When I was growing up in the 1980s and launching my career in the 1990s, the goal for women - at least for my friends and me - was independence.
Women before us had made it not only acceptable to work, but to have careers. And therefore the expectation had become that we would also have careers - livelihoods so successful that maybe we'd even be our families' breadwinners, if we had families at all.
There was virtually no discussion back then that any of us would ever give up these careers for husbands or families or that we might stay home to raise kids. Such thoughts seemed to run counter to all that women had done before us to ensure that we could "be whatever we wanted," as my mom and mentors had so often told me.
But even then it needled me that the definition of being "whatever we wanted" - at least the meaning in that moment in time - seemed not to include being a stay-at-home mom. I'm happy to see that things are changing.
According to the Pew Research Center, 29 percent of women in 2012 were staying home to take care of their children. That number has been climbing for the past decade.
In the mid-1960s, the number of stay-at-home moms hovered near 50 percent but then plummeted to a low of 23 percent in 1999, about the time most of my friends started having children.
"The recent turnaround appears to be driven by a mix of demographic, economic and societal factors, including rising immigration as well as a downturn in women's labor force participation," Pew said. The change is "set against a backdrop of continued public ambivalence about the impact of working mothers on young children."
Most of today's stay-at-home moms are part of a "traditional" family unit that includes marriage and a working father, Pew said. There are also stay-at-home mothers who are single, living with a man, or married with a husband who does not work.
The vast majority of my friends worked while their young children grew up. Some did it because they had become their families' primary breadwinners. Others because they valued their careers and feared a break would put them behind later on. A few - including my sister - have chosen to put jobs on hold to stay at home. I never had children and therefore never had to make the tough choice.
As we got older, my friends began talking more about the possibility of staying at home with their children. But there seemed to be a stigma attached to the idea - that somehow doing so meant they would be taking their careers somewhat less seriously. Other friends spoke somewhat disparagingly of those who gave up their jobs for kids.
That's always bothered me. I've been hoping for a day when girls would see that what trailblazing women before them had done was to open opportunities that allowed them to choose whether to work or stay home - or increasingly do both.
My best friend, an attorney, now works from home while taking care of her kids. Other women I know are writing, consulting and lobbying from home - all while raising kids. And a very few are raising their children without other career obligations.
But I think that will be changing. Today, I work with college students and I'm so pleased that these young men and women are talking about careers and having children with the knowledge that their options are open. Women can work, they can stay at home with kids, or they can try to balance both.
That's the legacy of all the hardworking women who came before them. It's the real meaning of women's liberation - that women have choices and a willingness to exercise them.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.