Feminist / Mother

I have always considered myself a feminist. In school a lot of my friends didn’t – they regarded feminism as sort of passe, a relic of another time. I believed that everyone should have the same opportunities and freedoms, regardless of gender. And I thought that believing that made me a feminist. I still do think that believing that makes me a feminist, actually.

I’m not sure that much of my life has been dictated by my feminism. I haven’t marched or published a feminist zine or anything like that. But in my own way, I have expressed my desire to make a world that is more equitable for everyone. I have exercised my choices in the way that best worked for me, and done my best to support other women who were doing the same thing. And I recognize that many other women before me fought so that I could have the choices that I do.

My feminism became much less complacent when I had children. Suddenly, gender issues played a much bigger role in my daily life. My decisions became much harder and more complex, and my time and resources became much more limited. I had to choose where I invested my time more carefully and deliberately. I had to consider the impact of my decisions on my children. And other people suddenly had a whole lot more opinions about what I did.

If I worked, I was a bad mother, and even still my job commitment was viewed as suspect. If I didn’t work, then I was setting back the cause and wasting my education. If I took on too many obligations, I was failing myself and not setting appropriate boundaries. So I decided that there was really only one thing to do – please myself. I am not willing to live in a way that doesn’t work for me in order to please others or fulfill an externally-assigned role. I do consider the impact of my choices, and the statement they make. But I place equal weight on my own needs, and the needs of my family.

Having children didn’t make me less of a feminist. In fact, it made me more equality-minded and more concerned about the legacy I am leaving. But that legacy is now much more personal to me. It is no longer about hand-waving arguments and intellectual discourse. Instead, it is about the way that my daughter and son look at me, and at each other, based on the life that I lead. It is about what my grandchildren (should I have them) will think of me and learn from me, good and bad. It is about making it that far with my sanity intact.

Feminism is very much about choice. It is about protecting our rights to make up our own minds, it is about making up our own minds, and it about honouring the choices that others make. As long as our choices do not intrude on others’ lives, or step on someone else’s rights, they remain ours alone to make. If I decide to stay at home, or work at home, or work outside the home, or participate in an off-the-grid cashless community, these are my choices to make. They are also your choices to make, and we can make different ones and that’s totally cool. We can also change our mind and switch up our choices. Still cool.

In the world I live in, there are not a whole lot of great, affordable childcare options. In the world I live in, women don’t always have access to much maternity leave, and when they receive it, they may not be able to afford to take it. In the world I live in, sometimes your current career isn’t working and you need a change. In the world I live in, people get laid off or fall ill or have to move across the country. Life happens, and we have to deal with it. Working to create better support systems is a feminist thing to do, and it is a necessary response to the difficulties we face. But until the day those support systems are in place, making compromises and structuring your world as best you can is also a feminist thing to do.

I am a feminist and I am a mother. I believe that I can be both. And I believe I have the right to choose to be both in the best way I can, right now. I hope that, one day, the world does a better job of affording this right to all mothers.

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  1. Kathleen ( amoment2think) says:

    Amber, have I told you lately that you are fabulous? Great post.

    I was one of those in university that wasn’t all that taken with feminism. Having a baby changed that for me. I get it now- and as you say it is all about support.

    My biggest hope actually, is that moms start to hear this message and become more supportive of each other and our differing choices. Many are supportive, but many still could stand to really hear this message- we need to stand behind each other.
    Kathleen ( amoment2think)’s last post … That sick-to-your-stomach feelingMy Profile

  2. I think I must have said, “Yes! Exactly,” about ten times while reading this post. Feminism is simply the idea that men and women deserve the same opportunities in life, regardless of gender. But many modern women do not respect the choices that other women make. I find that it usually isn’t men judging, it is women.

    When I married my husband, we decided what roles each of us would have, and they aren’t traditional male/female roles. I’m the major breadwinner, because my husband is in social work and earns half what I do. My husband does all of the cleaning, since I could care less about messes. We take turns cooking and taking care of our son, and Greg has handled as many dirty diapers as I have. Our decisions are made together.

    However, when we’re out with family or friends and I pick up the bill, or my husband handles feeding or goes off to change a diaper, suddenly we are judged. Working, for me, is not a choice, but if I were suddenly rich, I think I’d still choose to work, because I love my job and value my career. But I am constantly told, “Why don’t you just stay home with your son? It’s so much better for him.” I usually just say that we can’t afford it, which is true, but no one ever says that to my husband.

    I wish more moms would support one another’s choices rather than judging.
    Melissa E.’s last post … The Shopping Cart Blues and Tuscan Bean SoupMy Profile

  3. Amen! And can I just interject that the feminists who look at breastfeeding as a way to control women, and that formula-feeding is the choice of a liberated mother… that just really grinds my crackers. I’d much rather be “controlled” by my baby than by a formula company!

    • Abbie-

      I can totally see where you are coming with in terms of your frustration with that perspective. Breastfeeding is so not about control and formula feeding is far from ‘liberating’ (in my experience). However, I think the link lies in the honest truth that only the women in the relationship that can provide breast milk. Either parent can provide formula. What this means is that I feel we really need to support each other and stick together to push for just what Amber is talking about- better support for women via maternity leaves everyone can afford to take, flexible work arrangements, quality affordable child care, and support for mothers (or fathers) who want to stay home with their kids, ect.

      It is unfortunate though, because instead of formula feeders and breastfeeders sticking together, working together and supporting and respecting each other, there continues to be this bickering and pointing of fingers (on both sides). There are a lot of ‘feminists’ out there that suggest that because I fed my baby formula (despite months of trying to breastfeed) that I am not good enough as a mother and I ‘took the easy way out’. It is so unfortunate that so many women focus on the choices made by others, without respect or understanding. I think for many mothers who weren’t able to breastfeed, what we really needed was a more feminist approach that sees us together :
      1)fight for better support for mothers (maternity leaves that everyone can afford to take, free access quality lactation consultants, hospital and birthing centers dedicated to positive birth outcomes, affordable child care, flexible work arrangements, support for mothers who want to stay at home, ect.)
      and 2) stop the bickering and pointing fingers at each other over our different ‘choices’

      I respect what you are saying, and I am not implying you were pointing fingers, I just wanted to offer the alternate perspective and suggest how we could work together.
      kathleen’s last post … That sick-to-your-stomach feelingMy Profile

      • I agree with you completely! What bothers me about the mentality I mentioned is the lack of support for the choice to breastfeed, I think we’reon the same page when it comes to supporting moms.

  4. great post, Amber, and some great food for thought.

    i grew up during the era of feminism – fighting for women’s rights was part of the natural environment and the inequalities were everywhere. women had to struggle to be heard, appreciated and validated. girls were streamed into traditional school subjects then herded into typical employment on graduating. i sigh now when i see young girls apparently throwing it all away, all the battles that women before them won the hard way.

    the overswing of feminism, alluded to in the lactation vs. formula comment, has unfortunately clouded memories of all the benefits which arose. likewise the association of feminism = man-hater

    IMO the next movement is the one which will fight for the same rights but for families. it will be gender-neutral but parent-friendly. it will allow equal careers for both parents and family-friendly work/life solutions for all. quality childcare will available and flexible. raising the next generation will be seen as a valuable contribution to society by even the voluntarily childless. raising a family will be recognised at a federal level and supported. there will be no need for women especially to choose between staying at home and going nuts with isolation, boredom and social exclusion, and being subjected to ridicule, accusation and ignorance for being employed outside the home. Utopia does exist.
    pomomama aka ebbandflo’s last post … friday forte- walking the walk moving closer to my goalMy Profile

  5. Well said, as usual. I have been a reluctant feminist at times, until I realized that just because I didn’t like what some women who called themselves feminists said or did didn’t mean i wasn’t a feminist. The more I read and learn and feel outraged and bewildered by how long and how deep the tradition of men fearing and hating and oppressing women goes, the more I realize that saying I’m not a feminist would just be stupid. I stay home with my kids, which is a choice I am incredibly fortunate to be able to make, and it has nothing to do with thinking women with kids shouldn’t work. It has to do with what works for us. My own daughter wants to be ‘a mom, a astronaut, a doctor, a nurse and maybe a cowgirl’. And that’s just fine.
    allison’s last post … Knowing Me Knowing You July 2010My Profile

  6. In the past ‘feminism’ was such such a dirty word…one I was afraid to attach to myself. I have a little more age behind me now and way less regard for what others may percieve of me and my life. Now, I am happy to say I am a feminist who is a stay at home mom, who gardens, knitts, quilts and preserves food. I have an education and yet I have made the choice to step back and be at home. I am no less of a women for doing so. You are so right about feminisim being all about choice. I am greatful for all the women who came before who made it a given that I would finish highschool and go onto college. I am so thankful too that my grandmother gardened and canned and knitt. I saw both and I was lucky enough to have made my choice. I will be okay with whatever choice my daughters make, it is theirs to do.

  7. Absolutely! I know I became more of a feminist having kids.
    Summer’s last post … Truthful TuesdayMy Profile

  8. Feminism is all about equality and the ability to choose. There are, I think, stringent “feminists” who have a different agenda, and then there is true feminism, meaning that men and women are equal and have equal rights and equal abilities to choose. Unfortunately some women – and men – have no choices whatsoever, when it comes to working, childcare, etc.

  9. I never understood not being a feminist. I would always say I was one, even if it wasn’t cool.
    Capital Mom’s last post … NamingMy Profile

  10. Well, Amber, this post and the responses brought me to tears. You know that I spent many decades lobbying, working and supporting choices for women, while trying to juggle being a dedicated mother, wife, community member and, oh, yes, education consultant in the Tri-cities. It was never easy, but we feminists have made a big impact over time. And, yes, there is much more to be done, but fortunately cultural attitudes have changed drastically over the years.

    Today I am warmed and encouraged by these thoughtful and aware responses. I am glad to see that the concept of sisterly support still exists and that women (and good men) are still trying to make this part of the world safe and equal for everyone.The legacy in you younger woman is heartening. I think you “get” it.

    My heartfelt thanks and a warm hug for such a beautiful and positive post.

  11. I absolutely agree that having kids made feminism more important to me. It’s not always easy with people equating feminism with the most extreme parts of it, but it’s important to me that my kids know that men and women are equal.

    As a work at home mom, I’m lucky that my kids get so many good examples. They see that I can earn a living and care for them. They see two of their uncles being stay at home dads. They hear my husband and I talking about the many choices they have for their lives.

    I would love to see it get easier for men and women to choose how they live their lives, but the path is long and difficult, with many resisting.

  12. Karen Green says:

    Left a comment, but didn't mention how awesome I thought this post was to begin with!

  13. Worded beautifully! In my opinion no education is ever a waste whether you are currently using it in the work force or not.
    Wendy Irene’s last post … Guest Post – IndiaMy Profile

  14. In University I thought being a feminist was about relishing one’s homosexuality or choosing not to shave your legs and/or blaming men for pretty much everything. Since I became a mother I see it in a more pure way and feel I now have just as much right to go into the women’s only lounge at the University (if I wanted to), knowing I am a feminist too.
    Melodie’s last post … Vegetarian Foodie Fridays- Chickpea Potato StewMy Profile

  15. Joan Morris says:

    Amber, I loved your delightful video with it's message to Jacob on his first birthday. Beautifully done. Your blog about motherhood and feminism is so thoughtful. thank you, and I've shared it with my daughters in the middle of motherhood.

  16. Unitl I became a mother to two girls, I was very sure I knew what ‘my’ feminism was, and it was solid in my mind. But then I had to reassess, because I now think about feminism not only in terms of my actions and my values and my beliefs, but how I teach my girls to be proud, happy, knowledgeable and kind women. Anyway, what that meant was that I stopped feeling guilty and started feeling good about my decisions. I need to be a role model as a woman, not just a mother or a feminist. kwim?

  17. Word. You know how I feel about this already.
    TheFeministBreeder’s last post … Living with a Pint-Sized LawyerMy Profile

  18. There is no one definition of feminism. Ultimately, I think just being cool with women being women as they want to be women is the whole idea… and it’s okay that lots of other feminists feel a bit differently.

    It’s a shame that the dominant idea of feminist is liberal feminism, which is focused on the notion of choice as its defining component… this is wrapped up tight with upper middle class, educated white women and the idea of “choice” is inflated with postponing childbearing in favor of professional careers. (In short: being good white men in the capitalist system!) It’s not a coincidence that this came into modern discourse in the late 70s early 80s … it sings of Washington Consensus as strongly as Trickle Down Ideology. There are so many other types of feminist theory… it’s only one, even if it is the one identified as the most mainstream.

    Okay, I’m totally going Feminist Theorist on you now. Here is the point: embrace your feminism and the way you practice it. It’s worth burning a bra over.
    Cold Spaghetti’s last post … No need for missionariesMy Profile

  19. Awesome. You know, I’ve had a blog post about feminism percolating in my head for about a year now. I wrote a while back that I didn’t consider myself a feminist until I had to start defending my choices — and that happened when I had kids. I see feminism as something slightly different to everyone with a common underlying thread of choice and equality.

    @Melodie: I laughed out loud at what you wrote about not shaving your legs and blaming men for everything. You just forgot bra burning. 🙂 I thought this about feminism in my younger years too and that is why I never really identified as a feminist back then. But I was always in favor of choice and equality so I guess I’ve been a feminist all along!

    Love this post!
    FamilyNature’s last post … Wordless Wednesday- Ravine Clean-upMy Profile

  20. Great post. Feminists don’t exist anymore in my country, except on March 8, on women’s day, when they pretend that men buy them flowers.
    Francesca’s last post … The best coffeeMy Profile

  21. As the mom of two boys, I thought that I wouldn’t have as much focus on “girls can do anything” as if I had daughters. It’s mostly true, but when something breaks, I already have to remind them that “mommy can fix it” and they don’t have to run to daddy. It’s just as much a job to each our sons to expect women to be equal partners as it is to teach our daughters.
    Lady M’s last post … Awesomest RollercoasterMy Profile

  22. Yay for feminism!

    Seriously though, good for you for taking it on. It has become wildy unpopular these days.

  23. I have been shocked at how little support I find for feminism among my peers and my generation. A distrust (sometimes from a religious perspective), and also a sense that we’ve moved beyond that, that all our struggles as women are over and everyone’s equal now, yay. And it’s strange, because I don’t consider myself that kind of feminist, either — the kind who talks about it all the time (although I admire those ones) — but I am always thinking about it, and I don’t understand why other people think there’s no need to anymore.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last post … Sunday Surf- All the links I can cram in before we go for a Sunday driveMy Profile

  24. It’s about “making up our own minds and honouring the choices that others make.” Amen my friend. Not everyone is good at that, and for some reason so many tend to judge. I don’t get that. The choices we have are not perfect, but we do have choices. For that I’m eternally grateful.
    Christine LaRocque’s last post … Honest and focusedMy Profile

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