When I first met my husband, we were both working at the same job level at the same company for the same amount of pay.
As the years progressed, we followed different career paths, and our incomes diverged. For the most part, we remained total equals in terms of finances, hours worked and responsibilities around the house.
After our first daughter was born, we decided together that I would stay home to take care of the baby while he continued to work full-time. Two more children followed (another daughter and a son), and since our finances made it possible, I continued to stay home with the kids. We assumed traditional roles: I was the primary caregiver, and my husband was the breadwinner.
While I loved being home, I did wonder sometimes if I was a good role model to my children, especially my daughters. I was college educated, and yet in the entire time they knew me, I never held a full-time paying job outside of our home. Could a traditional, stay-at-home mother raise women who would grow up to be feminists? Would my choices make them think less of me or lower their own dreams and aspirations for themselves?
Now 21 and 18 years old, my daughters are definitely feminists. Both are strong, independent, intelligent women who believe they are equally as capable as men in all aspects of life. So, how did a traditional mother raise feminist daughters?
My daughters knew I had an interesting career before I became a mother but chose to leave my job to be home with them. They also knew many mothers worked part- or full-time. They never saw one choice as better than the other and understood every woman has to make the choice that works for her and her family.
My children never believed what their dad’s job did was “more important” than what I did. They realized we each contributed to taking care of them and making their life better in our own way. Even though my husband earned the money, it was always “our” money, and my children understood that he and I made all the big decisions together.
In our home, no jobs were “women’s work.” Instead, we focus on skills and practicality. My husband is a horrible cook, so I prepare meals. He is an awesome kitchen cleaner, so he does the dishes. We both changed diapers and drove carpools.
When I was a child, my mom pushed me to take dance lessons even though I might have been better suited to softball or tennis. At the time, she felt dancing was a better option for a girl. I don’t think many parents feel this way anymore. Instead, kids are only limited by their own desire. I encouraged my daughters to pursue any hobbies, sports or after-school activities they were interested in.
In our family, “running like a girl” is the ultimate compliment. My older daughter completed a marathon, and my younger one was recruited to run track in college. Their little brother would be thrilled to be as competitive as the “girls” are when he is older.
My children saw me doing things all the time: taking care of them, driving them and making them meals. They also saw me volunteering in the community and at school. They saw me take pride in my “work,” despite not making money. Eventually when they were in school, I started working on my own dream of becoming a freelance writer. They learned there is value in pursing your dreams and trying new things at any age.
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