Confessions off a feminist SAHM from Denmark

July 18, 2017

I am a feminist and a stay at home mom. How is that possible? some people may ask. the usual image of a feminist is a manhating career woman, with no time or patience for husbands, children or the stay at home life.

I believe in equality for all categories in society. Including gender equality. Equality for me means actual equal opportunities for men and women. Not just symbolic legal equality, but real equality. In a way I wish that gender did not matter. That it was obselete. A non issue. Unfortunately is does matter, even in a country as Denmark. You still encounter differential treatment and gender stereotypes in all areas of society.

I am a sociologist, specialised in gender, queer studies and the sociology of emotions. My interest in gender runs deep. all through my formative years I devoured the great works of Gloria Steinem, Marilyn French, Betty Friedan and Judith Butler. I considered myself a feminist to the core. I still do. But something happened when I became a mom. I developed a soft spot. My sons development became more important than my own and I began to question the way the system of childrearing is constructed here in Denmark.

We have comprehensive statefunded maternity leave and childcare. Here you are expected to leave your ten month old baby in the care of kindergardens and return to work full time. You are expected to want to go back to work and make your own money. Independance is a core feminine trait here. It is why most partnerships and marriages are equal. Both make money, both contribute to the household work. This is what is considered the norm. Or at least that is the story we tell ourselves as a society. The reality of labour division at home and in the work place is often quite different.

I expected to follow that norm when my maternity leave was over. I even split the maternity leave with my husband, because I knew all research show that when the father participates equally in the early stage of childcare, he also takes equal part of the housework later on. I did not want a traditional marriage, with a stay at home mom and a working dad. But here I am. I have chosen not to work, so I can spend more time with my son. My husband is the provider and work full time outside the home. What happened?

That is the burning question I am trying to answer. My way to find an answer is writing it out. There were many factors that played into my choice to be a SAHM. The road to this lifestyle was complicated. I dont regret it. It was the right choice for my family. But it is not always easy.

When you are trying to lead a mindful life, as I try. You have to try to remove the factors from your life that add stress. It is not always possible. As any parent will testify. Having children will add stress and worries to your life, no matter what type of lifestyle you choose. But some things you can control. Like how much material goods you consume, how you live, how much you work, what you eat and how you relate to the world around you.

In order to minimize the amount of stress in our lives, we have chosen not to be a double income family.  My staying at home, taking care of the house, is a decision we made because we felt it was more important to have the luxury of time together, rather than material luxuries. The daycare system in Denmark these years are under immense pressure to be more effective, save money etc and the quality of childcare is not was it was when I was a child. Simply put, there are more children and less adults to look after them in every daycare facility. So I did not feel safe leaving our son to fend for himself among 40 other children 8 hours everyday. As I would have, had I gone to work full time outside our home.

When he does go to kindergarten now, it is a couple of days a week and purely for the social interaction with kids his own age. There is no stress in the morning to get going. He is the last one there in in the morning and the first to be picked up in the early afternoon. And he does not have to go if he wants to stay at home. No force and no pressure. No stress.

It is definitely a luxury life. And when he is away at kindergarten I can take care of my needs. socially and intellectually. Well in theory anyway.  Most of my free time is spent recharging my batteries physically and mentally.  The mental load of being a SAHM is exhausting. Some days I just want to stay under the covers and drink tea. Let me tell you a secret. Some days I do. If I a home alone. Lets call it my feminist rebellion.

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