The Feminist Housewife

Today we’re delighted to bring you a piece from Samantha – stay at home mum, blogger, business woman and all-round clever sausage. She regularly writes of things affecting women – whether it be political, emotional or practical – and whatever her subject she writes with understanding, grace and humour. 

Below she talks about her choices (you know we’re big on choices here at AOW) and how choosing to stay at home doesn’t mean she lacks ambition. 

Do you know what, Samantha, we think you’re pretty cool too.  

I recently wrote a piece for my own blog page about feminism and being a housewife. It was inspired by recent coverage of Cherie Blair’s criticism of stay at home mothers, accusing us of lacking ambition and making a dangerous choice to be dependent on our husbands. Reading the recent Jobs for the Girls posts here and feeling so excited by the stories, seeing how strong and amazing we women are, lapping up the sense of power and ambition that oozed from every word on the screen all made me realise more than ever that what I do is just as cool.

My job doesn’t pay very well in monetary terms, the hours are long, my colleagues are noisy and demanding and it doesn’t really do wonders for your CV. Housewife, homemaker, stay at home mother – call me what you will.

Samantha and her demanding colleagues. 

Do I lack ambition because I don’t go out each day to work as an employee in an industry outside my home? I don’t think so. I aspire to be an amazing mother, to create happy memories for my children to look back on when they are grown, to provide a safe, comfortable home for my family. It’s harder than it sounds… the sacrifices you make in order to be good at this job are immense. Time to myself, disposable income, luxurious furniture, nice clothes, a peaceful glass of wine in the evenings, adults to socialise with daily – these things aren’t part of my lifestyle just now.

Image via Samantha’s blog

To answer those who would call me un-feminist, I am anything but. A friend once asked me to pinpoint exactly how I consider myself a feminist, and I had to think quite hard about how to articulate it. I would say it’s because I champion the right for a woman to make decisions about her life for herself, informed by what she desires, not what society dictates she should or shouldn’t do because she is female. That choice can be anything – to be the managing director of a large company, to run a football club, model lingerie, or stay at home with her children. Whatever the situation, any women has the absolute right to consider all her options and take the one she likes the most. That’s what I’ve done. I don’t stay at home because it’s “my place” to do so, neither will I be pushed into employment away from home before my children are at school because it’s “un-feminist” for me to do otherwise. Nothing about my gender should dictate my career choices, and in that respect I consider being a stay at home mother to be just as valid an occupation as any other, because I have chosen to be here. I can safely say that I have learned more about myself and my place in the world during the last year as a stay at home mother than I did for the entire duration of my degree or the time I spent in paid employment.

For what it’s worth, I’m really good at my job and I’m proud to say that. I feel empowered, happy, fulfilled and no less intellectual than any of my sisters around the world.


Categories: Becoming a Mother, Life Experience, Money and Career, Wise Women
25 interesting thoughts on this

25 Comments

  1. Sandra C
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Sammo-you are amazing. Fact. You are also one of the most articulate and intellectual people I know. If ever I’m lucky enough to become a mother I would like to be just like you. You’re absolutley your own person with no apology or compromise and you’re ace. I can’t imagine how hard it is to be a stay at home mother, but I bet it’s more difficult than most jobs I can think of. Your children are very lucky to have you as their mother.

  2. Vivienne
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    *round of applause*

    You’ve hit the nail on the head – it is all about choice. But it doesn’t matter what choice we make – someone, somewhere will be of the opinion that it’s the wrong one. Leaving your children to go to work makes you a selfish, neglectful mother. Being a stay at home mother implies that you are abandoning the rights women have fought so hard to achieve, that we are doing ourselves a disservice by being reliant on our husbands, and that we pushed our brains through our vaginas during childbirth and forgot to collect them before leaving the hospital.

    I’ve already had negative reactions to the fact that I am choosing to leave work at 31 weeks – the expectation is now to work till you are practically labouring at your desk, and my refusal to do so, is considered almost selfish. I’ve also had subtle faces pulled at me when I’m asked about my plans to return to work (none at the moment). And the worst thing is, all this negativity is from other women. How can we fully champion choices for all women, when we are so ready to judge others for theirs?

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Did you see that article saying that working to 8 months’ pregnant can be as damaging to the baby as smoking, Vivienne? You should show that to your colleagues and then wait for their reaction!

  3. Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Samantha, this is brilliant. So brilliant. I am ashamed to say I have been negative about stay-at-home mothers in the past and my own ignorance forming my belief that women SHOULD “work” (at paid employment), that a work ethic is integral to being a female today, that you can only display that work ethic in the workplace etc etc – which of course is utter b****cks.

    I like this line: “Whatever the situation, any women has the absolute right to consider all her options and take the one she likes the most”. I know it’s often not that easy, but I suppose that’s the aim, isn’t it, for all women to be able to choose the role or option she LIKES the most, not the one she feels she SHOULD choose, not the one she feels she HAS to choose in order to earn enough to live by. And that’s tackling more than feminism, that’s takling poverty and the role of women in the developing world as well. One for another post I feel!

    And your colleagues look like the most fun colleagues in the world. x

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      K, I’ve been guilty of this, particularly when the women are clearly very bright. Thank heavens for people like Samantha for reminding us that choice is what’s key. Seriously, reading some of her stuff and chatting to her has given me the metaphorical punch in the face I needed to reassess the way I look at some things. I’ll be forever grateful.

  4. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    3 cheers for the feminist housewife! Fantastic post, Samantha. I’m so glad for you that you’ve been able to make the choice that’s best for you and your family – that’s what I want to be able to do. And *that*, my friends, is feminism.

  5. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    All I can really say to this is YES. I look at the people I know who are full-time stay-at-home Mums and think that they have a much stronger work ethic than 90% of the people I know who work full-time in paid employment. And that’s not even the point actually, is it? Because feminism is about having the choice and the right to be the person that you are without apologising for it in any way.

    K x

  6. Mahj
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Completely brilliant post Samantha and so well articulated. As you said, yes women should absolutely get to choose what path suits them best and you’ve done this. And I’m sure you are brilliant at your chosen path.

    xoxo

  7. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I’m not able to express this well with the written word but there is also an issue with our interpretation of the English word ‘work’. I picked up from my mother using the phrase “working outside the home” or “financial working” to try express that whatever a person chooses it remains work. Hope this sort of made sense.

  8. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I love this post, S, and I love your blog.

    Ladies, Samantha has been a real inspiration to me in terms of how I’d like to bring up any future mini M’s. She does her research, has a clear and level head, listens to her internal mother’s initiative and her kids clearly thrive. I hope I can be half as a good at that parenting lark!

    • Vivienne
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      And this is where what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another comes in. For some, combining working outside the home and being a mother will bring them the happiness and inner peace that they desire, for others, it will be being an ‘at home working mother’ which fulfills them. And neither is right, wrong, morally or feministically (is that a word?) ‘correct’ and should be afforded the same level of respect

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Life, eh? As complicated or as simple as you want to make it!

  9. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Such an eloquently written post, thank you.

    I have so much admiration for you, and I agree completely with the sentiments of this post. Yes, women should have the choice to persue their ambitions, whatever they may be. I wish staying at home with my children was fulfilling enough for me, but it never has been. I shy away from saying that out loud, because in my social circle this is not norm. In many ways, I’m quite jealous of you!

    I’m just not sure society has reached a point where women really do have those choices, not fully, and not free of certain conditions. I know so many women who couldn’t stay at home with their children for financial reasons, they had no choice but to return to work. When they do, the ‘job’ of running the house still falls to them, so they essentially work two jobs.

    This is certainly the case with my husband and I. We are both ambitious, both very driven in career terms, and there is a constant unspoken struggle over whose work is more important, more valuable. We can’t afford any childcare, so I care for our 2 children and fit my freelance work around them. There was never any question that this would be the case, it was an unspoken assumption that I would be their primary carer. Perhaps I should have fought it, but that’s what I mean about society not having caught up with our feminist ideals just yet. As it stands, I will spend the summer getting up at 5am each morning so I can work before the children wake up, and then again in the evenings when they are in bed. There is no equal division of labour in our house, and even when I am away for work, I carry all the burden of running a house in my head.

    Sometimes I think the notion of women having more choice these days is all an illusion, because sometimes those choices come with fairly tough consequences. If I hadn’t been raised to believe I could ‘have it all’, would my life be simpler, easier? I’m not sure…

    • Jo. S
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Hallelujah! So lovely to wake up and read this, this morning
      I became a stay at home mum 4 years ago and used to lie and say I still worked as I couldn’t bare the raised eyebrows and “lady of leisure” comments, I wish!
      You have really highlighted what a hard job it can be but also a fulfilling one.
      It is hilarious how many of my friends raise who raised the eyebrows that can’t wait to get back in the office during the school holidays as it is too much hard work!

  10. Samantha
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Thank you all so much for the wonderfully positive feedback. It means an awful lot :-)

  11. Clare
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Sam, I want to stand up and applaud. You’ve taken what’s been going round in my head for a while, and written it all down so eloquently and persuasively.

    You’re so right, choice is what’s important. Women before us fought so that we COULD go out to work, not so that we HAD to.

    I’m not ‘financially’ working (thanks JHD’s mum!) at the moment (unless you count AOW), but I have to say, being a mother is by far the hardest job I’ve ever ever done. Give me my old high flying office job back any day, so anyone who believes that it’s the easy option has no idea what the reality involves. My other bug-bear (oh Sam, what have you started?!) is that I’ve noticed some people taking great pride (no-one here) in saying that being a mother ‘isn’t enough for them’, as though they are intellectually superior to those for who it is enough. You make of it what you will – if you want to,I think that motherhood can be made immensely intellectually rewarding.

    I’m also really interested in why looking after your children is not deemed ‘working’ – that would therefore imply that any one who’s a nanny, or who works in childcare, is also ‘not working’? Why is it deemed less of a job because you’re not being paid for it? Are we really that wrapped up in needing financial reward to prove how important our job is?

    • Zan
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I’ve always wondered this too Clare (on the subject of caring for your children not being seen as work) – I think maybe it’s tied up in the historical status of women? And the notion of ‘women’s work’ being somehow easier or more ‘gentle’ (I hate myself for just typing that to be honest!). It’s clearly ridiculous, I’ve seen how hard it can be to look after small children. It’s more than a full-time job in so many ways!

  12. Rach M
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Loved this. Round of applause from me too! Sorry just got off a long flight and still needed my AOW fix but brain is too addled to be articulate. I love the celebration of choice here, and the pushing back on people who try to suggest women should do one thing or another.

    *Any Other High Five to Samantha*

  13. Frances
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I fully support a woman’s right to choice in this but the question has to be how do we move society forward so that women genuinely do have a choice? The other issue I struggle with (maybe it won’t be such an issue when the time actually comes) is how to choose when you really want to do both but that just isn’t possible due to some scientific law of nature like time?

  14. Zan
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Great post – says a lot of things that need to be said!

  15. Kate S
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant post Sam. I love the fact that you’ve made the choice that’s best for you. If money permits in the future I think it may well be the choice I will take too.

  16. Helena
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    Great post! Totally agree with you that real feminism means being freed of expectations placed on us according to our gender.

    Also, I wish my colleagues were as cute as yours!

  17. Alex D
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    You are bloomin’ awesome, missus. By far one of the cleverest and most articulate people I know. You rock, Sammo. x

  18. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been returning to the thoughts this post provoked in me, and the comments. There’s a post somewhere about today’s choices and the women before us who didn’t have the choices and those who were fortunate to turn to writing their frustrations, daydreams and hopes that then inspired the publishing houses of Virago and Persephone.

  19. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    Yes, it is women judging other women. I get a bit fed up of the phrase ‘having it all’ to be honest because I think it’s misinterpreted by women, which only puts extra pressure on us. What is having it all anyway? For me, I have it all if I’m doing a job I love, doing it really well, for people I care about. It’s having enough money to meet our needs and enough time to appreciate life as fully as I can, with the people I love. I think this is quite different from what most people expect when they hear the phrase, and that is the problem. I reckon more of us have it all than we realise. Including you Samantha.

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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