I’ve been a stay-at-home Dad for the past few months, so Hilary Rosen’s comment about Ann Romney not working a day in her life grabs my attention. I was driving home from playing basketball last night and heard a discussion on the radio about the value of being a mother. The talk show host noted the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) informal study that puts a dollar amount on the things that moms do for their families. Though there are estimates from other groups that put the amount as high as $770,000, the government puts it at a more modest $79,000, according to this host. When I got home, I did quick research and found $61,436 as the estimation for mom’s efforts by the BLS in 2011.
While I understand the point of the study – to give people a clue as to the real value of a mother’s role to a family – something about it doesn’t seem right. I know it’s easy to be misunderstood on such an important topic. To avoid a Hilary-Rosen-type fiasco of my own, I asked Vanda for her reaction to the study. She’s not interested because it is meaningless for many reasons. Here are some that I came up with based on our discussion:
- Motivation for employees who clean, grocery shop, watch children, cook, give first aid, or whatever else is to please the boss and get paid. Mom’s reward is to provide a loving home.
- Mom’s do their work because it is a privilege.
- The dollar figure is arbitrary. Some moms are awesome cooks, cleaners and organizers. Shouldn’t they get paid more?
- All mothers are not the same. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. Yet everyone reading this knows there are women who don’t value being a mother and put little effort into it. Are they worth the same as mothers who are truly sacrificial in their service?
- The most valuable aspect is nurturing and forming the identity of your children. That role is too valuable to be given to someone else.
We live in a culture where women have a tough choice to make between being a mom and having enough money to provide for the needs of the family. Vanda loves working at the library and being a mom, so we’ve often discussed what she’d do if we didn’t need her income. For some, like Ann Romney, that choice is somewhat easier because she obviously didn’t need to make money, although I won’t assume she didn’t have career aspirations she gave up for her family. Either way, as Vanda’s comments show, nothing diminishes the value of what she gave to her five boys . . . herself. Nobody else could give that.
Vanda thinks that the real reason some women need this study is because of insecurity. “I don’t need to be told what I’m worth in dollars,” she says. Husbands tend to pressure wives to sacrifice motherly instincts for monetary security. It makes me wonder if this study is really aimed at men. This guy gets the picture.
As far as I’m concerned, if the government really believed the study they would offer us tax write-offs for the value of services rendered. That must be why it’s considered an unofficial study. But, I don’t mean to be too hard because the aim is to point out the value of mothers. While it’s not bad to get a nudge elsewhere once in a while, it’s up to us men to make the study unnecessary for our wives. For mom’s without husbands? Church, it’s up to you.