OPINION: What if she wants to be a mom—and that’s all?


Claire Redinger

Claire with her younger sisters when they were little, “back in the baby doll playing days kind of little.” Photo courtesy of Claire Redinger.

I’ve never felt entirely comfortable with the question, “Where do you want to be in the future?”

It’s not because I don’t have an answer for the question, or because I’m scared of the future, or because I’ve never thought about it before. I have an answer – I’m just not sure it’s the right one.

Ever since I was little, back in the baby doll playing days kind of little, there was one thing I wanted to be. There was one job that I wanted to do more than all the rest.

I wanted to be a mom.

Lucky for me, lots of other little girls wanted to be moms, too, and I always had a friend to play baby dolls with. I also had real-life babies at home, my sisters Lauren and Karol. We played house for hours, and I was always the mother. When Lauren got old enough to complain, we started playing “college moms,” where the three of us lived in a dorm together and juggled our classes and dolls (and Karol’s cheerleading practice) with each other’s help. When I used to dream about college as a child, I wasn’t dreaming about a career because mine was already picked out. I wanted to be a mom—and that’s all.

And it stayed that way for a long time, until it didn’t. In recent years, when people have asked me, “where do you want to be in the future?” I’ve caught myself hesitating, thinking and then making a decision: leave the mom part out. I’ve started answering that question with everything else that I want to be in the future – a journalist, a graduate student, a writer, a book editor – every job I dream about having except the one I want the most. And then I ask myself, “Claire, why do you do that?” But, I kind of know why.

For hundreds of years, women were told that motherhood was the only career they could have. It didn’t matter if they had a talent, and a brain and goals – they didn’t get a choice. In 2020, however, women can confidently say, “We don’t just belong at home.”

I’ve grown up and gone to college in a time period where feminist ideology is common – I would even say expected – from women and men my age. And my perception of the core message of feminism is summarized with one word: equality. I’ve heard the message of equality hundreds of times. Women deserve equal pay and equal respect. Women in 2020 are responsible for breaking the glass ceiling, for “fighting the patriarchy.” Women must demand equality for ourselves and for our children – so we never go back to the ‘60s, or the hundreds of years before then.

If I pursue higher education, work hard and know that I can have a successful career, but I choose to stay at home and raise my kids someday – will other women feel like I’m helping to break those glass ceilings?

My mother is a registered nurse, the first person in her family to have a college degree. She is smart, funny, energetic, kind, hardworking, outspoken and all-around incredible. I look at my mom and I think “she could’ve done anything she wanted,” and she did. My mom chose to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her nine (yes, really, nine) children. We loved it and she did, too.

My mom has cooked and cleaned, listened and hugged, parented and celebrated, taken and picked up, taught and learned from six daughters and three sons full-time for the majority of her career. I have seen firsthand the skillset required of my stay-at-home mother, and I know that her resume could be much longer than it is. In fact, on Mother’s Day in 2018, Salary.com calculated how much a stay-at-home mom would make if she were paid – $162,581.

Has my mom shattered any glass ceilings? Maybe not, but she raised strong daughters and respectful sons. Do other women feel like my mom has helped to shatter glass ceilings? I don’t know, because I’ve never heard anyone say so.

International Women’s Day was March 8. As the celebrations continue this week and throughout the year, maybe along with posters proclaiming, “break glass ceilings,” there could be a few signs or stickers or t-shirts that say, “and being a mom is legitimate job which helps women, too” – you know, something catchy.

If I had heard that message maybe I would’ve come to realize sooner that I’m not “selling out” women’s equality if someday I want to be a mom—and that’s all. Mom should never be followed by “and that’s all” in the first place.

Some women say, “I’m a mom—and that’s everything.” (Imagine reading that phrase on a poster.)