Parenting

Are stay-at-home moms the new feminists?

American talk show host Rush Limbaugh fuels the "mommy wars" — and Jennifer thinks that he has a lot to learn about feminism.

Photo: ilona75/iStockphoto

“Did you hear what Rush Limbaugh said?” my husband asked me last week. “He said you’re a feminist because you are a stay-at-home mom!”

“I’m confused,” I replied. “Didn’t I kill feminism and let down the sisterhood by quitting my job? After all, that’s what Elizabeth Wurtzel said last year.” Of course, I was being cheeky but I still didn’t understand why, yet again, working moms were being pitted against stay-at-home moms in the name of feminism.

The central topic on Limbaugh’s talk show last week was a New York Magazine story about Kelly Makino, a self-proclaimed flaming liberal feminist who never imagined herself as a stay-at-home mom. Makino left behind a successful career to devote herself to teaching her children life lessons. Dubbing her a “happy housewife,” the UK’s Daily Mail hails Makino as part of a “new breed of young, educated, and married mothers” who opt to stay home and raise their children rather than pursue their career.

Limbaugh attacked Makino’s tale of discovering joy in being a housewife so viciously that I wanted to drive to her house and give her a hug. His argument that biological clocks and hormones are to blame for women “leaning out instead of leaning in” is entirely shallow and reeks of a ratings grab. While I could go on about everything that upsets me about that episode of his show, it’s the complete ignorance of a woman’s right to choose to do what’s best for her family that gets my back up.

Five years ago, when I left my infant son in the care of a loving and lovely young woman as I tearfully returned to work after my maternity leave, it was the right choice for our family. At that stage in our lives, we still wanted money to travel, invest in our financial futures and make payments on a brand new suburban home. But when faced with the same choice after the birth of our daughter, a large house and vacations were no longer the priority and staying at home with our children was. Now, further into our journey as parents, our family faces a new challenge in light of my husband’s job loss. My “job” as a stay-at-home mom will likely come to an end soon so that I can return to the workforce and financially support our family. Does that make me more or less of a feminist? Of course not. Just as it doesn’t make me a bad mother or failed housewife.

So then who exactly is a feminist? Perhaps if you’ve had your head buried in misogynous sand for the last 40 years, you might still believe that women around the world are burning their bras. But I believe that today’s feminists are you and me — the women who make tough choices to do what is best for the health and happiness of their families, and fiercely defend and support other women who do the same, regardless of their decisions.