There was an article in Forbes titled Putting a Price Tag on Unpaid Housework, which really struck a chord with me. It asks – is the work a stay-at-home mom does the same as a job? The article is referring to a paper that attempts to measure the economic value of household production, or work done in the home that includes childcare, cooking, shopping, housework and so on. The author states that this type of production has the capacity to increase GDP and to be honest, this thought disturbs me. As a work-at-home mom, I’m taken by shock that this issue is being debated, particularly when it comes to a mother caring for her children.
This article notes that since America doesn’t pay women wages when they care for their own children or clean up their own houses, the economy doesn’t recognize that work the way it does paid jobs. However, the author argues that “unpaid domestic work gives our economy a huge boost. As currently measured, GDP doesn’t take this work into account. But it probably should.”
Yes, it’s true that women typically do more of the unpaid household work, but do we really want to acknowledge this type of activity in our GDP? When should household work be considered a hobby versus a job?
In addition, there have been news articles and studies done trying to put a value (price or salary) on what a woman who stays at home is worth in the economy. While I think this could be a worthy cause for women to continue to do what they’re doing, I have to ask myself – what’s the real purpose for it? Are we women trying to justify the decision we are making to stay at home with our children? Do we feel like we need to prove our worth to society? Do we want to feel like we are contributing to a bigger cause?
Don’t get me wrong, I think the job of a mother and manager of the house is by far one of the hardest jobs there is, but why are we defending this choice by trying to put a worth on it? Having questionable calculations show me that I should be getting a salary of 100K is nice on paper, but it still doesn’t help me buy milk at 7-11 and it doesn’t give me any personal satisfaction.
If we want to argue that our nation should put a price tag on domestic work, we should consider these two additional points:
1. Men are staying home more.
“There are a lot of guys out there that had remote relationships with their own fathers and they don’t want that with their kids,” added Jeremy Adam Smith, a one-time stay-at-home dad and author of The Daddy Shift. “It’s not just stay-at-home dads – fathers in general are participating more in their children’s lives.”
Regardless of employment status, nearly half of the men surveyed by Families and Work Institute said they take most or an equal share of child are responsibilities, up from 41% 20 years ago. This is significant, because households that have both parents are getting a little more help from inside the household.
2. Working moms possibly contribute just as much to the household after their real workdays are over.
Another study has shown that employed individuals do not spend much less time in household production than their unemployed counterparts. This leads me to question how fair it is to put a price tag on the work of stay-at-home moms, if we’re not putting a price tag on the domestic work that employed moms and other family members take part in after their work day is over.
Going from full-time professional woman to a work-at-home mother was one of the hardest transitions I have ever made. When making this transition, I was fortunate enough to have the choice to work as a part-time professor, in addition to nurturing my daughter and managing the household. When I am maintaining the house, the thought of how that is contributing to our economy’s GDP does not cross my mind, and I don’t think it should.
The Way I Measure My Decision of Being a Work-at-Home Mom
If my daughter is well adjusted and happy, then I’ve made the right decision. Year after year on Mother’s Day, I used to get so angry with my husband for not giving me a Mother’s Day card. He knew I was upset but would never respond. Then one day we talked about it and he asked me, “Why do you need a card from me? Does Gabby give you hugs and kisses? Does she laugh with you? Does she tell you she loves you? Does she bring joy to your life?” Of course, all answers are yes. “Then why do you need anything from me? Why is that not enough?”
And you know what; I have never wanted or expected anything else after that conversation. I’m a lucky momma and that is priceless.
What’s my point? My point is that I don’t need statistics to tell me that my work is worth $X amount or that I impact our economy’s GDP by $X amount. In fact, monetizing my relationship with my daughter or the contribution I make to our household simply leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to do this kind of work. I don’t HAVE to – I GET to.
Maybe the better question to ask is – what measurable impact are our children making in society and how can we impact that as mothers?