MUM SAYS Stay-at-home mums are feminists, too!

Feel like you’re wasting your talents because you’re home with junior? Don’t! You’re doing plenty without even realising it.

A few weeks ago, a conversation thread on one of my Facebook mummy groups quickly deteriorated. A stay-at-home mum (SAHM) asked what activities she could do at home with her 2-year-old toddler. While many replied with good suggestions, some also asked her why she’s still at home with her child.

This is an international group, by the way. So, we’re talking a healthy mix of educated women hailing from all walks of life, cultures and religion. Just when I was about brush this off as a handful of nosey mums not knowing when to mind their own business, one of the comments made me sit up and pay greater attention.

A random woman asked this mum how she’s planning on pushing the feminism agenda by staying home with her child. “Are we going to leave it to the men?” she asked at the end of her comment, which garnered more likes than I hoped it would.

Do many women feel this way, I wondered. That if they put their children’s needs before their career aspirations, they can no longer be feminists? Does being a feminist and a SAHM have to be mutually exclusive?

My next question was, how does one define feminism? A quick Google search threw up this definition, which I later corroborated with a few other legit dictionaries. Feminism was “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities”. So, in other words freedom of choice, no?

If that is indeed the message, then why is it wrong in the eyes of many for a mum to choose to want to stay home with her kids? Why the judgement?

Some days, I worried that my son would grow up thinking I’m a boring housewife who cooks, cleans and serves his papa.

I myself became a SAHM not out of choice, but because of circumstance. When our baby was 10 months old, my husband was posted back to his home country in Scandinavia. So, though I had only just returned to work for four months (I had taken an additional two months’ no pay leave after my maternity leave ended), I was “forced” to leave the job I loved to stay home with my baby whom I loved more than life itself.  

As someone who has always strongly believed in female empowerment and whose idea of power walking is sauntering around in four-inch heels, I thought I would never feel fulfilled by “just” being a SAHM. Some days, I worried that my that son would grow up thinking I’m a boring housewife who cooks, cleans and serves his papa. Wouldn’t that look more like regression rather than progression? Was I setting the right example for the future generation?

With hindsight, being a SAHM was one of the most empowering jobs I’ve ever had. When my son was 12 months old, we moved to Scandinavia to join my husband. On weekdays when my husband was at work, it was just me and my little boy. I was his playmate, nap buddy, breakfast, lunch and (somedays) dinner date. We explored our new surroundings together and went on blind (play) dates with other mums and kids.

Soon, my son and I found ourselves part of a mum group made up of an eclectic mix of international women. They came from all over the world ― Cuba, Bolivia, Australia, India, Hungary, Czech Republic and Puerto Rico. One of them was a human rights activist, another a child psychologist. There was also a yoga instructor, a kindergarten teacher and a pharmacist.

We came from different backgrounds, spoke different languages and looked different, but we all bonded over the same purpose ― we’d all given up our careers to care for our kids.