Kristen Hurst is a stay at home mother of three who enjoys blogging. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing, and writes often about nursing clothes. When she’s not trying to juggle the lives of Casey, Austin and Ben, she enjoys painting and catching up with a great Jane Austen novel.
How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?
My feminism is based in activities and attitudes towards valuing that which is traditionally considered “feminine” as equal to that which is traditionally considered “masculine.” This was not the feminism I had initially adopted in college—I definitely believed that I could do whatever I wanted, and I took my inherited feminism for granted. I knew I was “equal” to men, so why not be a feminist? I would say that this was the dominant attitude of the women at my college, and for most of us, our serious feminist identifications faded once we left the classroom, and for me, when I initially went to work in the fashion industry. Nevertheless, both motherhood and my experiences freelancing on behalf of Seraphine Maternity have shaped my feminist motherhood.
What has surprised you most about motherhood?
How much I feel empowered by it! I guess I always knew I’d be a mother eventually—I didn’t question that—but I wasn’t a woman who longed to be a mother. I didn’t even know whether I’d enjoy it or not. Being a mother and staying home with my boys have allowed me to rethink how I assign value in my life. I feel very aware of how our culture measures value through money. Motherhood is not profitable, but it feels even more rewarding to play a part in nurturing young lives and teaching my sons to appreciate art, music, family walks, etc. as much as whatever their future careers will be.
How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
My feminism was forever altered by re-reading Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking. This book is more philosophy than parenting advice, but it made me realize why my attitudes towards politics and the dominant narratives of our society shifted once I started mothering. I would say that I started out as a plucky post-second wave not-so-riot girl. Once I started working in fashion, I felt that questioning what it meant to be a woman was taboo, unless we were talking about androgyny being in vogue. Motherhood caused me to pick up feminism again because I realized that what was right for one of my sons was not necessarily right for the next, and thus, this is likely the same when we’re talking about individuals in society or our relationships with other countries (both of which Ruddick touches on.) Being a stay-at-home mom caused me to experience how undervalued caretaking is, even as it is necessary. I became an advocate in my community for speaking out in favor of resources that mothers—and therefore everyone—would benefit from, like paid maternity leave and more reliable daycare options. I was initially hesitant to continue indulging my interest in fashion, but my work with Seraphine has placed me squarely back in the present—feminism is important, and feminism and feeling good and fashionable in our slightly-disempowered present reality are not mutually exclusive. Certainly some in the maternity fashion industry have no interest in feminism, but not all of them!
What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
I want my boys to understand the privilege they’re set to inherit due to their gender. We talk about it.
Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?
I don’t know if being a feminist mother is something one can fail or succeed at—it’s always in the process, or the attempt. But of course I feel like a failure sometimes, particularly when my sons imitate something that I do or say that doesn’t reflect my feminist ideals.
Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why?
Yes, but only because I know too many folks who still feel that feminism and staying at home with one’s children are at odds with each other.
Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?
Feminism isn’t really about “having it all,” either, it’s about the opportunity to make informed choices about what to have and not feeling—or being—stigmatized as a result of that. Almost every sacrifice I’ve made on behalf of motherhood has been more than worth it in the end.
Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?
This question makes me want to ask “which feminism?” I feel like acts done in the name of “feminism” or “progress” that ignore the fact that women will mother have failed mothers. Nevertheless, feminism has given us the language to have a conversation like this one about motherhood, and I think that will far overshadow any failings.
(You can find all the many other responses in this series here. If you’d like to respond to these questions yourself you can either email me your answers and I’ll put them on blue milk as a guest post or you can post them elsewhere and let me know and I’ll link to them).