Large Family Feminist

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I recently read and LOVED a blog post by my friend Sarah Lehberger about redefining Feminism (read it here). Her post really got me to thinking about my own definition of feminism. You see I consider myself a feminist, but I am afraid to claim the title. I don’t call myself a feminist and I rarely share any articles or stories that include the term. Why am I so afraid of embracing that part of me? Why do I feel embarrassed or ashamed to be considered a part of the feminist movement? Reading Sarah’s post made me realize that is is because I feel like feminism needs to be redefined, just as she does.

Thinking about this post and how it inspired me led me to having a very enlightening conversation with wonderful group of photographers. This conversation centered around helping me define the personal project I want to tackle regarding nobility in motherhood. When I chose to leave my job in the Marine Corps after eight years I was counseled by several leaders along the way that I was ruining my career and possibly my life. Many of them tried to convince me to please at least go reservist so I wouldn’t lose my career.  As a mother of a large family who chooses to stay at home I have been treated like I am betraying feminists everywhere because I chose to embrace the traditional gender roles for my family. I have endured many odd looks and rolled eyeballs when I have answered “what do you do?” with “I’m a stay at home mom.” The looks get even more incredulous when I add “I have 7 kids and we homeschool.”

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My family minus the oldest son.

The idea that I could choose to be a stay at home mom of a large family and still be a feminist would never even cross most people’s minds. In fact during this conversation Michelle Gardella said to me  “The work I have dedicated myself to for years and years has been deeply rooted in my declaration of myself as a feminist. I have never thought that being a Mom makes me less of a radical feminist. Or my other fem friends. However, I have never considered if it is possible to be a Mother of a large family, full time, and still call yourself a feminist. And, if it is possible, I want to hear how the women feel they are feminist, OR, why they even care about being or not being one. Why is that title something that is important to them?” I loved that she asked me this question which forced me to think more deeply about my role in feminism.

I call myself a feminist because I believe that every human being has the right to embrace whatever role in life they choose and be treated equally as the opposite gender within that role. It isn’t about wearing pants to church or having the same percentages of women as men in business. It isn’t about being the same as men. It is not about denying what makes us soft and feminine. It’s about protecting our rights to be whatever we want to be and to be allowed to excel (or fail) because of our unique attributes and not because of our gender. I am not a stay at home mom because I am too weak to seek out anther role in life. I am a stay at home mom because I CHOSE to leave the successful career I had in the Marine Corps to stay at home with my children.

I love the following exchange between Katherine (art history teacher) and Joan (student) in the movie Mona Lisa Smile:

Katherine: But you don’t have to choose!

Joan: No, I have to. I want a home, I want a family! That’s not something I’ll sacrifice.

Katherine: No one’s asking you to sacrifice that, Joan. I just want you to understand that you can do both.

Joan: Do you think I’ll wake up one morning and regret not being a lawyer?

Katherine: Yes, I’m afraid that you will.

Joan: Not as much as I’d regret not having a family, not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. This must seem terrible to you.

Katherine: I didn’t say that.

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Image Credit: let’s-go-to-the-movies on Tumblr

Exactly Joan, this is what I want. I haven’t sold out. I have made a choice. it doesn’t make me weak or stupid, and I have no regrets.

When speaking about her Harry Potter series J.K. Rowling said

“Very early on in writing the series, I remember a female journalist saying to me that Mrs Weasley, ‘Well, you know, she’s just a mother.’ And I was absolutely incensed by that comment. Now, I consider myself to be a feminist, and I’d always wanted to show that just because a woman has made a choice, a free choice to say, ‘Well, I’m going to raise my family and that’s going to be my choice. I may go back to a career, I may have a career part time, but that’s my choice.’ Doesn’t mean that that’s all she can do. And as we proved there in that little battle, Molly Weasley comes out and proves herself the equal of any warrior on that battlefield.”

Like Molly Weasley and Joan I choose to stay at home. I am not weak or submissive. I am strong, independent, and powerful. I have thoughts and ideas. I have education and talent. I am an amazing person who has made a choice to dedicate my life to raising my large brood rather than dedicate it to working a job for money. This doesn’t make me any better or any less than any woman. It simply means I have made a choice. We all have a choice. If you are truly a feminist then you support a woman’s right to make that choice.

I would love to hear from other stay at home moms and mothers with large families. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not? Would you like to join me as I join Sarah to #RedefineFeminism?

6 Replies to “Large Family Feminist”

  1. I am 51 years old. When I was five I said, “When I grow up I want to be a wife and mommy.” When all my siblings were off saving the world being professionals, and I was making the choice to marry at 19 and be a stay-at-home mom, I felt very much alone. I consider myself a strong woman. I did not go down this path because it was the only choice; I went down this path swimming against everyone else. And in 1994 when I decided to start homeschooling, I again went against the stream. To stand up and declare that you are making the unpopular choice is indeed a trait of a strong person. When society says, “you should. . .”, and you make a choice otherwise, you are strong and a true feminist.

    1. “To stand up and declare that you are making the unpopular choice is indeed a trait of a strong person.” I love this!! It is so true.

  2. My husband and I had this conversation not long ago. I have a Master’s degree in education and taught until I began having children. It was always our intent that I would stay home and homeschool. But I’ve heard so many times the arguments that I’m wasting my education or that I could make so much more money if I taught. But this is the choice we made because we felt like it was the direction God led us. It wasn’t a sell-out or a betrayal of feminism. It was my choice.

    Great post!

  3. This is an interested take on the topic. You have said a lot of truth here. Good for you for standing by your decision It is good to see woman fighting the push to deny or think less of the choice to be SAHM.

  4. Great points. We have a choice! I went to college and have an accounting degree. I always thought that I could stay home and “do taxes” when I had a family. God had other ideas. I married a pastor and we are homeschooling. We are living on his salary. There is value in being “just a mom” (and really you are so much more than that). But the world places no value on it.

  5. Very insightful post. I would not consider myself a feminist in the traditional sense of the word, but I do agree that men and women have equal worth in God’s eyes. I accept that there are certain things I cannot do that men can, because I was created differently- as a female- and I embrace my role as a nurturer and caretaker. I’ve always loved that exchange between Joan and Katherine in Mona Lisa Smile!

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