They Do Exist.

Can I be a wife, mother & feminist? – By Megan

Editor’s Note: Feminism has constantly changed and evolved over the last 60 years, making it difficult to tackle appropriately. Because of the hundreds of variations of its definition, discussions get messy and the heart of the matter is frequently missed. In my opinion, it has always been a double edged sword. It has both saved and destroyed. I have avoided discussing it at all costs because of this, but as facilitating a never-ending discussion on womanhood has recently become my career, I cannot ignore it. I touched on it in a post about Gender Roles a couple weeks ago over on my own blog; feel free to read if you wish.

Megan Riggs, wife, mother & business woman, volunteered to share a bit of the role feminism has played in her life and relationships. She is an Exhibitor and the Sponsorship Manager for Washington State PTA, the Development Chair for a girls camp, & the Benefit Coordinator for a 501(c)3 that presents the world’s largest Comedy/Variete festival. Oh, and she blogs & tweets, all while still being supermom. I love what she has to say, and am slowly learning the same things in my own life. Realizing that it’s not quite exactly about a political statement. It’s about being a strong woman, finding a strong man, and becoming better together. – Lauren

Can I be a wife and a mother and still be my feminist self?

Growing up, I wasn’t sure that I could retain my sense of self, my autonomy and independence, and pursue my own interests if I was married. I was convinced that being a mother would further strip me of my sense of self and my ability to pursue my interests. My concept of feminism – and of myself – was wrapped up in independence, self-preservation, proving myself, succeeding and being indispensable in my work.

My idea of feminism probably isn’t “typical”, and I came about it in an odd way. A balding, professional man in his 50’s inspired me to call myself a feminist. Let me explain. I was raised by parents who expected me to go to college, get a good job, support myself and work hard. They told me that if I worked hard enough I could accomplish close to anything. I didn’t think that a girl or a woman’s value was any different than a boy’s or man’s, but I didn’t like to call myself a feminist. Then in college I had a history professor who called himself a staunch feminist. It surprised me to hear it from a man – my idea of feminism was unruly women burning their bras and fighting against men for what they believe in. But here was a man, identifying himself to a class of college students as a feminist. What? I realized that feminist, while the easiest term to use, is really not quite the right word for my version of feminism – my version being that women are equal. It’s really more of being a “personist” than a “feminist”, but as a woman I’m also happy to call myself a feminist, even while wearing a bra – a nursing bra, nonetheless.

In addition to being a feminist, I’ve always been very independent. I thought I would have to be less of myself to be a partner. I would have my interests and identity wiped away, becoming Wife and Mother, losing Self. My new view of myself as a feminist and my strong sense of independence had led me to believe that feminism and wife were mutually exclusive.

I never would have imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom, working part-time and volunteering. And yet here I am – and happy about the decisions I’ve made. I have had to accept and learn to love my roles.

How can I be a feminist while folding laundry with a baby on my hip?

It is not feminist vs. wife, one or the other. Being a wife and mother has helped me meet my goals, allowing me to retain and improve my sense of self. I can be an individual, a wife, a mother, and at the same time, a valuable employee and volunteer. It involves constant adjustment to internalize my new roles as wife and mother, but it is also the most rewarding, most fulfilling work I will ever do. Wife, mother and feminist can more than co-exist, they can be improved because of the alliance, partnership, and support with my husband. I can be whole as myself, whole as a wife, whole as a mother, whole as an employee. I don’t have to compromise my interests, values or goals to be in any of these roles, and I don’t have to compromise my view of my own feminism to be a wife or a mother.

In order to make my role as wife and mother coalesce with my identity, I needed to better articulate to myself who I was and what I wanted out of life. Once I found my mission and direction in life, I was a better version of myself, a better wife, and a better mother. My partner’s support was more effective, and with him I could be more myself than I was alone.

All my interests, priorities, desires and goals boiled down to three things: to be a lifelong learner, to have the ability to explore, and to use my skills for the benefit of others. This became my mission, my direction – for myself, my family, and the life we were building.

My mission has led me to a life I hadn’t anticipated, but it meets my goals perfectly. I have had a sometimes hard adjustment to motherhood – it has challenged me in ways I didn’t expect and has changed my day-to-day life immensely. Even with this enormous life change, I am still myself, at my core. I am still partnered with an amazing man, still learning, exploring and serving. I am not compromising my self, my work or my interests to be a mother. The key has been knowing myself, knowing what I want, and having an amazing man at my side.

I found a partner who makes me more able to meet my goals through his support, encouragement and alignment with these ideals. Becoming his wife was an improvement of myself, a step closer to meeting my goals. Becoming a mother, while difficult in ways I couldn’t have imagined, is again a step closer to being the person my mission – my feminist self – must be.

I had to establish who I was and what was most important to me in order to be the best wife and best mother I could be. It is possible to find the person who makes you a better version of yourself, once you know what that self is. I am a wife, mother, employee and volunteer, a writer, a cook, a photographer, a reader, an adventurer, an explorer. I am all of these, all more fully because of my choice of partner, my husband Logan.

I couldn’t expect to figure out who I was later, with guidance from a partner. I had to know who I was to find my partner. Do it now. Figure out who you are in order to find your partner, who will be able to support and encourage your established life goals. Be a feminist, be a wife, be a mother. You can make your life what you want it to be, successfully fill all the roles you want to (or didn’t know you wanted to!) by having a strong sense of self and finding the person who makes you stronger..

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34 Responses

  1. Yes. Just… yes.

    I've always hated the idea that marrying someone made you less–wasn't it supposed to be a complement? Two people working together, supporting each other, striving together, loving together, learning together? And I have also never liked the idea that wanting to succeed and do things meant you couldn't be a wife and mother. Thank you so much for this article.

    March 22, 2011 at 3:53 am

  2. Julie

    Great article, Megan Riggs. Thank you for putting the hard stuff into words. You are a wonderful and inspiring writer, and I also really enjoy your blog!

    March 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

  3. This article is very informative and you write it so well. Being a feminist is a state of mind. Folding laundry is an activity that both men & women take part in. that single activity doesn't define who you are as a person. The way you carry yourself as well as all that you've accomplished throughout your life creates the person you are today. ;=)

    March 22, 2011 at 7:28 pm

  4. Thank you for your kind words, for reading, for relating, and for supporting me & each other. I hope that young women take the time to identify what it is that they truly want – and even if there are no answers to keep trying. Understanding yourself is crucial to being able to choose and understand a partner.

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