I should say right away that I hate anything that questions a woman’s feminism. Obviously they are some people who may claim to be feminists or “pro-women” who aren’t (like Sarah Palin), but questioning the motives of unknown women, just because they’re housewives, is patronizing. Women are fully capable of making decisions that are best for them and their family without being a “traitor” to feminism or the “sisterhood.” Creating a hierarchy of more feminist feminists at the top and women who embrace “traditional family values” at the bottom is the kind of power play that turns people away rather then brings them into the fray (the republican obsession with “RINOs” is good example I think).
Beyond that, I think too much of conversations like this fall back on stereotypes and a narrow opinion of what is considered “worth” doing. One of the comments I found most telling was, "Being a housewife, for me, is ridiculous because I would never expect anyone else to support me." I know each person has a different opinion and I can only speak for myself, but the idea that “support” is only considered as monetary input rubs me the wrong way. I struggle sometimes with the knowledge that Ryan makes all the money and part of me hates it. But to think that what I do isn’t considered “support” is ridiculous. Who do you think keeps everything running? Being in a long term relationship comes with a long list of things that are required to keep the relationship going. What Ryan and I have basically done is divided up that list in a way that works for us. Is our way the same as other couples - of course not. Each partnership requires different things and a different way to make it work. Even though Ryan can’t pay the electric bill with my cooking, my contributions still supports him and our family unit as a whole. Now I realize not everyone will feel the same way (especially if they haven’t made this sort of arrangement personally), but the idea that Ryan is supporting me, instead of contributing to his part of the pie, seems wrong to me. When I did work, we split the chores more evenly and if I was the only one working out roles would be reversed (except maybe the cooking).
It's also a little sexist if you think about it.
Because really, this whole conversation boils down to the belief that earning money, even if it’s doing a job you hate, is more valuable then not making money. And since I don’t actually make any money raising a child and washing the dishes, my work must obviously be less valuable than the work Ryan does. The problem isn’t that some women (and men) want to stay home, but that we undervalue that choice because we consider their lifestyle decision to be less “good” (because productivity equals good right?). While this isn’t all too shocking from a capitalist point of view, it does make the fact that women do two-thirds of the world's work but receive only 10% of the world's income utterly unsurprising.
All of this also ignores the fact that not all people have satisfying jobs. Would anyone really be shocked if someone who works in fast food wanted to stay home and care for their family instead? Of course not. Ryan stands in front of a machine all day that makes drill bits for companies in countries Ryan has never even seen. I fail to understand how that should be considered a more noble profession then me staying home (though I totally appreciate Ryan’s work). I know it's hard for some people to believe, but taking care of my family actually feels good and rewarding. I find it ridiculously satisfying to feed people in a way I never felt while answering phones or helping people pick out clothes. (I also have to wonder who is supposed to be raising our children if we expect everyone to work.)
These two comments sum it up pretty well I think:
"I thought that the whole idea was choice--if you enjoy being a housewife more than being a cubicle dwelling wage slave (or whatever), why not pursue it?? So long as you are happy and fulfilled, the disdain and snobbery of the people who can't possibly understand your decision just simply doesn't matter.”
“I find it offensive when people make me feel bad or inadequate for not choosing the same lifestyles they do. Being "disappointed" in your friend because she wanted to stay at home with her family instead of running a business is just as bad as right-wing fundamentalists calling career women "dangerous" to family values. The whole point is that you're judging someone based on your own standards instead of considering their emotional needs.I’m not gonna lie, staying home is not easy and always wonderful. There are a lot of times I feel like I need more human interaction and wonder how the hell I got in this situation. But then I remind myself that not all of the jobs I’ve had have been wonderful either and take comfort in the fact that I can read a book and make some cookies anytime I please. I don’t plan on staying home forever, but it’s nice for right now. Holden is still young and I have the time to immerse myself in all the hobbies I always wanted to try but kept putting offn (and bring you this lovely blog). Is my choice the only right one? No. But if it works for me then why should it matter to anyone else? Our lives are not measuring sticks for evaluating all others against. I wish people could get that.
If a woman chooses to stay at home, it's exactly that - her choice. And if she's happy doing that, more power to her. Just the same, if she wants to become the CEO of a major corporation, awesome.
Stop telling women and young girls how they "should" feel or what they "should" aspire to. Instead, encourage them to find whatever it is that makes them happy and fulfills their lives. If that fulfillment comes from making their kids' lunches everyday, suck it up. It's her life, not yours.”
So keep on keeping on people.
Update: I also want to add that I am not talking about the preconceived notion that women should do the housework while men get a pass since it’s “woman’s work.” I am talking about women who have chosen to stay home because they want to. That is what the Jezebel article is about.