In response to my post on feminist homeschooling, I received this interesting comment:
So, if being a mom is a full-time job, does your husband have 2 full-time jobs? Or is being a dad just a hobby?
And what about women who can’t afford to stay home? Should they not have children, or just feel ashamed about sending their kids to school?
I’ve been holding on to this, because it’s a really good set of questions, and I needed to think about it for a while. Being able to see things from the different perspectives is so important. So, I’d like to try to do that.
Q. So, if being a mom is a full-time job, does your husband have 2 full time jobs? or is being a dad just a hobby?
A. Well, depends on how we look at it. Generally, homeschooling moms, are working just as hard as the dad who goes to work. Not more, not less – the same. Being a homeschooling mom is a lot of work. The same is true when the roles are reversed. I believe what makes me a feminist on this issue is that I do not believe that having a woman or man in any familial position is “better” or “more work” or “more important”. All the roles we play in the family are important and worth lauding – whether that be caretaking, money making or whatever.
Now, on to the subjective side of it – yes, to some dads, being a dad is a kind of “hobby”. And, for some moms, it’s the same. The way we see our responsibilities as parents has nothing to do with whether we are working or not. That is irrelevant. But what is important to recognize, is that a parent who takes on the responsibility to stay home and take care of children, and homeschool, is doing an important and meaningful job. Just because they are not being paid doesn’t mean that they are wasting their lives or being anti-feminist.
So, this question, in and of itself, reflects a zero-sum game mentality. That if someone’s work is valued for being worthy, than somehow that makes someone else’s work less worthy. For me, that’s what I see as anti-feminist; the idea that certain decisions are less valuable than others simply because of their social value of who is doing “more” or doing “better”. If we think like this, the essensce of what “social equality” means can’t exist. Social equality can’t be measured in numbers. Every time we try, we are back at square one.
Q. And what about women who can’t afford to stay home? Should they not have children, or just feel ashamed about sending their kids to school?
A. Again, this is coming from a zero-sum game approach to the argument. That if someone is choosing to stay home, that it somehow deflects from a woman’s choice to work. If we see that one choice is “good” and the other is “bad”, everyone loses.
To me, it’s not about the actual choice we are making. It is not about working vs. staying home, not about having children or not, it’s not about sending kids to school or homeschooling. To me, it’s all about how we came to those decisions. Are we making our own choices? Do we see ourselves as helpless women who have to bend to everyone’s whim in order to survive? Or are we making these choices based on our own self-image of a strong, powerful woman, who doesn’t need to wait for approval or the OK by a man (or society) in order to take action? Are we making choices that show our respect for ourselves, or are we making choices because we feel trapped?
This is why I think homeschooling moms who stay home are part of a grander feminist movement. It is extremely rare for a homeschooling mom to make the choice to homeschool based on what society says she should be doing. This does not mean that I think those who choose other routes are not making a powerful choice. It’s not black and white like that. For women who cannot afford to stay home, or have kids but do, or who send their kids to school – there are so many reasons for these things, it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about whether or not their decisions are based on personal empowerment, or being trapped by the lot of being a woman in our society.
I see homeschooling moms, who stay home and take care of their kids instead of working (and often while working at home making money at the same time), as generally a feminist decision. (Always exceptions of course.) But that, by no means lessens the value or importance of the decision not to homeschool.
To think that it does, is anti-feminist. And it sounds like it’s coming from a masculine point of view where if someone succeeds, someone has to fail. The truth is, there is no one right answer. That’s what the feminist movement is based on. Not on whether or not women are making as much money as men or whether they are in the work force like men. I have no interest in turning women into men.
On the contrary, I think women should stay solidly women, but without fear. And have power in their own way. Not have to find power by being more masculine. Making the choice to homeschool (BTW, in most families, it’s the mom who has to convince the dad to let her stay home and homeschool) is decidedly powerful. Just as powerful as standing up as a women deciding to work for her family. Either way, her choices are valid. And there is no need for her to become more of a man in order to find equality.
That is what feminism is. Being a strong woman – not more of a man.