This is a wonderful guest post from a reader, Eloise.
- How would you describe your feminism in one sentence? When did you become a feminist? Was it before or after you became a mother? I became a feminist in high school when I looked around and saw how witty, smart and intelligent my female friends were and how nasty and juvenile the boys were. I wanted justice. I wanted my female friends and me to have happy, fulfilling lives where we weren’t held back by our confidence and society’s expectations. Becoming a mother has thrown up different perspectives on feminism but my feminism is constant and in a sentence I want opportunities and a rewarding life without obstacles and guilt and the sea of issues that women have to wade through to get what they want.
- What has surprised you most about motherhood? Everything has been more extreme than I imagined – extreme tiredness, extreme love for my baby, extreme difficulties breastfeeding but then exhilaration at overcoming the myriad of issues.
- How has your feminism changed over time? What is the impact of motherhood on your feminism? Before I had my child I was very focused on achieving my goal to be a lawyer (I returned to study law aged 34 after working as a social worker for six years). Since having my child I have really had to push myself to go back to work and it felt like I was going against all my motherly instincts. It broke my heart to leave my baby (when he was 14 months old). It has taken a while to get my work mojo back. I am glad I didn’t just go with my motherly instincts though because I have got used to being back at work and returning to work gave my husband the opportunity to stay home for a year with our child which has enhanced all of our lives in so many ways. His relationship with our child is stronger, the spread of housework is more equitable and there are countless other ways it has made our lives better. If I had listened to my instincts and stayed home for five years I would have missed out on an amazing work opportunity and lost even more of my work mojo.
- What makes your mothering feminist? How does your approach differ from a non-feminist mother’s? How does feminism impact upon your parenting? I am not sure about this question yet and I think I will be able to see how feminism impacts upon my parenting when I reflect in years to come. My biggest influences – feminism and attachment parenting – compliment each other. My feminism makes me fiercely protective of my attachment parenting and right to parent how I choose. Feminism also empowers me to continue working and achieve in that area of my life as well.
- Do you ever feel compromised as a feminist mother? Do you ever feel you’ve failed as a feminist mother? In trying to balance work and mothering I feel like I fail all the time. I feel compromised in that sometimes I feel like I do neither well. I think it is my right to have both a fulfilling career and be fulfilled as a mother but I suffer guilt for having our child in childcare 4 days per week since age 2 and the constant colds he seems to get from that environment.
- Has identifying as a feminist mother ever been difficult? Why? I live in an all male household, my husband has two adolescent sons from a previous relationship and I recently read a book about bringing up boys that challenged my views as a feminist and made me look at things from a male perspective. It made me very uncomfortable to read a book that was so sympathetic to men and their challenges and that excused and explained much or their puzzling behaviour. It made me question whether I had been too harsh on the men in my household and I wondered whether having a boy myself would change my feminism. But those thoughts were fleeting and I am glad I came to my feminist senses.
- Motherhood involves sacrifice, how do you reconcile that with being a feminist? Now I juggle work and a child I have had to sacrifice sport – I used to play hockey and I really miss it. I of course sacrifice a lot of other leisure activities because I don’t have time but the one I miss particularly is hockey. Yes it is difficult to reconcile with being a feminist because I put my son before me all the time. I am still working this one out. It is tied up with the guilt I feel about putting my child in childcare and my husband doesn’t seem to feel it. That is a problem and I need to address it as a feminist and we need to address it as a family.
- If you have a partner, how does your partner feel about your feminist motherhood? What is the impact of your feminism on your partner? Hats off to my partner for being very supportive of me as a mother and a worker and a woman. He can see the advantages for him if I work as well so I am sure that provides incentive to help out. My husband does most of the childcare drop offs and cooks dinner every night because he gets home before me. He does more around the house than me. From what I read that is unusual and I wish it was the norm for all working women.
- If you’re an attachment parenting mother, what challenges if any does this pose for your feminism and how have you resolved them? My attachment parenting means that I am still breastfeeding my child at age 2 1/2 and plan on feeding him until he weans himself (within reason!). It is a challenge to my feminism because it does restrict what I do (alcohol wise and in other ways) but the benefits outweigh the small challenges. Mainly I think attachment parenting is innately feminist because it encourages you to care and love your child in a really instinctual way and not worry about what people think and it says to people, “No, I will not put my child to bed at a prescribed time because it suits you.” and “No, I will not do controlled crying and get him in a routine because you find it too frightening to have a more fluid style of parenting around you.”
- Do you feel feminism has failed mothers and if so how? Personally, what do you think feminism has given mothers? Feminism has given mothers many more choices and ways of doing things and balancing their lives. It has not failed mothers, what has failed mothers is that they have expectations for better lives and more opportunities and people around them aren’t able to deliver because they are stuck in their patriarchal ways.
(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).