For me, feminism means the freedom to be a stay-at-home mom

My daughter was born in mid-June and my life has been filled with an indescribable joy since she came along.

After many discussions and a lot of planning with my husband, I began to carve out my identity as a homemaker a few months ago: I left a job I held for six years both because my position was being eliminated from my department and because it seemed like a good time to transition into motherhood.

My husband owns a small business and has been growing his company, which is based out of our home. This makes for a wonderful, family-centered lifestyle, which we love.

Interestingly, I have felt pressure from a few people I know regarding my choice to be a homemaker and to raise my baby without daily childcare in her early years.

They have subtly suggested that I’m selling myself short by not prioritizing my career, and that I’m naively letting my husband pursue his career dreams while putting mine on hold.

I dislike these comments because I have chosen—with great self-awareness and robust, loving support from my husband—to prioritize raising our daughter, cooking meals for my family, gardening outside, caring for our pets and cleaning our house. Writing and teaching yoga part-time are passions of mine, which I plan to continue weaving into my schedule.

I absolutely love doing these things because I feel like I’m building our home and nurturing my family. This feeling is so satisfying to me.

I think that is the key:  I feel deep satisfaction in my choice to “make home” full time . If another woman feels deep satisfaction going to work every day that is equally valuable and worthwhile. But, in our quest for a just and equal world where women and men have equal opportunities, it doesn’t seem right that some people chastise women who choose home life over the office.

In fact, to suggest that women “should” do anything other than what they feel is right for them and their families is anti-feminist, in my opinion. My definition of feminism is a woman doing for herself what brings her joy, and makes her feel confident and respected as an individual.

To be fair, there are plenty of women in my life who are happy for me and encouraging my choices. But I feel like the culture of ambition and cut-throat career success that so many of us millennials have been raised to espouse — and which I, too, pursued and enjoyed for many years — is portrayed as the only path to happiness.

Some women with an academic profile similar to mine — an Ivy League education and a prestigious career — are putting down my choice to be a homemaker and suggesting that if you’re a strong woman than you must go back to work and not change or let go of climbing the career ladder.

But I don’t believe in living my life like a ladder. Life means more to me than simply having name recognition or fame or widespread success. In fact, I’m OK without having any of those things.

This realization has become even more evident to me as I get older and move farther away from the competitive what-college-are-you-going-to-and-what-did-you-get-on-your-SAT? mindset.

I feel more grounded and satisfied doing things that go unrecognized yet feel incredibly rewarding — such as community service, teaching, caring for people in nursing homes and nurturing my family.

At a time in history when digital technology seems to revolve around the infamous “selfie” and constantly putting ourselves on display, I’m happy to find deep contentment in ordinary, everyday living that is often anonymous.

Let me give you a glimpse into what I mean:

Now that my daughter has been born, I feel contentment in quiet moments together with her that I know will fade over several lifetimes and which will not be written into history books… Precious moments between us that do not require — and in fact would be hindered by — an audience.

In such intimacy, love is the only truth and therefore becomes the overwhelming reality.

Nothing else matters.

My body swells with love, electricity and milk when I pick my daughter up from her nap. She’s ready to feed, her dark blue eyes blinking open and focusing on mine like large blueberries in a full moon. Her chubby cheeks swell and her mouth opens in a big, happy, gummy smile.

Then her lips draw into tight little button shape that I call her owl face and she poops in her diaper.

“Whoooo, Whoooo,” I coo to her.

I kiss the top of her head, and feel her soft black hair with my cheek.

I brush my nose lightly against her powdery-sweet forehead and kiss her temples.

I savor the way it feels when she rests—completely trusting me—on my heart and turns her head so that one sleeping cheek rests against my sternum.

My belly is soft, receiving her presence, receiving her trust and shining my love back into her. Our hearts beat gently together.

For every woman — for every person — making a home, caring for a family and building a career are unique experiences.

I know that often, it is not always financially possible for one partner to stay at home.

I support all women, men, families and caregivers making choices that suit their circumstances. But I think it’s important that women know — and are even willing to fight and make sacrifices for — the choice to raise a family in place of a making a name for oneself. We had to make adjustments to our budget and lifestyle so that I could be at home.

I know that for me, being at home right now is what feels right. I am happy, my husband is happy, and our daughter is growing healthy and strong.

That’s my kind of feminism.

Kristen v.H. Middleton is a wife, mom, writer, Jesus follower, and yoga teacher. She lives an hour outside of Boston, Massachusetts, and writes about her life. Follow Kristen on Twitter: @KristenVonHoff.

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