As a woman who was raised in the 90s in a very "progressive" environment, I have always been told that I must be a career-woman. Women who chose to stay at home with their children were seen as "lesser". For many years I did what I was told - I worked hard, I did well in school, I went to college. My only focus in life was my career. The problem was that I didn't feel this was actually what I wanted. I felt as though I had been forced down a path without even being give a choice.
When I turned 22 I met an amazing guy and we fell for one another almost instantly. After we had been together for a few months or so, he asked me if I ever wanted to have children. I gave the same line that any of my friends would had given: "no, I don't want kids, I want to focus on my career." But later that night, for the first time in my life, I thought about it much more deeply. The thought of having children is scary but for the first time I realized that I did want kids. I've always loved kids, and loved caring for kids - that's why I wanted to be a doctor. However, everyone had been pushing me so virulently towards my career that I hadn't properly thought about it.
After I finished college, we decided to have a child. Our daughter was born two years ago last week. I had planned on going to medical school while she was still young but after she was born, I fell in love with her. She instantly became my whole world; a little person that I loved more than anything. How could I get up every morning and leave her? My husband, to our benefit, is much more capable at compartmentalizing than myself, so he able to go off to work each morning to ensure that we have enough money to survive. I couldn't do that, I loved her too much, and in the end I decided to become a stay at home mother. I was condemned by my "progressive" friends with whom I quickly fell out of favor. They turned their noses up at me for daring go against the trend of being a career-woman. I also received a lot of pejorative and sarcastic comments from old friends that I hadn't talked to in years.
Of course, it needs to be mentioned that not all progressive feminists have a problem with stay-at-home mothers. However, it must also be mentioned that in my experience the only people who have ever made negative or pejorative comments with regard to being a stay-at-home mother are feminists. This can't be ignored.
We all want equal rights for women, there is no question there. However, we need to be careful not to alienate the women who genuinely want traditionally feminine jobs (such as being a stay-at-home mother). Our daughter is 2 years old now, so I have met a lot of stay-at-home mothers and the majority of them have had very similar experiences. The simple act of wanting to spend time with and love your children is somehow, in the eye of a lot of progressive feminists, worthy of ostracization. These criticisms are largely irrelevant to us because we love our children and we love that we are able to care for them whenever they need it. However, it does matter to the young women who are being coerced into a career when they may well be much happier as mothers.
Personally, I think we should be trying to maximize personal freedom for women. We should be giving women the freedom to do whatever they want, not forcing or coercing them to do certain things because it makes the numbers look more "equal". Forcing women to do what people believed was the "right thing" is the reason we were confined to the home in the first place. Lets not make the same mistake by confining women to the workplace, because there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a stay at home mother.