The Value of a Mother’s Labor

As an introductory note, I learned a lot about this initially from Dr. Hudson’s course and by the book  by Marilyn Waring on unpaid domestic labor.  In my recent work I have seen a lot of different examples of how a country feels about the labor that women contribute.  In Albania, if a woman has six children, she can retire after 30 years of work.  In Austria, each child a woman has counts as four years toward retirement.  In the United States, well, I can retire when I’m 65 and have done my fair share of the work with the men, as far as I know.

Now that I’m a mother, much of my time that was formerly used in work and study at school is now given to my daughter.  To save the government the time of figuring it out, I sat down and figured out what my income would be if my labor as a mother counted as a paid job.  When looking at a career, an introductory pay at the low end of the scale would average around $14.00 per hour.  Here is my average life in a 24 hour period:

Clock In              Clock Out             Amount of Time           Activity
3:30                        4:00                        :30                       Early Morning Feeding
8:45                        9:20                        :35                       Morning Feeding, Diaper Change, Clothe baby
10:00                     15:50                       5:50                     Housewifery*
17:00                     20:30                       3:30                      More Housewifery
23:00                     24:00                        :30                       Midnight Snack
Total Hours Per Average Day:     11

So, about eleven hours per day is devoted to taking care of house and home, and that’s for a student that gets to take frequent breaks because of an amazing husband.  At this rate, I should earn a monthly salary ($14 x 11 hours x 7 days x 4 weeks) = $4,312.  If I got paid overtime, it would be increased to $4,900.  That’s almost $60,000 per year.  Not bad, I say.

Now here’s a question for you: where are my social security benefits?  I hate making what I do sound like merely a career, because I am working at things that I love and enjoy, but it IS labor.  Someone has to do it – either I do it myself or I find a substitute (aka babysitter or day care) to watch over my daughter.  I am on call nearly all hours of the day to fulfill my duty as milk producer, bum wiper, and source of constant, complete love, security, and support.  I love my job, but it is work.

*Housewifery is an all-inclusive term describing various household duties including but not limited to: nursing, changing diapers, taking out the stinking garbage, sanitizing the home, giving baths, checking the mail, cooking for the family and for members of the neighborhood, organizing the paperwork, taking care of bills, talking to other mothers about advice on raising children, trying this advice and giving your own, entertaining child in efforts to educate them so they’ll be brilliant one day, encouraging husband in his daily duties, saving the world anonymously, etc.

—by JKD


2 thoughts on “The Value of a Mother’s Labor

  1. GoodReason says:

    Yes, when you really think about it, the invisibility of women’s labor in the home as a crucial economic contribution introduces a distortion of immense proportion into all of our thinking and policymaking! This is one of the most important wrongs that must be righted for our society to move forward.

  2. Janille says:

    Yes this is a problem – if a woman spends a large portion of her life in service to raising children and caring for home and family, her reward should not be economic vulnerability, especially in her “retirement” age. I also think it is a crime that if I put my years as stay at home mom, and everything I know how to do from those years of work, down on a resume that it will be counted against me in the job search someday. I may do it anyway, just to make a point in the job interview.

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