Are homemaking and motherhood futile occupations? The answer is, obviously, a big fat “No”. l don’t value homemaking despite being a feminist. l value it because I’m a feminist. One of the main ways patriarchy has sought to demean women is by demeaning their primary (traditional) occupation of homemaking. This method seems to have succeeded to the point where even women who work to oppose patriarchy believe that women continuing to pursue traditionally feminine pursuits amounts to somehow making disempowering and/or inferior choices. I have two main issues with this.
Firstly, homemaking is not easy. Neither is it without value. A home is a place of comfort. It’s where we want to go to recharge. To sleep. Sometimes even to hide. Comfort comes from order, predictability, stability and a feeling of being taken care of. When I put away the laundry every night, I’m not just doing chores. I’m making the room more inviting. When The Hero clears the table, he does the same. When we wake up in the middle of the night and there’s a water bottle on the nightstand, it’s comforting. The acts are small but the consequences are far reaching. To keep a family nourished and comforted doesn’t happen without foresight, planning and effort.
Raising children isn’t easy either. There are only three types of providers of childcare. Parents, family members and external help. Each option comes with pros and cons but it’s delusional to think they’re interchangeable. All the self-righteous individuals who say “breast milk can be expressed and left” clearly don’t realize that a) breastfeeding is more than just feeding and b) not all moms can pump and not all babies take bottles. Raising kids is hard work. It’s not about diapers and burps. It’s about engaging them physically, intellectually and emotionally. Giving them values and helping them grow up to be balanced human beings. Some kids thrive with multiple care-givers. Others do better with one. A parent who chooses to be with their child is not doing any worse than the person with a fancy job title.
The second reason I think it’s wrong to judge someone else’s choices is pretty simple. Who are we to judge? There’s dignity in any task and what’s not right for me is not absolutely wrong. It’s about fit.
When we judge individual choices we miss the bigger picture. We forget to question the reason behind the choice. Are we responding to decades of conditioning? Are we trying to live up to some unrealistic superwoman superperson ideal? Or are we finally free to make our own choices?
As a feminist I’m more worried about women around me having the right to choose. It’s none of my business how they exercise this right.