Why I am reclaiming feminism for stay-at-home mums

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Blogger and writer Emma Critchley is a stay at home mother. She’s also a feminist. Is that possible? Here, she makes her case.

I was born during the very last dying gulps of the ’70s. I had been conceived amongst a backdrop of dungarees, flowery clothes, and the promise of equality. I was a child of the ’80s, when clothes were large shoulder pads and neon prints. We had Maggie Thatcher as Prime Minister. A strong woman but not a woman that I could look up to. Maggie was responsible for dismantling the unions and shutting the coal mines.

Saturday afternoons were spent watching men called Haystack and Big Daddy wrestle each other on the TV. I refused to wear pretty dresses to birthday parties and instead wore my favourite cords. I didn’t own a Barbie, preferring to play with my Tomy typewriter. Growing up in the Essex heartlands meant that I was surrounded by Ford Cortinas and the Essex girl stereotypes. I knew every Essex-girl joke going, as my Dad used to regale me with them, I never laughed. I exacted my revenge when I drew bras on the topless girls who were in his office calendar. My Dad was furious, whilst my Mum had secretly laughed.

Learning marriage dynamics

I watched first-hand how unfair marriage was. My Mum was responsible for running the house, looking after the children and working full-time. She was also the main breadwinner. I saw marriage imprisoning her, I declared that I would never marry. Yet, I did marry. So then I declared that I would never have children. I now have two children. I then declared that I would never walk away from my career. I would carry on climbing to the top, just like my mum. Now I am stay-at-home Mum. I felt like a bad feminist. I had lost my way.

My tipping point

Yet, like Laura Bates says at the start of her book ‘Everyday Sexism’, I had a tipping point. Feminism beliefs had still been simmering away in the background, yet working in the council offices and having my bum slapped by a local Tory councillor wasn’t my tipping point; living with a boyfriend who routinely cheated on me and told me that it was my fault wasn’t my tipping point either.

Moving to Jersey was my tipping point.

It’s an island that feels like it is only just emerging from the 1950s. An island that has only just made it illegal to sexually discriminate. An island where I am unable to sign my own tax return — my husband has to do it for me. Jersey was my tipping point.

Living on Jersey I found myself silenced. This was one of the reasons for starting my blog. I needed a voice, and blogging gave me my voice back. Being a stay-at-home mum meant that I had lost my identity. No longer was I known as Emma, instead my name became Oldest’s Mummy. I no longer had friends. All my phone contacts now said Rachel’s Mum and Lisa’s Mum. I felt miserable.

The world of my daughters

I had left my career behind and with that my self-esteem. I now became very aware of the world I had brought my daughters into. A world full of labels, a world where a shop assistant told my youngest daughter that she couldn’t have the blue trainers with dinosaurs on them as they are for boys. A world where my daughters are called princess by strangers nearly every day. A world that imposes its patriarchal agenda. I was fed-up of being silenced.

However, I found myself hesitant to use the label ‘feminist’. Could I call myself a feminist when I had made the choice to walk away from my career and become a stay-at-home mum? It was a choice that many of my friends criticised me for, a choice that I was warned I would regret.

Surely, by becoming a stay-at-home mum, I was playing straight into the hands of our misogynistic society. I have watched feminist lectures where I have been told that I can’t be a feminist because I am married and a stay-at-home mum. They are wrong.

I realised that I, like many others, was over-thinking the label. No feminist looks the same.At the very core of feminism is the freedom of choice. I am a feminist because staying home was my decision to make.

Reclaiming the label

I am reclaiming the feminist label for all of the stay-at-home mums out there. I might not be a perfect feminist but then I am not a perfect mother or blogger either. I might find myself slipping into sexist language. I have been known to tell myself to “man-up” when I needed to get some work done and I have also chided myself for “fannying around on the internet” when I wasted the morning on Google. However, I am a feminist because I was aware of my slip-up. I am aware of the power of words.

The power of stay-at-home feminists

Stay-at-home mums are powerful feminists. We made these choices on our terms. We are raising the future generation of feminists. I might be a stay-at-home mum but I also work from home. Therefore, our chores are split 50/50, showing that our household isn’t run according to gender. I don’t touch the ironing ever!

In my previous career there wasn’t the option of flexible working hours. In contrast to that, I have created my own role, my own business, and a job I can fit in round my children. I am proud of this.

Hear my voice!

I am a stay-at-home mum but I still have a voice that can add to the debate. We stay-at-home parents are a powerful collective. We all have experiences and opinions that we can share.

I have learnt that being a stay-at-home mum shouldn’t mean that I put limits on myself. I won’t be silenced. I am a domestic feminist. I am the face of modern feminism: free choice. I watched my Mum being part of the feminist revolution in the workplace: I am now continuing that feminist revolution at home.

I’m Emma, stay-at-home mum, wife, writer and feminist.

Join me in the revolution. This is modern feminism.

Emma Critchley writes at Island Living 365.

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About Emma Critchley

Emma is a former teacher who gave up life at the chalk face, (ok, Interactive board face, but that doesn’t sound quite as catchy), so that she could spend time with her own children. Emma now writes the award-winning lifestyle and parenting blog, Island Living 365. Emma is a self-employed freelance writer who dreams about having her own magazine column one day, or a presenting job! She’s not fussy ;-).You can find Emma over at the Huffington Post. You can also find her
photographing Jersey on Instagram and wittering on twitter at island living 365.

4 Comments

  1. 23 October 2016 / 07:15

    I love this .

    I’m at home at the moment and I’m very aware about the words I use to my oldest who’s seen me work – I want him to realise that choices are important.

  2. 23 October 2016 / 19:04

    I completely agree Emma! I have walked away from my career because it didn’t make me happy and spending time with my son makes me happy. However, I needed to also keep my brain occupied so I have started blogging and am in the process of setting up as a self employed antenatal teacher. I don’t see that as being a typical house wife of the 1950’s. I have a cleaner and order my shopping online; I have a go at baking but my husband does most of the day to day cooking and I never pick up an iron! Time has moved on from the days of feminism of our childhood. Today it looks different and that is a good think – it shows that society has moved forward. I have chosen my future and for that I am very thankful!

  3. 24 October 2016 / 22:19

    I am with you! I grew up believing that to be a housewife was to be a failure to modern women. Well, now I am a housewife because I choose to be, but I am no Stepford wife. I work from home, I am a published author and creative freelancer, I am there for my children, and yes, I do still perform 90% of the household chores. That is an aspect I am still trying to change, but it is a work in progress. My husband and I are far from equal. But I do not sit by quietly and allow it all to pass. I choose my battles, and I know that I could very easily go out and get a regular job if I really wanted to. Let us embrace, reclaim, and reignite the housewife label! https://spookymrsgreen.com/2015/01/06/me-oh-im-just-a-housewife/

  4. 07 November 2016 / 15:45

    I love this post and I love your blog. It is so hard to shift the housewife is bad label even when you are working from home.