A Wife, A Mother and A Feminist.

Rebecca Asher had an interesting piece in The Guardian last weekend. It discussed her personal experience of shared parenting – or rather, unshared parenting. It’s a hot topic at the moment and one that leaves my feminist self,  riddled with guilt.

Woman are, in the majority, still the ones who do most of the childcare, who surrender their careers to bring up children. I did that. Actually, I’ll be honest, I did more than that, I willingly gave up my dream of an acting career to be a farmer’s wife.

It was not a sacrifice, it was a choice, and it’s a choice I periodically question.

I do get riled that I have to ask Beloved to ‘babysit’ his own children. It niggles that in everything I do I have to factor in the needs of my children – they’ll even follow me to the toilet.

I take responsibility for the house work and the cooking and the shopping and  the washing and I do 99.99% of the childcare EVEN THOUGH  I hate cooking. And shopping. And housework. And I spent the first 6 years of mother hood so exhausted I could barely function.

But here’s the thing, whenever I question my choice I always come up with the same answer:

I wouldn’t change a thing.

I love seeing my children grow, I’m grateful for the time I have with them, I like it that they turn to me when they’re in need. I like being an at home mum.

It’s true, I am eating all the proverbial cake – both farm work and writing I can do from home. It’s not always easy – I have broken a few golden business rules – my children have sat in on some fairly high powered  meetings –  eyebrows have been raised in market strategy meetings where  Daughter has sat designing Thunderbird Rockets at my feet.   I pay my dues for my at-home status – managing farm work, a fledgling writing career and a family means I work very long hours but, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this out loud:

I think I got the better end of the deal.

There, I’ve said it.

I wouldn’t swap my life for Beloved’s in a million years. I’ve got 2 children calling on my time – he’s got 110 staff – all of whom expect him to be in his office until 11 at night and, if he isn’t there, will knock on our door to find him.

My kid’s are cute and funny and cuddly. Sorry, but the staff just don’t give back in the same way.

Would I want Beloved to do more to help out? Not really – I like things done a certain way;  if  I want to  hang flowery curtains, I’ll hang them;  if I want to fill the fridge with haloumi and lentils, I’ll fill the fridge with haloumi and lentils. He’d be rubbish at mothering- he doesn’t even enjoy school plays and he thinks all that childish chatter is childish chatter – he doesn’t know how to listen for the important nuggets that might be a plea for praise or a cry for help. I like being a housewife and mother. I’m good at it.

Am I smashing all my feminist principles on rock?

I don’t think so.

To me, feminism is about choice, and I did choose my life – or if I didn’t, if it wasn’t what I expected, then I would choose it now. Over and over again.

Important things have happened about equal pay and equal rights but to move closer to true equality I think we should acknowledge a couple of unfashionable facts:

For a lot of men, if they knew they would be doing 50% of the childcare, they might  well make a choice not to have kids.

For a lot of women, being a mother will always be their priority.

That has to be OK.

You can’t beat men up for not wanting to parent if they never wanted to do it and always told you. Same goes for women

And you shouldn’t look down on women who choose to be at home with their kids. Same goes for men.

It may not be cutting edge to say it but,  I’m happy to be the primary carer. I absolutely believe that we need to make things easier for women to get back to work, for shared paternity/maternity for those that want it. But I am worried that my ‘stay at home mum’ status some how excludes me from the conversation about equality.

There are educated, intelligent, motivated women that do really do enjoy mothering, baby sick and all.  Don’t look down on us, we still want to be in your gang, we just want to do it from home.

Though I might have lied about the baby sick.

8 Comments Add yours

  1. kmlockwood says:

    Good for you!
    I was an overconscientious and eating-the-carpet stay-at-home mum for a while, I’ve been a child-minder, taught ages 2 1/2 to 17 and now I’m learning to write for children. I’ve met brilliant stay-at-home dads too.
    It’s down to choice, isn’t it?
    Choice without being forced into a box you are desperate to climb out of.
    I uphold your right to be the fabulous parent you are – and to make me laugh when you write about it, Kathryn.

    PS What do you do when they come back to roost?

  2. V. Kathryn Evans says:

    Haven’t got that far yet!

  3. bryonypearce says:

    That’s brilliant, Kathryn, and I couldn’t agree more.
    So often people mistake ‘feminism’ for ‘having a career’. Personally I think it’s about having the ability to make the choices that are best for you and your family. The sad thing for me is that nowadays, the choice is taken away from so many women.
    Women who would love to stay at home with their kids now cannot.
    When I had Maisie I was asked when I was going back to work. I said ‘I’m going to be a stay at home mum’. The woman stared at me. I thought I was about to get an earful about letting the side down. Instead she suddenly looked very sad and said ‘you’re SO lucky.’
    When was it that staying at home with your kids became a priviledge (in every sense of the word) and not a right?

  4. V. Kathryn Evans says:

    I know – it’s a hugely complicated area of politics and economics – and I do feel privileged – and grateful.

    I know there are plenty of mothers who go screaming mad being stuck at home and want desperately to get back to work, and I know plenty who have to go to work when they want to stay at home.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could come up with a solution that really allowed choice?

  5. You have hit the nail on the head Sister! I love this post. I’ve been grappling for a year about whether I should go back to work or not. I’ve been on ‘farm’ and kid leave for a year and half and writing about the whole journey. I hate being somebody else’s ‘backup’. I need my own thing. Sometimes dishes and diapers don’t cut it but like you say, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I want to look back and know I spent ‘enough’ time with my children. I also want to know that it was a CHOICE to do so. But I hear you on the work front. I think this stay at home mom/farmer’s wife thing is the toughest gig going…

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Nice to hear from you FFW – the other thing to remember, of course, is that our lovely kids will grow up, leave home, have kids of their own – we’ll get our time back….

  6. Julie Wilkie says:

    I agree with everything you say but you have left out the most important point of all; it’s not enough that choosing the “career” (because it is a definite career choice, with its own challenges, learning curves and long hours) of being a mother/ stay-at-home parent/ homemaker or whatever else you want to call it, should be recognized as a valid intellectual choice – it should also be recognized as a valid economic choice because in our capitalist society everything we truly value is given an economic value. The career of home-making does not incur this value and so it is devalued both as a vital role and intellectually. Two obvious examples of this are:
    1. The experience of motherhood/parenting/homemaking is not valued by employers; it is a “gap” (it is literally called that!) on your CV which must be accounted for when you “go back to work.” Whatever career you left before this gap, it is more than likely that on you return to it, your wages will be similar to the level they were when you left as your valuable years of experience bringing up the next generation have no financial vlaue. Thus a teacher/nurse etc who works in that career for 10 years will gradually climb the teaching/nursing payscale but somebody who has taken 10 years “off” to bring up children will return to the same payscale they were on 10 years previously. It is often said that employers love to employ “returning to work” parents – of course they do, they are getting years of brilliant experience without having to pay for it!
    2. As home-making is not financilly rewarded in its own right, the home-maker becomes largely dependent on the the “working” parent or partner. This can lead to people staying in unhahppy, uncomfortable or even abusive partnerships because of fear of financial insecurity. Also, it is generally the case that when a marriage ends, the contribution of the “non-working” partner is not accorded equal financial status. I know that they may receive 50% of assets etc but, unless there is a lot of money to go round, their “career break” and resulting loss of earning potential is not equally accounted for when maintenance etc is being considered.

    So my answer is, no, of course you are not a bad feminist for choosing to do one of the most challenging, difficult and important roles in our society and yes, as feminists we should be campaigning to have this important career choice recognized but, also, we should be campaigning to have it acknowledged financially.

    1. V. Kathryn Evans says:

      Well said, I wholeheartedly agree.

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