Confession: I’m a White-Picket-Fence Feminist

Our contributor Abby Spector, who is majoring in Feminine/Gender/Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, has a confession to make:

My armpits are hairy. I study gender and sexuality. The Birkenstocks in my closet are held together by duct tape. If it were the sixties, my bra would probably be burning in the town square (if women had actually done this, which they didn’t). All roads lead to feminist (if not die-hard lesbian). But I have a secret that would shock my combat-boot clad, non-conformist sisters: I dream of becoming a housewife.

This is not because I love taking out the trash or organizing placemats around a seasonal wreath. Trust me, I have no desire to become the next Martha Stewart. I just want to fall in love with someone for the rest of my life, have kids with him, and watch those kids grow up. I want to be there for Clementine’s first step, Milo’s first taste of solid food and Delilah’s first look of confusion when she sees a woman shaving her legs.

I don’t think this fantasy is rooted in traditional sexism. Growing up, my mom worked a 9-5 while my dad stayed home. She made more of the money; he made more of the food. It wasn’t until we got cable that I realized our family dynamic was different. But even then, our strange set-up didn’t faze me; I had other fish of the familial variety to fry (my sister and I were constantly fighting, my cousin had just moved in and three of my grandparents had died within a two-year span). And I really didn’t give a flying fuck who washed my socks. All I cared about was having clean socks.

The point is, my upbringing was the opposite of sexist. So my dreams for my future are not just mimicking what I grew up with. In fact, at times, I think these semi-traditional dreams are rooted in rebellion against my non-traditional upbringing. Scholars would name this phenomenon “fourth wave feminism”, “post-modern modernism” or something else equally wordy and pretentious. To me, it’s life.

I am not ashamed to admit I dream about my future wedding. And I’ll be the first to admit that these dreams are far more elaborate than the occasional online browsing of Vera Wang gowns. I have the whole thing planned. My fantasy even has a budget. There is a three-tier cake and a bouquet of sunflowers on every table. But I won’t just follow the traditions blindly — I’ll put my own personal touches on them. My sister will do the vows, my guests will sleep in tents and my dress will NOT be white (the idea of me, a sex-writer and naked model, pretending to be a virgin is a hoot). And I will tattoo the ring onto my finger, a guarantee that it will never be lost.

My family life will follow a similar form of unconventional convention. Entire walls will be covered in flags, bumper-stickers and postcards. All of my kids, no matter their gender, will be given trucks and dolls. I will teach them every Ani Difranco lyric and how to cut a T-Shirt into a halter-top. Diva cups will be in the bathroom instead of tampons. Best of all, I’ll give them sex talks that will blow their mind.

Some see my dream of being a stay-at-home mom as a waste of my education. But I love learning for the sake of learning. I feel as though raising my children will stimulate this desire for curiosity more then a wall of a cubicle would. Plus, a degree in Feminist, Gender, Sexuality Studies doesn’t exactly put me on the fast track to career success. In my white picket fence dream (yes, my dream home has a white picket wood fencing… the kids draw on it with chalk in the summer and we wouldn’t have it any other way), I will still be a writer. I have a desk overlooking the back-yard where I work for the “Dear Abby” section of the local paper. Or I am the occasional sex therapist. Or I teach erotic finger painting at a nearby nursing home. Whatever this “other” activity is, it won’t be how I define myself. First and foremost, I will be a mother.

I know that marriage and the nuclear family is a screwed-up social construction. I’ve even written papers on the topic. But this argument is based on logic (and a desire to get an A). My happiness is not logical. My choices are not logical. What I’ve discovered is that you have to look past all forms of the ‘stereotypical’ woman. Some feminists shop at Victoria’s Secret. Some lesbians vote Republican. And some housewives wear combat boots. Being a feminist is about having the right to choose what you do with your life. My choice (as of today) is to be a stay-at-home mom. Therefore, I am a feminist.

Abby Spector


  1. I want the same exact thing. It isn’t that far-fetched for a feminist to want these things. Focusing on the upbringing of your family is a beautiful thing, it’s not for everyone but if you have a passion for it then why deny yourself? Feminism is about being true to your self as a woman. Whether your happiness lies in the workplace or in the home, baking an apple pie, is inconsequential. Your happiness is the most important thing.

  2. Right…. Alpha Cat. I’m Lazy because I stay at home. For me… it’s a necessity because my child has Cystic Fibrosis and can’t be in day care and live a completely normal life. I spend 3 hours a day just on his medications (11 meds to be exact). 2 hours a day cleaning (because that’s a necessity when you have a child with CF) and the rest of the day I actually try to do things to bring in money, which is also my release of stress…Which I didn’t have at all for the 10 months that my child was in the hospital and going through multiple organ transplant evaluation and living in another state for months to receive medical treatment- at the same time acting as a single mom because my husband had to stay in our home state to work. Yes, my situation isn’t the norm, but how DARE you judge without knowing what it’s like for anyone! Being a regular mother and housewife is stressful enough.

    Yes, I may have some more freedom *sometimes* with my time, but just because I don’t bring home a big paycheck does not mean I’m not working!!! I dare you to spend a month at home with kids and do everything that a spouse would do to keep the house up. Something tells me you’d be curled up in a fetal position asking when it was going to end- inside of a week.

  3. Alpha Cat’s comment really pisses me off!
    You aren’t lazy if you are a housewife. I spent
    five hours (FIVE HOURS) on my feet organizing
    me and my fiance’s closet the other day.

    The floors need to be swept–we have
    a german shepherd in the house–after sweeping
    comes moving everything out of the kitchen and
    diningroom to mop. Let it dry. Then I vacuum every room.
    I dust the living room and the bedrooms twice a week.

    Then the bathrooms are next. Be prepared Alpha Cat
    to spend a couple of hours in each once a week. The
    garden tub, shower, and toilet will need properly scrubbed.
    The floors are next! Sweep then mop.

    Ok, then there are the little things: laundry, dishes,
    making the bed, garbage, grocery shopping, COOKING,
    cleaning after supper….

    IF we had children, I would be EXHAUSTED!

    Being a housewife isn’t an easy job. It’s hard work. But,
    it’s also rewarding too especially if you have children. They
    would have a comfortable house to come home to. Kids
    deserve that… I have to give a lot of respect to women who
    do this every single day. They are tough ladies! More power
    to them if they have a degree, as well.

    I’m in college becauseI will need to work. But, how awesome would it be if I got to study what I wanted and was able to raise a family?

    Great article by the way!!! I LOVE it. Alpha Cat, you are
    a moron.

  4. Will somebody please remove Alpha Cat’s comment? Not because censorship is a good thing, but because it almost put me to sleep with what a cliche it is. If I wanted to go to yawnerxeroxedantifeministpropaganda.com I would.

  5. You’re just lazy. Like most women, they’d rather stay at home and have the man work every day for the rest of his life to support the family… because staying at home is SUCH a hard job….. *sarcasm*

    Feminism is destroying society.

    Listen to this educational broadcast by Tom Leykis please: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVWbwfSIy3Q

  6. I am so happy that I am not the only one like this. I always felt weird about it and just kept to myself about this for the most part. What you have said is almost exactly how I feel.

  7. Great article.
    It is about the freedom women should have to lead their lives as they choose- whether it’s jetsetting the world, pursuing a career, being a stay-at-home mother and respecting and fighting for other Women’s rights to do what they choose with their lives, too.
    Figleaf, thank you so much for breaking down the myths of life as a stay at home parent and re-affirming the nobility of staying at home to raise children without martyrdom or condescension towards others who choose differently.

  8. Well, as the happy beneficiary of feminism I’ve been able to live… something that wasn’t even a dream for me when I was growing up: I got to be a stay-at-home father.

    So far be it from me to deny you the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother.

    Even farther be it from me to even hint that you might feel guilty or suffer for it.

    A couple of clues based on first, second, and third-hand experience, though. You’ll almost certainly want to continue working until you’re at least somewhere in your second trimester with your first pregnancy. There’s just not that much to do otherwise and you’ll die of boredom. (Health exceptions excluded. Though, of course, they’re called exceptions because they’re not routine.)

    Second, by the time your last child is ready for pre-school/kindergarten you’ll probably be getting a little itchy to get back into some kind of professional/academic life. And you’ll have the time to start doing it.

    Next, keeping kids and a home together is sort of like baseball. (Which might not be your metaphor but I’m not a big baseball fan and it still works for me.) The are big bursts of activity, sure, but there’s also a lot of standing around in between. It’s like that with children — you can’t ever completely drop your guard, and you can’t predict when you’ll have to respond to something, but by the time they’re about six months old you’ll discover time to find your own rhythms. You can spend it papering the walls or organizing the kitchen (or churning butter, I guess, though I didn’t actually try it till my oldest was doing a “pioneer days” section in 5th grade.) But you can also spend the time reading or even writing.

    By the time your youngest is rounding the turn towards 6th grade things change pretty dramatically. They’re interested in you, they want you, but they’re actually pretty independent. And by that time they’ll be almost perfectly fine and even happy if you’re working at least part time. Definitely if you’re doing it around the house.

    This, incidentally, is nothing really new. What was toxic for the “bored housewives” of the 50s, 60s, and early 70s was the expectation that they just stay at home and… basically fester during all the downtime. And, especially, once their children really didn’t need them to be full-time stay-at-homes any longer.

    Point being that real “stay at home” parenting isn’t the lifetime commitment Phyllis Schlaffly and Mike Huckabee want to sentence you to.

    And here’s the real kicker: staying home is nice. It’s even nicer when your partner’s involved too. He or she doesn’t have to take on exactly 50% of the work for it to work out great. What does matter, though, is that they, like you, need to see what they’re doing, and what you’re doing as a deliberate and mid-term temporary choice. And, I might add, that it’s a contingent choice — one where if you or your partner’s circumstances change that your desire to stay at home might change too.

    If you do that, and if you recognize the realities of being stay at home instead of the myths and fantasies, then yeah, it can be pretty good. (If extraordinarily hectic, at least early on.) And if you keep it in mind then there really won’t be anything to apologize for. In case there ever really was.

    Good luck with that.


  9. Finally, a clearly devout liberal remembers the foundation of feminism – CHOICE. Though I could be classified as a die-hard republican, I am always an advocate that women can do whatever she sets her mind on. What a fantastic time to be a woman! It is 2011 after all…if a woman, regardless of her intelligence or social power, wishes to bear children and be present to raise them, that should never be considered a secondary choice, or a fall back, or my personal favorite, “a waste.” The truth is, we aren’t limiting ourselves by staying out of the corporate world and a permanent fixture in the kitchen, we are making a choice that suits us as women the best. Being able to make that choice, and not be limited to having that be chosen for us, is the basis of feminism. I am thrilled to hear that someone not only remembers that, but celebrates it in her daily life, as well as her plans for the future.

  10. Kind of in response to Johnny- Or she can move to a state with a lower cost of living like the midsection of the country. Texas/Oklahoma/Nebraska/Kansas. Yes it is boring at times, but I live in a mid-size city (around 800,000 population) in Oklahoma and cost of living is decent, even though salaries are lower. We live in a house that we bought for 110k that would be around 450k in Southern California.

  11. Good for you not feeling that you have to fit the mold of a traditional feminist. I’m a stay at home mom who has a cooking blog, but I occasionally wear my combat boots and have a deep rooted Emo streak that involves lots of dark clothing and hair colors that my parents still hate to this day…(I turn 30 next year). I’m also an artist and an independent/libertarian in a very very Republican state. I’m thankful that I’ve found a niche of friends that have similar sensibilities.

    There’s certainly times I miss the work world, but in all honesty I love the freedom of using my time at home as I see fit, whether it be writing, cooking, painting, playing with my little boy, or changing a diaper. I know I’m the best mom I can be by staying at home and I will gladly take that title over being a graphic artist for a major corporation any day.

  12. Good for you. What job could possibly be more important than raising your kids right?

    I’ve got a little wrench to throw in your fantasy-spokes, though. You’re either going to have to live in the sticks, where cost of living is low (maybe you don’t mind that), or you’re going to have to marry a pretty well-off dude.

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