Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Feminism. WOHM. SAHM. Oh my!

I was going to wait until tomorrow morning to post this, but it's been on my mind all day, and I just can't. This morning, I posted what I thought was a completely innocuous post. I was pretty surprised to receive the following comment:

I responded as neutrally as I could in the comments section of that post, because I think that a lot of it was just simply misdirected (i.e. that I do all the housework or that I order and prioritize my status as a wife and mother) but I've been thinking about it  all day, and I have more to say. I apologize in advance if this is a bit of a ramble, but I hope y'all will take just a few minutes to read it--it's from the heart.


Linda Hirshman wrote a book in 2006 called Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World that is essentially summed up by the comment from "Concerned Feminist" above--that women who choose to stay at home rather than work are making equality more difficult for everyone else. Hirshman has also said that she doesn't buy into anecdotes from stay-at-home mothers and homemakers that it's the most fulfilling thing they could imagine doing, saying, "I would like to see a description of their daily lives that substantiates that position...One of the things I've done working on my book is to read a lot of the diaries online, and their description of their lives does not sound particularly interesting or fulfilling for a complicated person, for a complicated, educated person." 

Now, I disagree with Hirshman for a plethora of reasons, the least of which being the air of entitlement and class-ism that she seems to espouse (i.e. those of us with educations shouldn't stay at home, but it's okay for us to pay the poor uneducated people to raise our children, because those people aren't very important or smart anyway), but this is nothing new--we all hear similar (albeit less judgmental) sentiments from both sides of the coin often, don't we? Stay-at-home moms tell their mom friends who work outside the home, "I just couldn't imagine letting anyone else raise my children." On the other hand, moms who work outside the home tell their stay-at-home mom friends, "I just don't know what you do with yourself all day while your son is at school! I'd be so bored!


I get that we've already made the decision that we think is best for our family, and so it's hard to imagine doing anything to the contrary. But as in anything, there is no universal best--there's no "best" pair of jeans, no "best" meal, no "best" way to parent, no "best" decision in terms of staying home or continuing to work--there's only the right decision for us and for our families. What works for me might not work for you, but that doesn't mean that what I've chosen is wrong either. 

I've been blogging since 2004, and during that time, I've had the privilege of getting to know some incredible and amazing men and women online. 

I've gotten to know Molly, who has two beautiful boys and works out of the home full time. Guess what? She's doing the right thing, and she's a great mom. 

I've gotten to know Leah, who also has two beautiful boys, and works out of the home right now in order that she'll be able to stay at home with her boys in the long-term. Guess what? She's doing the right thing, and she's a great mom. 

I've gotten to know Emily, who has one little guy, and works part-time. Guess what? She's doing the right thing, and she's a great mom. 

I've gotten to know Katie, who has a sweet little girl, and works part-time(?) from home. Guess what? She's doing the right thing, and she's a great mom. 

And then there's me, who has a degree, used to work full-time, and now I'm staying home with Lizzy, and doing photography on the side. Guess what? I'm doing the right thing, and I'm a great mom too. 

We're all doing the right thing, because we're all making the best decisions that we can for our families with the resources we have available to work with. I know, it sounds corny, but it's true. Whether we work full-time, part-time, out-of-the-home, in the home, or even consider staying-at-home work at all, we're doing what we think is right for our families, right now. Period. That's the best any of us can do.

Let's knock off pretending like we know how to best run each others lives, and focus on running our own, eh?


  1. WOW. I am so sorry that somebody so ignorant and unclassy tried to judge you for your choices (anonymously, too)! Congratulations for standing up, holding your own, and going your OWN way. You're a great mother, wife, and person--no blog comment will ever change that.

    <3 Praying for enlightment into the hearts of others less fortunate than us with open minds.

  2. Wow! Raising a HUMAN BEING isn't as important as having a career and is insignificant in her eyes?! I want to be the primary influence in my children's lives. If I don't, then this crazy world will shape them. NO THANKS!

    You seem like a very good mother and wife and why is it her business to tell you you aren't? People say the craziest things!

    Only hurt people say hurtful things (not to mention insensitive)

  3. You are a fantastic mom. You know I had a run-in with a similar (the same? I know who mine was based on IP address...) anonymous commenter last year, and I think the thing that concerns me the most is this particular commentor's impression that there is only one right way to support women's rights. The hard lines are what caused civil rights issues in the first place, why is it so important to go to the other extreme.

    Actually, extremity is probably the issue in most mommy wars.

    But all of this is to say that I'm sorry you had this person start your day. Your smart and wise, a great person, wife and mother.

  4. Spot on, girl!

    I haven't stopped thinking about this all day either... man I have a lot I could say right now. :)

  5. Um, WOW.
    I'm amazed that someone has not only decided that working would be more important that raising their child (because that's certainly how her comment came off), but also that she felt the need to essentially tell you that you were wasting time raising your child when you could be "more useful" having a job - AND presuming to know what kind of role your husband plays in the whole picture.

    Concerned feminist, my ass. Maybe she needs to work on the "stereotypical girlie thing" of running her mouth. I can't believe the things that some people actually say.

    The fact is that you said you're doing what you think is best for your family. And she needs to butt out.

  6. What what! Concerned Feminist needs to focus on her life, and hers alone.

  7. Some people just aren't happy unless they're stirring the pot.

    Honestly, I think my mom was an incredible role model BECAUSE she stayed at home. Not because the house was spotless or dinner was always cooked, but because of her completely self-less love for me and my sister. She put her own dreams on hold until we were in college and more or less on our own.

    I applaud you for your decision to stay home to raise your daughter, just as I applaud the women who choose to work instead.

  8. Feminism doesn't mean that women have to work and do everything a man does. It means that women have the right to CHOOSE to do anything a man does. Forcing any ideal is the exact opposite of what feminism truly is.

    I think everyone should go right on doing what they feel is right :)

  9. I have a feeling that commenter's anger and bitterness stems from other issues. You responded gracefully and respectfully. And I agree...why can't we, as women and mothers, just support one another as we navigate our way through parenthood? I

  10. Well-written post Meredith! I couldn't agree with you more.

  11. I <3 you :) I 100% agree w/ the above- that feminism is te right to CHOOSE! I am making the choice to stay home when we have kids (for reasons that don't have to be justified to anyone) but you can bet your heiney that if John, his family, my family, etc said that I had to stay home- I would be out the door to work asap..

  12. That comment you received honestly makes me cringe---you handled this so well and your post is wonderfully-written. As a mom who works part time out of the home, I usually consider myself pretty neutral on the SAHM v WOHM wars. But when females criticize other female's choices for their families, nothing makes me more irritated.

  13. You are amazing. What a well-written and thought-put response. But you shouldn't have had to make it. It makes me sad that ppl out there spend their time judging and pouncing on unsuspecting parties.

    And what I really want to know is how a woman who is clearly so successful career-wise has the time to make her way around the blogosphere spouting nastiness. Shouldn't she be in the office instead of surfing the net?

  14. AMEN! (And that comment? I'd have been steaming. Despite what she believes, I cannot believe how steeped in ignorance that is.)

    I've actually got a similar post sitting in my draft folder. In support of all women doing what they can for their families, in and out of the home in whatever parenting method they choose, I need to post it. Thanks for the reminder.

  15. Honestly, so many thoughts come to mind, reading that comment...I don't even know where to start. But I think your response, in this post, was perfect. I know it's frustrating, but way to defend yourself and try not to let these kind of comments beat you down.

  16. Good for you! And I guess it's considered full time, work at home. But, maybe more like part time by the time I add in all the mommy'ing in between ;P

  17. Wow... I'm always amazed when people take time to insult others in such a way -- nothing better to do with their time, perhaps?

    As a mom that has worked both in and out of the home, and worked in the home AS a mother, there is no work more valuable than contributing to the upbringing of a human being, and being available for our children is worth more to them than anything, whether we work outside the home or not. I'm glad you took the time to respond to the commenter's thoughts, but disappointed that blogging invites such attacks. Like you said, I'm sure it was misplaced.

    In any case, everything we do for our children (work, stay home, grocery shop and clean the toilet and make dinner and read bedtime stories) is a worthwhile in the future of our society. A happy home (regardless of who works outside the house and who makes dinner or takes out the trash) is the biggest contribution we can make to the future generations.

    Sorry, I'll end my rant now. :)

  18. (Whoops, that ^ should have said... "a worthwhile *investment* in the future of our society")

  19. I loved your response to her in your comments and in this post, you articulated exactly what I was thinking and said it so well.

  20. There are so many parts of your post I found myself completely agreeing with you. Especially that it is a family's choice. For my family, full time work outside the home is what we need, for you stay at home with a side job is what you need. You have to put YOUR family first and do what is right for YOUR family. You are doing exactly what is right for you. Good job!

  21. Well said lady! I hate that everyone always "knows" how to live your life more than you. Youre doing an awesome job! Keep it up!

  22. I can't think of anything more important than raising kiddos! What would this world be like without good mom's like you? Don't let anyone make you think otherwise!

  23. Raising your CHILD is a waste of time and an insignificant calling?!

    Anyone who posts that isn't worth a second more of your time, Meredith.

    Great post!!

  24. Mer, I completely teared up reading this. You squarely hit the nail on the head, with poise.

  25. Good for you for leaving that comment up and responding thoughtfully to it. I hate how so many bloggers delete any type of criticism they get or respond with something snarky about being a "hater". While I don't agree with the commenter at all, I think people have a right to voice their opinions on blog posts. You sound like an awesome mom who always thinks about her family and what is best for everyone. I really don't get what is anti-feminist about staying home. Someone has to watch the children, whether it's the mother or a babysitter, daycare provider, or a stay at home dad or other family member. Does that mean that none of those people can be feminists or role models? Not so in my opinion.

  26. Wow! Good for you for being the bigger person. And I agree- the ONLY person who knows what is best for your family is YOU. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Keep on doing what you're doing! :)

  27. wow.... just wow.
    "Being with an infant is completely insignificant compared to the impact you would have with a job and career - just think about it." - per Concerned Feminist.


  28. As a childless career woman I am astounded by that response to you. I haven't made the choices you've made, but I can understand why you would. On behalf of women like me everywhere, I'm sorry for that person's ignorant comment to you. And like someone else posted before me, unclassy to boot.

  29. Mere- I respect the decision that you made to stay at home and raise Lizzy. I think that there was something that was vastly overlooked by your anonymous commenter. The story would be a lot different if this decision was made for you. It wasn't. You and J made this decision TOGETHER. That right there speaks volumes to how far our world has come in terms of equality. Speaking as someone who works my days away, there are times when I feel like I am missing out on the important times on life. If I had the choice, I would spend my days with the people who are most important to me. In my opinion, that is FAR more fufilling than being successful and making money, etc. Keep doing what you are doing sis,I am proud of you! :) Love you!

  30. I just came across your blog (evident from my comment on your newer post :)) and I just wanted to say that I loved what you wrote here. Every person makes their choice and it is because what they think is best for themselves AND their family.


  31. This is baffling. My best response is to laugh because it was such a ridiculous comment...and the fact that it was anonymous just makes it all the better/worse.

    Also, crazy disappointing that Baloo hasn't weighed in here... I must say!

  32. Not to worry, dearest hippo, I was just biding my time and/or way too tired from working to say anything till now. But now I'm two beers in and have thoughts.

    I have to preface by saying that, despite my ursine moniker, I am in face a heterosexual, white, middle-class (well, currently poor-as-hell, but with solidly middle-class parents) male. I have a master's degree, which is more formal education than the vast majority of people in the world will ever achieve. Whether I like it or not, that identity in may ways aligns me pretty firmly with the power structure that has more or less ruled the world since the late 1700s--that is to say, white, heterosexual, affluent males. So that's my bias.

    Anyway, Now, I was also raised as a wee lad by a stay-at-home father, so I have some familial experience with the stay-at-home parent phenomenon. Both my parents had careers from the time that I was in grade school. But my father to this day will describe his time as a SAHD (aren't acronyms wonderful?) as the best time of his life. He loved it. (And, I mean, in fairness, I'm pretty awesome; who wouldn't?) So, generally speaking, on this and most other personal matters, I'm solidly in your camp, Mere: People should do what feels right to them, and the rest of us could probably stand to STFU a little more.

    So I've no problem with SAH parenting as a basic concept. What I have a serious problem with, and what I think is still a significant social problem in this country, is the idea that the only acceptable role for a married woman with offspring is to spend her whole time raising said offspring. Culture, religion, whatever--that's idiotic, the vestige of medieval puritan morality that continues to haunt America, and the reflection of an archaic vision of supposedly inherent differences between men and women that aren't substantiated by biology and always seem to oh-so-coincidentally strengthen the positions of the existing power structure (straight white rich men: see above).

    Do such people represent the majority of stay-at-home parents? I've honestly no idea. I could hazard a guess, but it'd be more a reflection of my own stereotypes about my fellow countrymen and women than an educated estimate of reality. What I do know is that such people unfortunately besmirch a practice that seems to me to be inherently neutral, and that for those of us who are opposed to such practices, the temptation to oversimplify can be too powerful to resist. Basically, it's the same as hostility toward Islam or Christianity based on the actions of a relatively small number of assholes.

    To be continued, lest I lose what I've already produced.

  33. Part II:

    There is something that I've noticed that kinda bugs me that your anonymous commenter (who, seriously, should have the gumption to own up to her offensive comments with her regular online persona) kinda brought up. I should say that I do not intend the following commentary to be specifically directed at anyone in this particular online community, not least of all you, Mere.

    She has, I think, something of a valid point in a broad sort of sense with the comment on having one's primary identity be as a wife or mother (or both, whatever). Granted, I am neither married nor a parent, but it seems to me that a person should always define themselves first and foremost as an individual. (This is, I suppose, as much an ideological standpoint as anything, but Marx would say that everything is ideology, so let's go with it.) To be sure, I don't think there's anything wrong with one's relationship to a spouse or child being a significant aspect of one's identity, but we should all be our own person, both apart and in concert with that part of our identity. If your first and primary identity is of someone else, what are you contributing to that relationship? What are you but an emotional parasite?

    I've met people like that. They sucked. To be more specific, I dated someone like that. For way too long, as Lisa can attest. They weren't interesting people; they were more like shells, people who poured themselves into others without retaining their own identity. And worse, their perspectives were totally screwed up. I spend every workday taking calls from such people via my job at [redacted]. These are people who will berate another human being for things. Material things. Shit. Plastic and cloth that means not a goddamn bit of anything in this world. Because, I think, they have no perspective; because their children have become their all because they have no separate identities. Maybe that's a lot to read into people I talk to usually for a few minutes at most, but then again, dehumanization is not known to breed insight or compassion. But I think I may have something. And you do see this basic lack of perspective reflected in some of the so-called "mommy blogs." Working at [redacted] has given me occasion to view no small amount of them, and... seriously... all the horrors of the world, and so much energy is poured into viciously complaining about clothing a child will wear for six months at best. I dunno. That's my own deal. Maybe enough time spent on that. I mentioned the beers.

    That isn't to slander all of the mommy blogs. Meredith here runs a freaking excellent one, reflecting a well-balanced life. Again, the bad can overshadow everything else.

    Again, I don't mean to advocate a self-centered ideology a la objectivism or some other such ideological idiocy. Human relationships are freakin' great. I couldn't live without them. But I'd like to think that I'm my own person, and that my specific characteristics, thoughts, beliefs, evil sense of humor, whatever, is what keeps my friends around, and which may inform my relationships with any hypothetical legal partners and/or genetic descendants.

    I feel like that's enough of a buzzed ramble for now. I feel I've made something of a point that begins to approach the complexity of my feelings on the subject.

  34. Wow, what an ignorant comment!

    I have the book In Praise of Stay at Home Mom's by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. When I get frustrated about doing the same thing day in and day out, I take that book out and read part of it. It is incredible and I highly recommend it!


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