How would you describe your feminism in one sentence?
My feminism supports a woman’s right to make choices and challenges the status quo when it comes to limitations – no matter who’s defining the status.
When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother?
Long before I became a mother, I realized I was a feminist. I must have been nine or ten, taking part in a Christmas party at my step-dad’s social club. I wanted a Nerf football, but it was on the boys’ table. My parents never directed me away from boy toys or mud and dirt or getting sweaty. They got me a Nerf for my next birthday.
What has surprised you most about motherhood?
The adjustment. I spent so much time avoiding my training. My friends and sisters didn’t start having children until we were in our 30’s, so I didn’t hang out with kids or find myself around babies. I was busy being independent and exploring the world. I felt pretty lost as a mother at first. I thought breastfeeding and parenting would come as naturally as breathing. I learned that it can happen, but you have to be patient. More like learning to walk. I was surprised to learn how important other mothers would be for support and guidance.
How has your feminism changed over time?
My acceptance of a wide-variety of feminist flavors has expanded. I made many assumptions about what kind of mother a feminist would be, without realizing that motherhood itself is the ultimate expression of feminism. The right to choose how to use your own body. To have sex that leads to pregnancy. To give birth. To breastfeed and parent the best way you know how.
What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism?
Motherhood has put it in fifth gear. My patience and open-mindedness are growing. That makes me a better feminist.
What makes your mothering feminist?
The fact that I’m doing what’s right for my family and not what’s best for society or some other outside influence. I make the choices. With my husband. Not my priest or my husband’s boss or the mayor of our city or the writer with a big paycheck.
How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s?
It’s hard to imagine a non-feminist mother. Maybe the martyr mother who gives up everything for her kids? I know that a happy mother makes happy children. Martyrdom is not an option. I’m responsible for my own happiness, not my child.
How does feminism impact upon your parenting?
It gives me the strength to know that I can make the best decisions for us. And I can survive the bad ones, too.
Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother?
The barrage of choices (just the technological fruit bowl alone full of apples and blackberries, beeping toys, info-products, exciting lifestyles) makes me feel like I’m missing something. That I could and should be having it all. Maybe making more money instead of restructuring my life as a SAHP (ie. stay at home parent). But I know that more is not necessarily better. That for me, a simple life brings the most happiness. Just being aware of advertising and shutting it out from time to time to rest and recharge helps me through this urban jungle.
Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother?
Not yet, but there’s still plenty of time for that. I think there will be failures, but overall I’ll trust myself to stay on the right path. I’m not perfect. And that’s OK, to quote my favorite philosopher.
Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? No. Why?
Because the people in my life – from my husband and parents to friends and co-workers, even the bloggers I read – are all feminists. That makes it much easier, but I try to remember that not everyone thinks like “us.”
Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist?
That’s been the toughest part for me. blue milk, you really you nailed this. I grew up knowing that I shouldn’t sacrifice myself to a job or a partner. That I needed to take care of myself, because I’m ultimately responsible for my own happiness. Yet, now I also know that the act of sacrifice is ultimately good for me, connecting me to the world and making me human. Motherhood is a zen practice, showing me that putting someone else first can also make me stronger. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes I want to run away. But the longer I stay, the stronger I become.
If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood?
My partner reminds me almost daily how important I am. He supports my need to be more than a wife and a mother. And my decision to continue my education in a field that may not necessarily translate into mo’ money.
What is the impact of your feminism on your partner?
I think it gives him the confidence to know that he also needs to make choices for himself, that we can work together to be a happy family, that he’s not responsible for my happiness. That is freedom.
If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them?
I was one of those moms who thought I discovered it! Co-sleeping was the only way to get some sleep as a breastfeeding mother. Wearing my baby gave me more independence. Most of that was instinct. I love the community that attachment parenting inspires. The support it gives me to make choices that may not seem normal to some segments of society. But I also learned to be wary of anyone who tries to make me feel bad for making decisions that don’t meet some author or doctor’s idea of the RIGHT way to parent.
Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how?
I don’t think a philosophy can fail us. I think we fail ourselves as feminists by forcing unrealistic expectations on other women. We want people to fit into template. Much neater that way. Women need the freedom to make their own choices, but that means sometimes making the wrong choice. Or making a choice that seems wrong from the outside. As long as feminists can be patient with each other and society, minds will continue to open. Mothers will mother and still have something to live for when the children are grown. Young women will decide when and if to be mothers and what kind of mothers to be. Men will support the women they love and know that women need to make their own happiness. They will be better partners.
Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers?
A life. A chance to be a fully realized person.