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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Motherhood and modern feminism

What do you want to be when you grow up?

This question, although varied in form, has been asked for the majority of my life, and I’m sure for yours as well. I was never one of those kids who stuck to a certain answer. My indecisive nature would take over, which meant this question and my answers didn’t dictate the choices I made. I still lived with the freedom that allowed me to imagine different versions of what my future could be like. But as I grew older, I realized there were certain stigmas and expectations for the answers I presented. 

For example, when I tell people my dream in life is to be a mom, they say, “Okay, but what do you want to do career-wise?” If my follow-up answer is “A stay-at-home mom,” I am then met with a concerned look and a chuckle because I couldn’t possibly be serious. 

A woman saying she wants to be a stay-at-home mom doesn’t mean she has no desire or will to have a career, but it does make a distinction in the way she might view work. Personally, I will always work hard, but since my life goals revolve around marriage and family, I might not be as inclined to work overtime solely for the sake of a promotion or salary increase. The modern feminist movement has taught young women to disregard other valued priorities and instead focus on getting these promotions and salary increases. This movement has pressured women into feeling as though they are not doing enough if they choose motherhood, which is the primary role of a married woman with kids, over a career. 

As a woman, I have been told by so-called “mentors” that I should be challenging men in corporate arenas because I can do whatever a man can do. Forget about marriage or having a family! That can all happen after I become CEO of a company. 

In contrast to past eras, in which femininity was held in high regard, I am now encouraged to be a “strong, independent woman.” But being a “strong, independent woman” in this context doesn’t mean you are fully flourishing as a woman, rather it means you are completing the same tasks that are typically required of a man, and you are doing them alone. 

Nothing about this is truly uplifting to a woman. While you might be proud of the hard work that got you to that moment, have you really become a more developed woman in doing so? Instead of celebrating what makes us unique as women, we are clamoring to become exactly like men. 

The stigma that surrounds being a stay-at-home mom should not exist. Being present for your children is in no way a bad thing. Some consider being a stay-at-home mom as not having a career when, in reality, this might be the most important and challenging career a woman could have. 

When you analyze the role of a stay-at-home mom, you list tasks such as making dinner, doing dishes, cleaning the house, doing laundry, watching and raising the kids, taking them to school and so on and so forth. When a woman decides to have a “normal career,” she and her husband might decide to hire out some of these tasks, such as hiring a housekeeper or a nanny for their kids. There is no stigma with paying housekeepers, nannies or daycare workers. In fact, people create businesses out of providing these services. So why do we question a mom for taking on these jobs? Just because a mom isn’t getting paid, and it is her home and family, fulfilling this role suddenly isn’t a real job? 

This is not to say that women shouldn’t desire “normal careers.” But, this should not force you to sacrifice being a present mom for your children. Whether you work part-time or full-time in a role outside of the home, it is possible to do both. You can be a good mom and have a “normal career.” 

Marriage includes some sacrifice from both parents. Just because this discussion revolves around the value of stay-at-home moms, it does not discount the importance of an active father in a child’s life. Just as much as a woman might need to sacrifice career aspirations for her family, a father might have to do the same. 

It is important to acknowledge that many families need both parents working outside of the home in order to make ends meet, which might limit the amount of time they are able to spend with their kids. This does not make them bad parents, in fact, this is admirable since they are willing to do what it takes to provide their children with a stable upbringing. 

Modern feminism pushes for an all-or-nothing situation when it doesn’t have to be that way. Modern feminists create a reality in which women feel as though they need to work a 9-to-5 and beat out men for promotions to be successful, even if this means delaying having kids or not devoting your attention to them. 

Instead of taking this stance and fighting to surpass the work of men in the corporate world, feminists should be fighting for and supporting moms who want to be present for their families while simultaneously needing or desiring an income. As much as promotion is celebrated, the modern feminist movement should also celebrate women who choose to be stay-at-home moms. 

This is what a strong woman looks like: one who prioritizes family and sees their work as a service to their family, no matter where it is done.  

Bridgette Rodgers is a sophomore living in Farley Hall studying Political Science and Theology. If you are interested in managing her presidential campaign, please contact her at brodger4@nd.edu. 

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets bi-weekly on Mondays at 7 p.m. in Duncan Student Center Meeting Room 1, South W106 to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.