Here’s a snippet of my book project draft that feels particularly relevant for me right now.
A feminist mother who takes time away from paid work has probably thought about the dynamics of her own situation more than some random judgmental stranger has. But that doesn’t stop random strangers from assuming that “stay-at-home moms” are anti-feminist in their very being if not in their (delusional) motivations or self-identification. Perhaps I should say “our very being” and “our delusional self-identifications”: although I do not identify as a stay-at-home mom, and although my temporary exit from the paid workforce has had far more to do with the unemployment rate and the absence of flexible schedules in professional jobs than with my own desires, the reality is that I spend my days with an infant and a young child.
I am not an anomaly. Many—most—“stay-at-home” and “working” mothers move between these two categories over the months and years. Most face “choices” that are highly constrained by economic and other structural realities. The terms themselves imply an absurd degree of difference: “Stay-at-home parents” don’t actually stay at home (we are allowed out into our communities!). Although SAHMs are sometimes called “full-time mothers,” working parents are not somehow “part-time parents.” “Working moms” are not the only mothers who work: “stay-at-home moms” do the work of parenting and often care for others in the community, volunteer, write, plan businesses, freelance, etc.
The compromises we make as parents and as workers are complicated, personal, and often painful. It does not help for self-proclaimed feminists to act as though a particular category of mothers has selfishly betrayed the sisterhood.