Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stay at Home Feminist

[This is not a comment about working mothers vs. stay at home mothers vs. work at home mothers vs. part time working mothers... Nor does this issue just affect stay at home mothers, although I focus on that area. Sometimes  working mothers are respected only because they have made the progressive decision to work, and the whole huge part of their life that is being a mother isn't viewed as significant.  Sometimes working mothers are viewed as inferior mothers because they love or need their careers and don't spend every moment with their child.  All of this is stupid.  How about we respect and value mothers no matter what?]

The other day I read this super annoying, super stupid article from USA Today about this husband who wouldn't let his wife quit her job, even though she wanted to stay home with the kids, because he wanted better for her.  It made me really mad for many reasons, not the least of which is a controlling husband making his wife's decisions for her.  He won't "let" her quit her job? Someone I know said this kind of talk makes her feel "stabby," which I thought was an apt description. 

The ironic part is that this man clearly thinks he is so progressive.  I am all for supporting your wife working when it is what she wants or what is necessary for your family.  In this case it was not a financial decision at all, he just didn't want his wife to waste her degree and career accomplishments.  He is afraid of her "becoming stagnant."

I'm sure the article was written to get a rise out of people one way or another. Some applaud him.  Some rise up in arms, either because of attack on stay at home moms or because of his controlling egotism.  It was some random opinion of some stupid internet guy. It shouldn't matter. Except that it is published.  This idea and so many ideas like it are constantly circulated.  

You may have noticed that I'm a bit of a feminist (aka. someone who thinks women should be treated with equal respect and have equal rights as men).  Few things make me all stabby like oppression of women in any form.  And it does take all forms. Most recently I have found it particularly as a stay at home mom.  Not because I am being kept out of the workforce or chained to the kitchen, but rather because my decision makes me seen as less-than.

I often wonder why it is that mothers, particularly "stay at home moms" continually need to be reminded we are doing something worthwhile. Is it just because we are over-sensitive females who imagine we are being overlooked and undervalued?  Or is it perhaps because we continually experience very real, subtle and not so subtle slights? 

Honestly, from my experience, I have met very few "weak" females.  And when I think about women worldwide, I am astounded at the difficulties they face and still press through.  I don't think we are a gender of particularly fragile egos. 

I am a stay at home mother with a college degree in elementary education.  It will be especially useful as I teach my daughter. That's right, I'm also a home school mom.  Double whammy.  Where is my calf-length denim skirt? I am responsible for my children's education - if they learn how to read and to love reading, if they learn the countries of the world and a global perspective, if they understand math - that's on me.  So yeah, I think I'll be using my degree.

I am a stay at home mother in China.  I have a masters degree in intercultural studies.  My family and I interact in another culture every day.  I practice Chinese language basics with my girls and encourage them to use it.  I remind them of the importance of responding graciously in cultural situations they don't enjoy.  My attitude toward local culture affects the attitude they take with them onto the playground, into Chinese kindergarten, and into the future.  So I'm pretty sure that degree will come in handy.

I am no chef, but I cook for my family.  I may not cook vegetarian, gluten free, grain-free, organic, free range, (insert current most important health initiative) meals, but you can bet I am thinking about their health.  I am thinking about how to cook healthy things the kids will actually eat.  I am providing their framework for healthy eating later in life.  And I am figuring out how to cook without a pile of children wailing at my feet.

I do laundry.  Constantly.  Laundry -unlike stain removal- is not a skill.  Anyone can (or should be able to) do it.  But someone has to keep us all in moderately clean clothes. Laundry is pretty easy due to the marvelous (wonderful, blessed) invention of the washing machine, but the process never ends.  Wash clothes, hang clothes, take them down, fold them, search for missing socks, put clothes away, gather them off the floor and take them to the laundry hamper.  Perhaps I should save time and just take them straight from the drying rack to the dirty clothes hamper.

I clean.  Constantly.  You cannot imagine how much mess children can create until they are running free in your home.  Why are there dry beans in the living room, three changes of clothes in the bathroom, toys from five different boxes in the kitchen, and half of the children's book shelf on our bedroom floor?  Children.  Children are not known for their efficiency in most areas, but mess making - it's incredible.  Of course, anyone can clean as well.  It's a job of janitors.  And obviously janitors don't deserve much respect...right?

I change diapers and I potty train and I discipline and discipline and discipline.  I do all these things, over and over again, but I do something more too.  I gather up little children running to me for hugs.  I tickle and giggle and make giggle.  I point out the beauty all around.  I show my children that they are valuable, that they are loved, that they are worth my time.  I teach them the importance of kindness and respect.  I show them how to love God and others, and how to be loved by God and others.

Mr. Stupid Internet Guy said he didn't want his daughter "seeing mommy at home, thinking she needs to do the same because that's what she grew up seeing." He wants better for her. Well you know what, I don't have any problem with my girls seeing me at home. 

What do I want for them when they grow up?  I want them to be doctors or mothers or janitors.  I want them to be doctors because they feel called to be.  I want them to be mothers because they find joy in it.  Or I want them to be janitors because they are not too proud to work with their hands. 

Whatever they choose, I want them to know that they are valuable not because of what they do but because of who they are. 

And also, if someone steps in to make their decisions for them, I want them to feel all stabby.


Mallary said...

Great post, my friend. Great post.

Hannah said...

You rock, Ruthie!

Jane @ The Borrowed Abode said...

Wow, that article made me all stabby too. I can't get past his equating his wife staying home with his daughter "wanting to be a trophy wife."
I've been home with my baby for 3 months now. I can guarantee - as you can too, I'm sure - that there's nothing "trophy wife" about raising your children!

I went to a mom's meetup last week. I was the only one there who wasn't going back to an outside-of-the-home job. I actually felt a little awkward when I discovered that. And then I was mad at myself for feeling insecure about that!

On a lighter note, I lol'ed at this "That's right, I'm also a home school mom. Double whammy. Where is my calf-length denim skirt?"

LOVE the reference to the stereotypical homeschool mom uniform :)