Edited to clarify that all of this angst comes from the lack of support I've personally felt as a mother and a feminist, when the larger feminist narrative tends to hold that I should want to "lean in" and that staying at home with my kids is some kind of failure/choice to go along with the patriarchal status quo. That's all.
Edited again because I'm being a dick. Sorry.
Do a quick Google search for "stay at home moms" and you'll see this:
I'm not a stay-at-home mom—yet. I work about 30 hours a week from home, and I'm fucking tired. I'm pregnant with my second kid, who is due in July, and I just broke the news to my boss that I'm going to have to cut my workload in half. I make less than what I'd have to pay in childcare. My husband makes more money than me, even though I'm the one who went to college, so here we are, embodying the Republican wet dream.
I feel like a sell-out and a statistic, but I have to admit: even if I made more money, I'd still want to stay home with my kids. I'm just not head-over-heels in love with my job, and I'm not buying into this Republican bullshit about how I should be happy to pay for the privilege of working.
That said, fucking stop with the Mommyism—the assumption that 1) moms in general are ignorant, out-of-touch, and flaky, and 2) that stay-at-home moms in particular are pampered rich white women living in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever. WHY ALWAYS WITH THE GOLDEN RETRIEVER?! THERE ARE OTHER KINDS OF DOGS, YOU KNOW.
Just to be clear, less than 5% of families with a stay-at-home mother have an average household family income that exceeds $75K a year.
But we also live in a culture that essentially forces women to bear the brunt of childrearing and home maintenance. It starts with parental leave, which is pathetic for women and virtually non-existent for men. Without paternity leave, women are set up to be the primary caregiver because they get to know their child's needs and rhythms better than the father does.
And then it just gets worse from there. In our pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps culture, we prioritize busy-ness. In 1998, the average middle income family worked six more weeks a year than the average middle income family in 1989. One third of the workforce works more than the standard 40-hour week, and there are no laws protecting workers from being fired if they refuse to work overtime.
Thanks to the good ol' all-American pay gap, women have to work that much harder to make the same as men. For mothers, this gap is even more pronounced. The pay gap between mothers and childless women is now greater than the pay gap between men and women. Non-mothers earn 10% less than their male counterparts while mothers earn 27% less. For single mothers, those numbers are even more repugnant, making an average of 34-44% less than their male counterparts. And of course, for women of color, shit gets a whole lot more real. Black women on the whole earn about 30% less than their male equivalents while Latinas earn 40% less. Single mothers of color are much more likely to live in poverty than white single mothers.
Why? Because our larger cultural assumption about mothers is that they're the primary caregiver—and that by virtue of that fact, they're flaky, chronically late for work, more likely to leave early and work fewer hours, etc. etc. Resumes of women perceived to be mothers are more likely to be passed over even when they have the exact same qualifications, education, and experience as a male candidate who is believed to be a father. One study found that non-mothers are offered an average of $11,000 more as a starting salary compared to mothers with the same qualifications.
And it's all a self-fulfilling prophecy. The modern American workplace model is based on the 1950s assumption that if you're working, you are the breadwinner and you have a little woman at home taking care of the kids. This has a number of deleterious effects on working parents. 1) It assumes that if you're a working mother, you ARE the little woman who is shirking your duties as wife and mother. 2) It assumes that if you're a father, you're going to jump at the chance to work all the overtime hours you can to support your little woman and your towheaded brood, with the requisite golden retriever.
All of this goes back to one basic assumption: that parenting isn't real work. This is where mainstream feminism frequently fails mothers as well, given the emphasis on leaning in, not taking your husband's last name, not staying home with your kids because WHO COULD DO THAT MY GOD I WOULD LOSE MY MIND WITH BOREDOM.
The larger capitalist/patriarchal culture has placed an emphasis on busy-ness that puts mothers at a disadvantage, and many in the feminist community espouse that way of thinking—probably without realizing it—when they boast about how they could never stay at home with a kid because it would be so intensely boring for them and that they NEED to work to keep themselves sane (thereby implying—as does the larger capitalist culture—that the work of parenting isn't real work).
The assumption that the only real work is paid work means ALL parents end up having that very large part of their lives completely disregarded. And women suffer even more for it since they're already likely to make less at work and therefore are more likely to pick up the childcare/housekeeping slack. If all of that unpaid housework and childcare were taken into account for the real impact it has on the U.S. economy, it would raise the U.S. GDP by 26%.
I personally feel like mainstream feminism has fallen in with the patriarchal myth that domestic work isn't real work. When lifestyle feminism holds that having children and staying home with those children is some kind of feminist failure, it fucking hurts. And then to see other feminists insist that parenting is not real work, that stay-at-home moms have copped out, etc., it means I'm not going to find any support as a mother in the larger feminist community.
Because parenting is hard, y'all. Parents do real work—economically valuable work. But it's not treated as such. And that contingent in the feminist community who insist that stay-at-home moms don't have real jobs is not doing women any favors.