to mention it makes night feedings super easy…. Yes, it actually makes my life easier to breastfeed, allowing me the freedom to be who I am.
The same goes for babywearing. We go out and I put the baby in a carrier and away we go. I don’t have to carry a cumbersome carseat, or worse, try to find a babysitter or wait until my husband is available so I don’t have to take him at all. No, I just pop him in the carrier and away we go — hands-free, no less! I’ve tried all kinds of carriers and I prefer a Moby for young babies and Mei Tai-style for older ones. Woven Wraps has all the different styles available, so if you’re not sure what you want (or you want to try several!), you might check them out. They have videos and educational documents on how best to use the carriers, too.
Co-sleeping…I don’t have to get out of bed! I get more sleep! That means that in the morning, I can be a more patient mommy and also have a more focused brain, meaning I can get more done on my own projects, too. How is that bad? Baby’s happy, mommy’s happy….
I could go on, but these three practices have been the focus of this debate. And the bottom line? These parenting practices work for me, and they make me a happier and saner mommy, which means I have more patience and happiness and ability to focus not only on my children, but on other stuff too. Can someone tell me how that is bad, anti-woman, or degrading?
(And yes, I fully believe you can be a good parent without any of these things. But no one’s arguing about that.)
Focus on Womanhood
No woman is ‘more woman’ than another. There are all types of women out there. God created us to be special and unique!
No woman, by living her life and following her path, is somehow degrading or hating other women. Only women (or anyone) who actually verbally (or otherwise) attack other women or their way of life are actually degrading women. It’s not in your choices, people, it’s in your actions towards others.
Let’s change this conversation away from why motherhood, or particular styles of motherhood are “good for women” or “not good for women” and focus instead on actually supporting women so that they can make the choices that are right for them.
Final thought: women should never be elevated at the expense of men. Degrading men isn’t the answer. And moms, do you really want to give your daughters advantages…at the expense of your sons? I doubt it.
Is any particular lifestyle ‘degrading to women?’ What do you think about feminists who make this claim?
**This post sponsored in part by Woven Wraps.**