A few weeks ago I asked Kayla, my just turned 5 year old, what she wants to be when she grows up. She told me she wants to be “a teacher, then a mommy”. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Why does my little girl think you need to stop working when you become a mom? Is my 5 year old so jaded that she already thinks you can’t have it all? Can she really believe that a woman has to give up her career when she becomes a mother? Then I realized she must feel that way because of me. I like to think of myself as a feminist, a strong independent woman who doesn’t need a man, after all, I do own my own business. But I’m not. I am dependant on my husband because my income is neither steady nor as substantial as his.
I was having a few drinks with a friend when I realized that I was in fact financially dependant on my husband. I cried because I thought I was a feminist. I have come to realize that I can rely on my husband’s income while still being a feminist because that is how I choose to live my life. I grew up in a family that values education, and I always believed I would have a successful career. I graduated from law school and passed the Florida Bar, but I do not practice law. My husband is a firefighter who works 24 hour shifts. If I was a lawyer, who would drop off and pick up the kids from school the days my husband was working? Who would take them to karate, gymnastics and ballet? My mother is a biologist and professor while my father owned his own business. Both my parents wouldn’t get home from work until past 7pm. I was fortunate to have grandparents and babysitters to take me to extracurricular activities and I was only able to participate in those activities because of how hard my parents worked. If I practiced law, we could hire babysitters and rely on grandparents, but I CHOOSE not to do that. I could find a job as an attorney that paid well enough for my husband to stay home, but why would I ask my husband to sacrifice a career he loves so I could have a career I don’t even want? I want to have the ability to be there for my children and choosing to put my family before my career does not make me any less of a feminist.
I know that I am lucky and many families do not get to make the decisions we have made, that many do whatever they must do to survive, whether that is working a job they hate or having to stay home with their children when they want to work out of the home. My kids are in preschool, so I get to work, and get a break because staying at home with your children is the HARDEST job of all, but I also can drop everything and pick my kids up early from school if they are sick or if I just feel like taking them out to lunch.
So my daughter may think she wants to stop working as a teacher when she has children and I am no longer disappointed by that or ashamed that it is because of the choices I have made, because the most important part of being an independent woman is to choose to do what you want, to choose to do what will make you happy.
Besides, Kayla is only 5, I’m sure she will change her mind about her career aspirations dozens of times before she even joins the workforce. I hope when Kayla does get a job, there is no more wage gap; afterall, I am still a feminist. My own struggle with coming to terms with my own feminism led to adding “The Future is Female” tees to the kd Closet Etsy shop. No it is not an original idea or slogan, but a portion of the proceeds from every shirt sold is donated to The National Girls Collaborative Project which encourages girls to seek careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. I believe my son will be just as successful as his sister, so to me, The Future is Female means that there will be more opportunities for women in the future, that more women will at least have the same encouragement to pursue careers in fields that have been overwhelmingly male dominated. And if Kayla wants to be a teacher, a career that is already dominated by women, good for her, as long as she gets paid the same as the male teachers.