Thursday, May 04, 2006

What a Mom is worth...

There's been a lot of talk about what this article addresses: the value of the average mother. The idea is, if you add up the average yearly salary of every worker you would have to hire to fill Mom's shoes, it turns out Mom is worth a lot of dough. The average stay at home mom is a cook, laundry service, maid, counselor, nutritionist, nurse, daycare provider, accountant, and whatever you call somebody you hire to buy all the food, clothing, and toiletries for your home. Some moms are also a baker, seamstress, teacher, or coach. You can either look at these numbers as the lowly little housewife's value, or as how much money she's saving your "hardworking" butt by doing all that she does. I'm sure moms all over the country are relieved to finally be recognized as worth something. I'll admit the idea of being seen as something other than "just a mom" is very nice. It's also nice ammunition in arguments about money, or how little got done today. I just think the assessment is a little unfair and misleading.

I'm not a daycare provider, I'm a mother. I gave birth to children, so I care for them. I didn't go through hell to bring them into the world, permanently changing my body in the process, just to hand them over for someone else to raise. If they were just for showing off, I'd rather have a Mercedes. Buying things to fill the needs my children have (shampoo, clothing, healthy foods) is part of that. I counsel them on their fears and heal their hurts because I care about them and their emotional stability. I'm my kids' teacher, but this is also just part of being a mother, since I chose to homeschool based on what I thought was best for my children. What good parent doesn't make sacrifices to do what's best for their kids? It's not a job. It's a responsibility, an honorable duty. For some, it's even a joy.

Some of the "jobs" on the list are done because the mom enjoys them. Nobody spends all day baking cookies when they don't like baking. If you don't like to sew, not only are you not going to try to fix a rip in your son's shirt, you probably don't even own a sewing machine. Moms are softball coaches and Girl Scout leaders because they think it's fun. None of those "jobs" are obligatory. If you stop enjoying them, you stop doing them. And nobody suffers from it, financially or otherwise.

The only real "jobs" as far as I'm concerned are cooking, cleaning, and laundry, and anyone who can afford to pay someone to do those jobs, does. Since I can't afford a maid, I vacuum. Since I can't hire out the laundry, I wash it. Hard work? Absolutely. Mom-specific? Not at all. I happen to do all the yucky jobs around here, but I know many families where Dad is at least partly involved, if not equally so. If I were to get hit by a Mack truck tomorrow, my husband would do them. Maybe not as well at first, but I'm sure he'd get the hang of it after a while. And while we're on the subject of Dad, I wonder what his little individual jobs are worth. He's a mechanic, lawn-care specialist, plumber, electrician, carpenter, and all-around fix-it guy (at least in my house). Sometimes he's also a coach or scout leader. In this male-dominated world where men make more money than women, I'm betting his "jobs" would probably add up to more money than Mom's.

This kind of assessment isn't thought up by some man who appreciates what his wife does. It isn't thought up by the rest of the world because they're tired of housewives being overlooked. This kind of thing is thought up by the housewives, who feel burnt out and underapreciated, in order to feel better about the role they've chosen. Personally, I don't need $134k a year to prove I'm worth something to this family. My kids are healthy, my house is clean (well, sort of), and my family is happy. Sure it would be nice if they told me once in a while how much they appreciate me, but when you do something out of love, you can't expect anything but love in return. And I get lots of that.

1 comment:

Tiff said...

excellent points! I do as much as any other mom - in fact, I'm a work-at-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mom! - but I'm not so insecure that I have to go around pointing out what a "job" it is... hey, I'd have to feed myself and clean my house and drive *myself* around whether I had kids or not...