Essay / Culture

$138,095 Is Not Enough

On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the average stay at home mother if she were paid for her work would earn $138,095 a year. This seems like too low of a number. Women who stay at home are in total charge of the household which in itself is like a small corporation (albeit a small corporation that occasionally has Lego blocks strewn throughout the living room). The building is in constant need of upkeep. The living accommodations need vigilant policing in order for cleanliness to prevail. Not to mention some of the members of the “corporation” forget things like picking up their clothes and toys, and putting their dirty dishes in the dishwasher (just to name a few).

Stay at home moms are also cultural critics—as they are asked to judge the aesthetic quality of various categories of art, music and dance. Moms are not just any ordinary critic. They must be able to discern the subtle strokes of a pen or brush and identify the underlying form that they artist is attempting to unveil. It is important to note that many of these artists are of the temperamental type and become very unhappy if the critic is unable to accurately articulate the intentions of the artist—therefore much care must be taken to pacify the artist’s tender ego. Some of the artists also perform very eclectic forms of “modern dance” in which the dancer dawns a “sugar plum fairy” outfit (with wings) and dances to her favorite U2 music as she continually states, “Watch this mom…watch this…wait just one more time.” Need I say they need the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of a saint.

Moms are also academic advisors who are well versed in all fields of academic discourse. While they are discoursing about the nuances and beauty of the multiplication table to one student she can nearly simultaneously be advocating the necessity of learning one’s “sight words.” They are expected to be able to, on cue, discuss the history of Thanksgiving Day, Independence Day, and have encyclopedia like knowledge of the weaknesses and strengths of any of the 43 presidents of the United States. Mothers are experts in folklore as they needs to be able to discuss the mythic origins and veracity of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

In the field of medicine mothers must be experts at correctly diagnosing mysterious pains that crop up on early mornings before school days. They give comfort to the wounded combatant who was hit in the head (“By accident… I promise.”) by an over zealous sword wielding sibling. Their skills at interpersonal negotiations would put the most seasoned veteran of the state department to shame. Let’s see someone from diplomatic corps go more than two rounds of “did not—did so” without breaking down, and, yet, mothers do it every day.

What is so interesting about stay at home moms is what many of them give up. They are well educated. They had blossoming careers. My wife is what is commonly labeled by our culture as a “stay at home mom.” She recently left her job as an administrator to stay at home so she could spend more time with our kids. She gave up her job in which she was highly appreciated to undertake a job where her hard work can often go unnoticed.

In our culture it is easy for us to minimize the importance of women being able to stay at home for the sake of their children. We live in a culture that believes that all of us can do anything and everything we want to. Women are told they can be wives, homemakers, career women, and mothers all at the same time, and do it without any compromise in any of the areas That is just wrong. Being a woman who chooses to say at home is a full-time job. This is not to say that women can’t be good at each of those things individually—they can. It is just that there are not enough hours in the day for you to be able to do all of them well. It is just a simple matter of economics. (Men are also similarly constrained. You cannot be a good husband or father and, for example, be working 70 hours plus a week at a job without compromising the needs of your family.)

I look at all that women do, and I am overwhelmed. I am not foolish enough to think that I can properly undertake all that they do, and do it with the same skill and grace. I look at the number of 138,095, and as I think of it that seems like a gross underestimation of what they truly deserve, but as this Mothers Day comes along (May 13) we need to remember the types of sacrifices our wives and mothers made for us. We need to realize how easy it is to undervalue all that they do. We need to take the time to express to them just how much we appreciate all that they take on daily. No, $138,095 cannot properly express all of the love, time, concerns and prayers our wives and mothers give to us daily.

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