Is Environmentalism Pushing Women Back Into the Home?

Raising an eco friendly family is a lot of work, and much of what needs to be done when it comes to the children is traditionally “women’s work.” Could it be that environmentalism is just another way to push women into being stay at home moms?

As a green stay at home mom myself, I don’t think of it that way for how I live my life. It’s not true for all green stay at home moms, however.

How Are Chores Divided?

Living an eco friendly lifestyle adds to the chores, certainly. Cloth diapers take a bit more time than disposables, although I don’t find it to be all that significant, even when I line dry them. For that matter, line drying laundry in general doesn’t have to take a ton more time than putting it into the dryer. Most of the clothes have to be hung anyhow, and that can be combined with the line drying process.

It’s also about making sure both parents are taking on the extras.

But it’s also about making sure both parents are taking on the extras. It’s not just the at home mother’s job to do all of the extra work. The father can help out.

My husband handles the gardening. He manages the compost pile when we have one (not possible at our current residence, damn it!) He uses a reel mower on the lawn rather than a powered one.

If you’re dividing the chores fairly, the extra work involved in being green may fall somewhat heavier on the parent at home, but that would be true no matter the lifestyle if one parent stays at home.

Does Green Living Require One Parent at Home?

If you’re going for a simpler lifestyle, you certainly may not need two incomes, and it can make a lot of sense to have one parent stay at home, who is usually the mother.

Not always. Two of my sisters have stay at home husbands who are raising the kids.

Being eco friendly doesn’t really require that one parent stay at home.

But being eco friendly doesn’t really require that one parent stay at home. It’s certainly easier for a mother to stay at home if she wants to breastfeed, but not absolutely required if she can pump breastmilk, as one of my sisters did for each of her two children for about a year per baby. It was hard, but she did it. Her husband stayed home with the kids.

As for me, I always found breastfeeding easier than dealing with formula and bottles. It works well for me. It’s not extra work. It’s less. It’s a pleasure.

There are other ways couples can raise their family and still be eco friendly. One other of my sisters and her husband take mass transit to and from work each day. They garden, recycle, all that stuff. Their daughter is in her teens, so they certainly aren’t dealing with the baby issues that I deal with now.

Living green doesn’t absolutely require one person at home. It helps, but it’s not an absolute requirement, especially once you’re past the baby years. Instead it requires the willingness to pay attention to the lifestyle choices you make and to do the best you can.

More Opportunities for at Home Parents

The part I always love to point out is that there are now more opportunities for at home parents, whether that be a mother or a father, to express themselves and to pursue a career while being there for the kids.

That’s why I run this blog. That’s why so many other moms and dads want to work from home.

Lots of parents want more time with their families. Just ask them. It’s true of mothers and fathers.

While there are certainly more pressures for moms to stay at home, that doesn’t mean she has to stick herself into the 50s ideal and wear that perfect apron and pearls every day unless that’s how she wants to do things.

What About the Kids?

I believe that children thrive when they know they aren’t the center of their parents’ world, that they are one part of it. Kids need to know that both of their parents are people with interests and dreams of their own.

I believe that children thrive when they know they aren’t the center of their parents’ world, that they are one part of it.

Kids also need to learn that they can entertain themselves. They should be having fun with friends once they’re old enough, not just kept at home and lovingly cared for by a parent intent on sheltering them from the dangers of the world. The dangers aren’t as bad as the media wants us to think!

That means that I don’t believe stay at home moms or parents in general should be carting their kids around to activity after activity, even during the summer. I have my kids in swimming lessons right now, and they’re taking a break from karate for the summer. One class at a time is my usual rule.

The swimming lessons aren’t optional, not with grandparents who have a backyard swimming pool. Safety trumps other considerations.

If you entertain your kids by always being available to play with them, and then always having them in organized activities when they get older, when do they learn to handle it themselves?

What Are “Right” Choices?

Moms these days are greatly pressured to raise their kids exactly the right way. That’s why there’s the pressure to be at home, to put the kids in activities, to make sure they get the best possible test scores and have just the right friends. The green side of it is a very small part of the equation.

When it comes to raising kids, few choices are absolutely right. Pretty much the only absolutely right choices are the ones that have to do with not abusing your child.

When it comes to raising kids, few choices are absolutely right.

There are even right and wrong choices about safety. Parents keep their kids isolated in the name of safety, but forget that kids need to learn to deal with the world on their own terms before they’re adults. Yet doing that has risks.

I would rather take those risks, as I believe they’re less than the risks of raising a child who won’t know how to cope as an adult. But not all parents feel the same, and even how you go about either side of this varies tremendously by family. Who is right?

Similarly, pushing for academic perfection or pushing too hard too young in sports is a road to burnout. Parents do these things for what sound like really good reasons but the results they get may not be the ones they were after.

It’s not a competition. Your one goal is to raise happy, healthy, competent adults. Having good environmental sensibilities is a plus. But how you go about that in comparison to everyone else around you doesn’t matter. Most of them won’t even notice, except to criticize.

If you don’t want to be an at home mom or dad, then don’t. Find a way to make it work.

But if you want to be at home, and have an eco friendly family, be unashamed of that goal. Don’t compare your progress so hard with other families. Enjoy your garden, baking bread, washing diapers, line drying laundry or whatever it is you do. There’s nothing wrong with loving to do things yourself, no matter how others tell you it’s a bad thing.

Just be sure you don’t give up everything. I also believe every stay at home parent, whether a mother or a father, should have some way of keeping up her or his work skills. Life’s uncertain. You may someday need to work outside the home again. Being prepared is smart.