Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

On Calling Myself a Feminist (even though I’m a stay at home mom)

This post is part of a link up with Kelly J. Youngblood over at Renewing Your Mind on the topic of feminism and traditionalism. Check out her post and the others that have been shared! (This is the first Linkup I’ve done. I have no idea if I’m doing it right.)

I was raised in a home where my parents generally played traditional gender roles; my mom was a homemaker for the majority of my school years, and my dad worked outside the home at least 40 hours a week. Yet somehow, I grew up free from the notion that women are bound to the home.

When I was in junior high my mom went back to school, and I thought her valiant and daring for it. She became a vet tech, a profession her school teachers had discouraged her from as a girl because she “wasn’t smart enough.” I think she determined then and there that if she had daughters, they would do whatever they wanted to do with their lives.

The church I grew up in has, to date, ordained more women than men, and half of our staff are women. The idea that women are any less than men, or that they must be relegated to certain roles in the home and church, was one completely foreign to me until high school. That was when I learned about the glass ceiling and the gender wage gap. I learned that most churches still don’t ordain women. I learned about modern polygamy. I learned about the stunning number of female babies aborted in China every year. I learned that most women worldwide are little more than property.

I was horrified by the reality of it all and dove headlong into a kind of immature, militant feminism, though I’m not sure I would have known to call it that at the time. For many years I shouted “Never!” to the spectre of marriage and children, “My whole life is ahead of me, I’m going to change the world!” (but wouldn’t you know, I fell in love with an incredible man and discovered you could be married and still change the world).

cheris KrameraeFor a long time I thought “feminism” was fundamentally the opposite of “feminine,” that anything which could be classified as conventionally female (like cooking dinner or wearing makeup or having babies) was something I should consider as antiquated, something I’ve been gloriously liberated from. As if a modern woman choosing motherhood over a career is like a dog returning to its own vomit.

I call myself a feminist, but I find myself filling the oh-so-traditional role of mostly stay at home mom, because it makes a lot of sense for our family and I (usually) really enjoy it. And though I also bear the slightly less traditional title of business owner, I often feel that I’m not allowed to use the feminist label because of how I spend most of my days: in the home. However, when I buy into the lie that my vocation makes me who I am, I’m doing a disservice not just to myself and my daughter, but to the feminist movement. That just turns feminism into another way to define me as a woman, to relegate me to a certain role, when feminism is really about freeing every woman to make her own choices.

And now, with a daughter of my own, feminism is more important to me than ever. Isabella is only 2 years old, but someday she’ll enter the adult world and get to make choices of her own. And since I don’t owe anyone an explanation about why I decided to stay home and raise kids (except the kids themselves), I’m devoting the rest of this post to my daughter. If she asked me today, “Why did you decide to be a homemaker?” this is what I would say.

Dear Isabella,

I don’t view my choice to be your full-time mommy as a concession or a sacrifice of any kind. I do important and valuable work every single day, shaping and guiding you through childhood, teaching you how to be a powerful person. You are a little revolutionary. You will change the world in the way only you can, in the way God created you to, and I get to be part of raising you up. I want to spend as much time doing that as possible.

I get up every day knowing that you will be watching me. I’m acutely aware of the influence I have in your life, and I want you to know a few things.

I want you to know that you will never hear me say “I’m fat.” You’ll never hear me make negative comments about my body, or yours, or any one else’s.

You hear constantly that you are cute, pretty, adorable, sweet, and beautiful (and you totally are), but you are much, much more. I want you to know that you are also fearless, fun, witty, compassionate, intelligent, joyous, creative, and strong.

I want you to know that no one can tell you who you are and who you aren’t. Your identity comes from Christ and not your chromosomes.

I want you to know the value of your body and your heart and how to fiercely guard both. (I certainly will, with a shotgun if necessary.)

I want you to treat others with respect because you’ve never been treated any differently by your Mommy and Daddy.

I want you to know that you are only limited in this life by yourself.

I want you to dream great big dreams and I want to dream them with you.

I want you to do these things in simplicity because I’ve plowed the way for you, because many plowed the way before me.

I love you dearly and I love watching your grow every single day.



*Don’t forget that I am off social media this month. I’d love to read your comments so please don’t leave them on facebook and twitter!


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10 thoughts on “On Calling Myself a Feminist (even though I’m a stay at home mom)

  1. “I want you to know that no one can tell you who you are and who you aren’t. Your identity comes from Christ and not your chromosomes.”
    And isn’t this true for us regradless of gender, race, disability And so forth? Beautifully put.

  2. Amy Rollert on said:

    I wish there was a like button because I’m not sure what else to say.

  3. “I want you to know that no one can tell you who you are and who you aren’t. Your identity comes from Christ and not your chromosomes.”
    Beautifully put and so true for us regardless of gender, race or disability. Something to remember for ourselves and others.

  4. Oops. I commented twice.
    Amy, there actually is a like button. 🙂

  5. Love the letter to your daughter! Your mention of your mom going back to college reminded me that mine did as well. I can’t remember how old I was–under 10–but I remember it. I don’t know if it had any impact on me that I am aware of, but now I wonder if it had an impact of which I am unaware.

  6. So many big social issues that require a change of thought and behavior in our culture are started from a radical premise (feminism, for example). Because societal change requires shrugging the heavy chains of tradition and behavior entrenched in beliefs and values, it’s the toughest kind to unlock.

    It took loud women shouting extremes to create an atmosphere of choice for women today. It took the brave and radical to release a race from the horror of discrimination and legalized persecution. For many of these people, this radical call was their identity– not so easily dismissed.

    But as the next generation emerges, they no longer have to take on the identity of radical change. Instead, they get to live the benefits– reexamining the roles and how it fits them, tweaking the still faulty system.

    What a lovely and blessed letter you are writing to your daughter, passing on the legacy and benefits of those who came before us.

  7. “discovered you could be married and still change the world”
    Amen! I have found my marriage actually makes me more relevant and more accessible to other women, single or married. I have more influence in their lives than I did as a single woman.

    And now that im about to be a mom, I realize just how much im about to change the world through the life of this little one. I will have more say in his life than in anyone’s Ive ever ministered to. That’s a sobering thought…

  8. Bill Nixon on said:

    My hope for women calling themselves feminists is that they would see it as you do rather than how their party tells them that they should see it. Too often, “Feminism” has become synonymous with “abortion” and ” pro-choice”.

    Safly for our country, we are aborting a half of a million little girls each year and the so-called feminists sit back and scream about their right to choose.

    If feminists really believed as you do then I would have a lot more respect for what they have to say. Problem is that for many, it isnt about empowering women to be women. It is more about electing a certain candidate.

    Lastly, our society could have the power to change the world for the better. Women all over the planet could look at our women and see a model of progress in education, opportunity and freedom. Unfortunately, our country bombs their countries and many of our young women exercise their freedom to party, drink, and get pregnant through irresponsible interactions. Affecting and empowering other women in the world comes through leadership by example. You are a perfect example and model of respect for Isabella.

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