1960s America saw huge changes in the workforce, as more white women entered professional careers. This aspect of history is talked about fairly extensively. What’s discussed less often is the fact that by the time white women earned the right to leave their homes to work outside, black women and other women of color had been forced to leave their homes and work outside (often in white homes) for generations.
While white women had been very often stuck at home with the childcare and housekeeping, black women had been stuck in other women’s homes, caring for their children and their homes. Black women were systematically denied the right to raise and care for their own children exclusively, a right taken for granted and even resented by middle class white women who had no choice but to remain in their homes.
Over the past five decades, mean wages have gone down for most earners (with women and people of color impacted more than men and white people). At the same time, costs of living and especially of childcare have gone up dramatically. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to support a family on a single income. Having one parent stay at home may be a choice, or it may be a practical necessity for families with low earning potential or special needs (such as a disabled child or parent).
Homemaking can certainly be done in more and less equitable ways; a home where all adults participate in meal preparation, childcare, housekeeping, and wage earning may be ideal for one family, while a more direct division of labor (one parent stays home to attend to childcare and housekeeping, another parent works outside the home to earn income) may be best for others.
What’s important is to respect the choices and needs of individuals and their families, and not to impose what’s right or feasible for you onto others. Caring for your own children in your own home can be a radical act, not one that “sets women back”, but one that empowers women (and especially poor women and women of color) to parent their children with the wealth of choices afforded to others. Sometimes that means a mom who works outside the home. Sometimes it means a mom who works from home. Sometimes it means a mom whose only job is caring for the home and children.
My feminism accepts women working in all fields and none. My feminism respects women and their right to self determination, whether that be in the workplace or the home.