While I try every day to make sure I don’t suck at being a parent, it’s a lot harder to remind myself that I don’t suck at being a feminist. Especially because the paths I have taken as both a parent and a feminist are different than I ever thought they would be.
I was in sixth grade when the sitcom “Home Improvement” debuted. Everyone in my class thought it was hilarious, but I couldn’t get past the stereotypical gender roles. Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor plays with cars and power tools while his wife Jill does laundry and takes care of kids? “Not when I grow up!” I bragged. “I’m going to have a house husband! He can wash all our clothes and take care of our kids.”
Sixth grade was a very long time ago.
I do not have a house husband. I am Jill Taylor. I stay home with my two children, while my husband goes to work. I drive a minivan, make homemade jam, and don’t trust my husband with the laundry. He builds houses, fixes our cars, and works in a male-dominated field as our primary income source. I have not followed the career trajectory of Hillary Clinton, Marissa Mayer or any of my awesome mama friends who balance successful careers with raising children. I have not become the person sixth grade me thought I needed to be in order to call myself a feminist. But sixth-grade me didn’t realize that there is more than one way to be a feminist parent.
And so every day I remind myself that perfecting my recipe for homemade crackers instead of running for political office or managing a Fortune 500 company does not mean I forfeit the right to call myself a feminist. I also know that women who choose to be in a boardroom or need to work to support their families do not forfeit the right to be kick-ass mothers. There are as many ways to be feminist parents as there are children and parents.
Because being a feminist means having freedom of choice. And making choices that are consistent with the gender roles that bothered sixth-grade me does not make me any less qualified to raise thoughtful, progressive, feminist children. On the contrary, it makes me all the more aware of my responsibility to do so. I may have chosen a path that has taken me away from the Oval Office or board room, but I have also chosen a path that makes me immeasurably happy and fulfilled every single day. This is feminism.
Your struggles may not be the same as mine, but if you are both a feminist and a parent, then I’m sure they exist. This column is therefore not a cookie-cutter how-to guide for raising feminist boys and girls. Rather, it is a walk together through this ever-changing—often challenging—journey of feminist parenting.
(Photos are courtesy of Jill Mills of Heartlove Photography.)