Monday, April 4, 2011

Moms Should Get Paid

Out of nowhere the other night, my 8-year-old son looked up at me and said, "I think moms should get paid." You think moms should be get paid, I asked. How come?

Because, he said, moms make the babies, and babies, if you train them right, grow up into smart people and without smart people, there wouldn't be a world.

Can I just say that my heart melted in that minute? My 8-year-old son, the one who just minutes prior was watching American Idol and tormenting his brothers, GETS IT. My 8-year-old son intuitively understands the value of mothers.

We live in a culture that pays lip service to the importance of moms and motherhood. Everyone, from teachers to clergy to the average Joe on the street, seems to understand that what happens at home is far more important than what happens in school or elsewhere, but few people want to provide support to parents. And I'm not necessarily talking financial support (although it's clear that my son was). I'm talking support: Valuing and recognizing the family's contributions to society, advocating for and creating jobs that allow parents to contribute to the economy without neglecting their responsiblities to their children, structures that provide parents with the inspiration and tools they need to become good parents and supportive networks of people who will share the realities and burdens of parenting with those in the trenches.

That kind of support for parenting -- much less economic support -- is sadly lacking in many communities. Yet my 8-year-old hit the nail on the head: Good parents create good kids. Good kids make the world go 'round.

On some level, my kid even understood the economic value of a parent. Nuture a kid's brain and interests now, and later that kid may contribute something great to their society. William Kamkwamba brought power to his village.

That kind of economic contribution of parents is overlooked by our society, and more often that not, it's mothers that pay the price. As Ann Crittenden points out in her book, The Price of Motherhood, mothers are still far more likely than fathers to take time out of the workforce, to work part-time in order to care for their children, or to select lower-paying, no benefit jobs that allow them time to parent. As a result, women, in general, make far less money during their lifetimes -- and have far less retirement income.

My 8-year-old, in some small way, understands that it's wrong for mothers to suffer economically for their devotion to their children. I can only hope that others of his generation eventually come to the same realization and work together to create a society that truly values the contributions of the family.