The other day, I scored big time at a local consignment shop. I got “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls,” for a mere $4! This amazing book usually sells online for $35! Yay, consignment! I was so excited to get the book home and read to my children about the many incredible contributions women and girls have given to the world over the years.
I had no idea that the book would help me to discover what an empowered woman really is.
We are raising our children in a remarkable time.
There are books being sold by the thousands and more being created where women and girls are the central characters and aren’t simply romantic interests. I have loved every minute of discovering these books with my kids and adding them to our home library.
I love the look in my daughter’s eyes as she reads about girls sailing over oceans and women solving the complex math problems that were able to help us win the space race against the Russians.
It makes me feel so proud.
Girls and boys are taught that they can do whatever they choose. Women don’t have to clean and cook and men don’t need to wear suits and ties. This freedom gives me so much hope. But there are moments when I’m folding laundry or cleaning the house while the kids are at school that I think, am I an example of an empowered woman for my children?
One time, my daughter and I were playing with her dolls and she had made a family out of them. She held up the doll that was meant to be the father and said, “Here’s the daddy going off to work.” and then she held up the doll meant to be the mother and said, “Here’s the mom folding clothes.” I felt a pang in my heart. She wasn’t wrong, that’s what she saw every day.
Daddy goes to work and Mommy cleans.
I had become the Tide commercial mom. The mom that spends all her day strategizing how to get stains out of underwear. (Incidentally, is there a way to get stains out of toddler underwear? It’s impossible, right?) I felt like I had become the perfect example of everything a book like “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” is showing girls they can be more than.
I get mad at those ads on TV, showing only the mothers folding clothes, but the truth is, for the most part, that’s what happens in our house. As far as my daughter and son are concerned, Mommy is falling right in line with the “skirt work” troupe. I want to feel like an empowered woman. And I want others to think I am an empowered woman. Sometimes I go to Lowes and put a really stern look on my face so that I appear to know everything about power tools and lawnmowers. I might even pick up a screwdriver and say,
Yup, a Philips-head is definitely what I need for that picture hanging job I’ve got going on today.
I love being able to say Philips-head. It makes me feel so powerful. But inside, I know that besides knowing the difference between a Philips-head and a flathead, I’m as lost in that store as my kids would be.
My other secret, besides not knowing anything about tools? I LOVE my job. I love being a stay at home mother.
I love getting kids off buses and keeping the house going while my husband is gone for the day. I feel like my teenager and twenty-something self just threw up. Never in a million years would I have thought I would love doing the very thing I thought I was supposed to stand up against as a teenager. But I do. I love it.
I want my daughter and son to know that they can choose whatever path they want with their life, like mine, or completely different from mine. I want them to know that women are capable of doing more than simply folding clothes and packing lunches. I want them to know it while they see me doing just that. And I want them to know they can both follow my path if that’s where life brings them. For a long time after I became a stay at home mother, this duality plagued me.
How could I be an empowered woman and teach them about all that women and men can do?
A few weeks ago, it hit me. I was looking at this all wrong. An empowered woman is a woman who feels free to chose her path and go for it. I began to think about all of the women and girls in that “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” book. What did they have in common? They all worked hard to be able to do the things that they loved.
I sat and remembered when my son was six months old. Money began to get tight and my husband and I decided that I would need to go back to work. But I wanted to be a stay at home mother more than anything, so I looked at my day and realized that the only time I could work would be at night. So, I got a night job. I started at midnight and worked until seven. I would take care of my son all day, my husband would get home after work and I would sleep for 4 hours and then go to work. Some days, I would catch a nap when my son napped. Or I would sleep in my car during my 2 AM lunch break. It was hard, so hard, and I was able to do it for almost a year before I got completely burned out.
I then moved on to cleaning daycare centers at night. I could start earlier and get home earlier. I could get at least two more hours of sleep, which was good because, by this point, I was pregnant with my daughter. But I was able to do the thing that I loved doing, being a stay at home mother to my son.
My kids are getting older now. My son is in first grade and my daughter will be starting kindergarten this September. Those third shift nights are a memory that still feels very fresh, even though it was six years ago. This is how I, and all of you mothers out there, are showing our children every day that we can be strong and that we can choose our own paths, no matter which paths we chose.
As the years go by, I am truly beginning to understand that I can teach my children that women can be whatever they want to be, by being whatever I want to be and working hard at it.
I want to be a good mother without losing sight of myself, and my kids will see me work hard at that every day. I can teach my children that women have the right to chose by living in a community that has stay-at-home mothers and working mothers, and stay-at-home fathers and working fathers. It takes a village to teach a child and I fully plan on using mine.
So, you go rebel stay at home mom! You are just as strong as the woman who puts the suit on every day.
You and your working mom friends are BOTH doing what you have to to make your goal of a good childhood for your children a reality.
And now as we sit in our homes during a pandemic, I have never felt closer to my working mom friends. We are all in this together. We are all treading new roads in homeschooling and making schedules work. We are all worried about how the world will look after this is all said and done. One thing I know for certain is that we are growing stronger by the minute.