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.


  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly that mothers, and parents in general do a lot of important work!

    This is the start of an argument that I find leads nowhere, except to expose the rift between those who have kids and those who don't. The childless don't want to pay for other people's kids because they think it's a choice, while those with children think that they benefit society and believe that society should provide benefits or protections to parents whose careers or wealth are harmed. I think that the current system targets average families such that families do have freedom to decide, at the family level, how to raise their children. Perhaps that means the one parent pursues the career while the other rears the children, or both pursue careers and use the money to pay for daycare or nannies. Single parents or poor parents are in a very different and much more difficult situation.

  2. I am amazed at your son's insight and sure that it is a sign of a job well done. Congrats and carry on,the rest of us are with you.


  3. As a mother with three sons, I'd like to adopt your 8-year-old. My youngest is now 16, and I know he's the most compassionate of my three sons. You must be a proud mom.

  4. Mildred Vermont once said, "Being a full-time mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in my field, since the payment is pure love."

    It doesn't cover any expenses or help fund your retirement, though it does pay dividends in more emotional, less material ways.

    I enjoyed this post, especially the thought at the end and the notion that though it may take a generation to grow and produce fruitage, we can start planting the seeds of reason and right with the decision makers of tomorrow.

    Thank you Jennifer--I now follow with keen interest!

  5. Thanks for all the great and thought-provoking feedback! I agree, Perfect Mom, that there's no "good answer" to this question, on a societal level. And yeah, I'm pretty proud of my little guy; I'm proud of all my guys!

    @Ann -- The emotional divends of the job are fantastic (most of the time!) I know that being a parent has enhanced my life in myriad ways. I have grown tremendously. As a mom, I have found courage and strength and determination. But...I wouldn't mind NOT finanically suffering. At present, I'm a single parent, and it's hard to be there for my kids while also financially supporting them.