What being raised by a working mom and stay-at-home dad taught me about feminism
My mom has been at same company all her life, working her way up the ladder to a position that, despite asking her to explain it once a year, I still don’t understand. While I may not know what Mom does when she goes to work every day, I do know that watching her leave each morning was a staple in my life. It was as normal to me as our house having a roof or the sky being blue.
By that I mean, her absence wasn’t notable. That’s just how life worked. In the mornings she’d roust my sister and I out of bed, dress us, and prepare breakfast. In later years, we’d dress ourselves, positioning the rubber bands in our braces as she unloaded the dishwasher downstairs. Then Mom would drive us to the top of the driveway to wait for the bus. When it arrived to carry us away to school, she’d turn the opposite way to drive to work. We’d see her when she got home that night around 6p.m. as we stood with our dad in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on dinner. (Or, if we were lucky, she would have stopped on her way home to pick up Chinese food!)
When Mom wasn’t home, we were with our dad. He left his job in public television to design furniture and take care of the garden, but mostly, look after us. As a stay-at-home dad, he was the parent who took us to dentist appointments, made us soup when we stayed home sick, and met us at the bottom of the driveway at the end of the day.
I didn’t realize this wasn’t “normal” until one day in my 12th grade English class during a discussion about family dynamics. My teacher brought up that some people had mothers who were the primary breadwinners. I raised my hand to say that I was one of them. I had never thought of the people who raised me as my stay-at-home dad and working mom (they were just my parents!) until I was explaining it to my peers.
I grew up under the assumption that all women are capable of being both mothers and workers, no need to choose between the two, no “we don’t know how she does it.” She just does. This knowledge was questioned by others so long after it had been ingrained in my brain that their surprise barely registered. Working motherhood was practically the very root I sprouted from, and the assurance that women can live whatever kind of life they want was how I was raised. Of course, my core values — men and women are equal, love whoever you want, treat people how you want to be treated —are a combined effort of both my mom and my dad. But I know started writing because, at a young age, I saw my mom at the computer.
At six-years-old, my hobbies consisted of copying whatever the people around me were doing. I wanted to cook dinner like my parents, but didn’t know how, so I just put peanut butter and raisins in a bowl. I tried to garden like my dad, but didn’t have the tools, so I just sprayed things with a hose. I tried to work at the computer like my mom, but at six-years-old I didn’t have a job or even all my teeth, so instead I opened up a document and typed all the words I knew: “juice,” “purple,” “cat,” and so on. I sat at the desk where I had watched my mom send emails and take phone calls, the desk where I wrote my first story. It’s the desk where Mom advanced her career and I decided on mine.
I started my first full-time job — writing for HelloGiggles — in January, around the same age as my mom when she started her position at the company she’s still with 30 years later. While I don’t even know what I’m having for dinner tonight, let alone where I’ll be in a year, or five, or 10, thanks to my mom, I know exactly where I’ll be in 30 — wherever I want.