Glenn Tucker | Stay at home moms need more recognition
Whenever Mother’s Day comes around, I am reminded of a thought that came to me years ago. I was a senior statistician at the time, working on the country’s labour force figures, when it dawned on me that housewives were not recognised as part of the labour force.
I contacted some smarter friends at the university for assistance in working out a fair wage for Stay-At-Home Moms (SAHM). When we met, two charts were presented – one starting with the minimum wage, and the other starting with household helpers’ salaries. I immediately realised that something was not quite right.
One has only to observe women shopping in the supermarket to see the difference. Household helpers look at their list, grab the items from the shelves, and move on. Housewives move slower. They compare prices. They check labels and expiry dates. Then there is the discrete squeezing and sniffing to determine freshness.
Someone visited my home with a five-year-old child. The child looked around, then got up, moved to the whatnot and pushed her little hand through an opening and came up with a handful of dust declaring, “Mommy, uncle Glenn’s house is dirty!” Her mom was embarrassed and livid. But the child was right. And yes, it is a ‘helper’-managed home.
I have spent time in homes managed by stay-at-home moms. I always wonder, do they sleep? Do they relax? Even if they sit down, they seem to be planning, strategising, mentally stretching each dollar.
When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was running for office, Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen said of his wife, Ann, a multimillionaire, stay-at-home mom, with five sons, “…she has never worked a day in her life”. Unfortunately, this is how the world sees persons who decide to stay at home and care for their loved ones. And at what cost?
At about the same time, a Gallup poll revealed that mothers who don’t work outside the home are far more likely to be depressed, with 28 per cent reporting feelings of depression, compared with 17 per cent of ‘working’ mothers and the same percentage for mothers without children. In fact, stay-at-home moms fare worse than these two groups by every emotional measure in the survey, reporting more anger, sadness, stress, and worry.
The work of caring for children is undervalued economically, which adds to the financial and emotional burdens of mothers who don’t have regular jobs. Being a good mother is one of the most complex skills in life. Confucius was raised by a single, very devoted mother who homeschooled him in his early years.
Each Mother’s Day, I can’t help noticing the sea of gift baskets by the roadside, compared with Father’s Day. What a powerful story it tells. But I wonder if stay-at-home moms do not deserve more recognition than just one day in the year? Perhaps we should pause to say thanks every now and then.
Mothers need to learn the art of contentment. Nothing is more satisfying or rewarding than raising a happy, responsible, contributing member of society.
Capitalism devalues work that does not have a dollar value. The Government could start giving these mothers the recognition they deserve by – at least – contributing toward their NIS so that the years spent at home are not recorded as zero.