A feminist couldn’t possibly enjoy being a stay at home mom, right? Wrong. Joyful tears come to my eyes at least once a day; watching my son suddenly get into the groove of a song he hasn’t heard before, break out into a grin, and start dancing; reading the same books to him 300 times a day and knowing I am not only making him feel loved and attended to, but helping his budding language skills develop; watching him form his first friendships and take a place in our community; these all bring me a deep, satisfied joy. He eats three healthy, flavorful, home cooked meals a day, and he eats them sitting together at the table with his family. I know his needs are met lovingly, appropriate boundaries are set when needed, and his wellness, mood, and abilities are taken into account in planning our daily activities. I feel great pride in all of this, every day.
A quick Google search for “liberal stay at home mom” yields pages and pages of results of conservative publications insisting that liberals hate and disrespect stay at home moms. The tired old idea that all liberal feminists feel oppressed by the work of homemaking; that they just want to abort babies and climb the corporate ladder, emasculating men in the process, is sadly still alive and well in a large part of the country. I am here to tell you that is not the case.
Conservatives talk about supporting mothers and families, but at the same time try to cut food stamps that feed young hungry bellies, to cut vital healthcare services for women like cancer screenings and affordable birth control, and fight raising the minimum wage to a livable wage you could raise a family on. I see conservatives push policies that are pro-birth, but not truly pro-life. 13 million children live in households where they cannot get enough to eat, and conservatives seem okay with letting these children go hungry in the name of judging their parent’s choices as poor ones; fixating on drug testing or possible fraud, or the narrative that these parents should be puling themselves up by their bootstraps or not have children they can’t afford. While they fight about these things, children are going hungry. Feminism and liberal ideals ask for women to be supported in their own personal choices, whether to work in the home or outside of it, and if the latter, to have affordable childcare that makes that possible; to have children or not have children, and to have access to good reproductive health care either way; to support a living wage, enabling families to make the choice to have one person stay home, and afford to live on one income. My husband and I continually revisit my choice to work as a homemaker, and if I ever decided to go back to the workforce, he would support me in that. That’s the important part: The only time being a stay at home mom is anti-feminist is when it is not the woman’s choice to do so.
There is a system of thought in this country that does devalue the work of homemaking; that system is capitalism. The emotional and domestic labor of caregivers is the dark matter of our economy. If I was handed a census today, and asked to report number of hours worked, the acceptable answer would not be the accurate 80-120, it would be zero. On the other hand, someone who sits on Twitter all day at their desk pretending to work, can report a 60 hour work week. The hardest part of transitioning to being a stay at home mom for me, has been learning to have confidence in the value of my work when there is no paycheck attached.
I have a friend I can reach out to when I am feeling drained or doubting myself, and I always get messages back, usually within a minute of reaching out, reminding me that the work I am doing is valuable, that emotional labor is real labor, and that by being a good caregiver I am making a huge contribution that positively influences the next generation. I know this person supports and values my choices 100%, and will always stand by me in them. This person is a polyamorous, non-binary, radical feminist, who never plans on having children. You read that correctly; one of my strongest supports in my life as a homemaker, wife, and mother is exactly the kind of person half the country thinks is trying to destroy the American family. There is nothing antithetical between liberal feminism and the work of a homemaker. I feel welcome in the worker’s movement. I feel supported and uplifted by feminists. So I suppose what I am trying to say is; if you are a stay at home caregiver, I say to you; as a liberal, as a feminist, I see you and your work, I value your contributions and I will fight for the policies that support you. Let’s put an end to the myth that liberals despise homemakers; they are in fact the only ones who truly support them, not only in word but in deed.