The Choices and Challenges of Feminist Stay-at-Home Moms

Thursday, March 21, 2013

baby hand motherhood kids parenting (Bridget Coila/flickr)

Over the past week or so, we’ve been talking about the changing world of work in America — from older Americans who are working beyond traditional retirement age — to childcare workers who are trying to strike a work-life balance.

Today, we continue with a look at educated, independent women who choose to leave the workforce to raise their children. Self-proclaimed feminist stay-at-home moms, these women face a whole new set of challenges — and judgments — as they make parenting their primary job. And that judgment often comes from other women.

Becky Jacobsen of West Springfield, Massachusetts earned her bachelor's degree in costume design from Rutgers University, and worked outside the home until she and her husband had their three sons. Jacobsen says that her decision to stay at home was borne of frustration and feelings of inadequacy surrounding the work-home life balancing act. "Once you actually have kids and the prospect of the work-home balance…you are confronted with [the fact] that it's a totally different reality. And I worked for 18 months after my son was born…and for me it was an awful experience. I didn't love what I was doing and I just didn't feel like I was doing a good job in any facet of my life. I wasn't a good employee, I wasn't a good mother, I wasn't a good wife."

Elizabeth Anderson of Enterprise, Florida holds a degree in education, and worked as a teacher until she and her husband had their two daughters. "I just said to my husband…I want to leave the workforce and raise my family. And quite honestly he was hesitant with that because there is such concern about women feeling like 'just a mom' and he was worried that I would soon regret that." But like Jacobsen, Anderson says she has never regretted that decision.

Both women say that they aren't often confronted with judgement of their decision to stay at home but there are instances when it's hard to classify. "I think we’re more confronted with that in general. It's hard to introduce yourself to people when you're in a crowd of people you don’t know and it's, 'Oh, what do you do?' and my response is, 'Well, I stay home with the kids,' and I've always tried to avoid the phrase, 'just a mom' because that doesn't begin to cover it."

Guests:

Elizabeth Anderson and Becky Jacobsen

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [7]

Kali from Seattle

As a professional-turned-SAHM myself, I wish you would have featured guests with more of a range of perspective. I decided I should stay home after fondly remembering the feelings of security and attention I received from my mom who stayed home BUT it was still a hard choice for me. I still feel the tug of ambition and desire to contribute to society through a career. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the everyday, simple joys of rearing children and managing a household. Your guest who mentioned that it was weird to be "asked why she made that choice" and that one "wouldn't ask a lawyer or another working person why they chose their career" made no sense. It is a choice pure and simple. I find many women like me who feel split between the draw of motherhood and the draw of larger contribution that we were educated to do--not to mention the sheer need of income. I have resigned myself to realizing it's not possible to "have it all" at the same time. So I have adjusted my expectations; all the while being ever grateful that I can make the choice in the first place.

Mar. 21 2013 05:30 PM
Kathy Egan from Mendham, NJ

Worse than the "what do you do?" question was the "what does your husband do?" that was common in the early 60's when I was a young bride.

Mar. 21 2013 03:33 PM
Kristin from Bend, OR

I have a Ph.D. in Biogeochemistry and chose to stay home after I had 3 kids in 18 months. I asked my insurance guy what the rule of thumb is for insuring a stay at home mom. He said there were no actuarial statistics that he could find for that. No one had ever asked him that. Many times I feel like "nothing" to society. I did my own research. I should insure myself for at least 250K and I am at least that much to my family and society. I am raising responsible, well educated children who will contribute in a positive way to society.

Mar. 21 2013 01:35 PM
Stacey from dallas

I am a stay home mother who got a degree in marketing and international business. I chose to be at home with my kids. I am very active in my community--in the school, as a volunteer and created my own volunteer organization. So, I feel I can do more in my role as "mom" then I could have in the work force and I am always available for my 3 daughters. It also was a good thing when my husband came down with a diagnosis of incurable cancer. For the last 12 years, I was his caregiver as well. We live within our means and sometimes that is difficult in a world of 2 salaries but we are happy in that choice as our older girls prepare for college. I do feel my role as "mom in chief" makes it harder to sell my skill sets to the working world but I make my way.

Mar. 21 2013 12:29 PM
Anne from USA

I find all these discussions miss the most important point... What is best for the children. Everything focuses
On women. When is the media ever going to take this seriously. None in the media ever talk about
What is best for the children. Don't want to touch that topic might step on too many toes.

Mar. 21 2013 09:38 AM

In how many media outlets, in how many media forms, in how many ways are we going to hear variations on this same old topic? I listen to WNYC, I read Slate, Atlantic, Atlantic Wire, Buzzfeed, NYT, etc. and it is the same dialogue on every outlet with NEVER a male point of view, never a discussion with just men about the changing roles of men. I am a 47 year old man and I have heard about the women's movement my entire life and I've heard variations on the same theme and it's not because things haven't changed. In my opinion, it's because the womens' movement is self-centered in the extreme out to benefit women only and not society. It is myopic, selfish and angry and mean-spirited.

It is tiresome. I read this comment from another man recently who said that he agrees with many of the principles of the womens' movement but not all. Since he doesn't agree with all, as the movement would demand, his voice is meaningless and irrelevant and against women. It is all or nothing with this movement and it is all about a white female entitlement complex that has been taught since the 70s. There are a lot of angry white women out there due to the false promises of these teachings and that anger has to go somewhere.

Mar. 21 2013 09:35 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Wonderful! If she can do it, there's nothing better than a mother in the home. For the first five years or so, the child is always in the presence of that one person, what a great basis of security in development and identity.

Mar. 21 2013 07:52 AM

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