Book review: Opting In by Amy Richards

Posted by Saraline , Monday, September 15, 2008 6:55 PM

In Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself, Amy Richards explores the relationship between motherhood and feminism.

When I am asked, "Can you be a feminist and a mother?" I answer yes, but not if that means escaping the realities of your own life. Being exclusively a mother can be an easy way out, seeing yourself in a relationship to others rather than figuring out what you uniquely want or who you uniquely are. In fact, the initial tension between feminism and motherhood developed because the former advocates the pursuit of independence, while the latter is based on dependence. In its most basic definition, feminism is about self-worth and dignity, which mothers need in order to parent effectively.

Richards points out that many early feminists were mothers seeking better lives for their families and discusses the way feminism has changed throughout history, and also how feminism has helped mothers. (Maternity leave, focus on "parenting" instead of "mothering," etc.) She also discusses working and parenting, parents sharing responsibilities, how different women feel about their fertility, and how friendships can change once someone has children.

I found this book to be very reassuring. Feminism does not necessarily exclude motherhood, nor does motherhood exclude feminism. I can choose to have a baby and retain my personality, even if everything else in my life changes (including my friendships). This is not a "how to" guide but I would still recommend it to any feminist who is preparing for parenthood.


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