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How we can help increase the worth of motherhood

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“A mother’s work is not just invisible, it can become a handicap. Raising children may be the most important job in the world, but you can’t put it on a resume.” – Ann Crittenden  

Motherhood vs. career? Will there ever be a solution?

Even though many will agree on the importance of raising children, the reality is the mother’s work is still highly devalued.

Before I left the workforce to be at home with my daughter, I found there was a strong stigma against stay-at-home mothers. I found that fellow mothers had the most to say about their counterparts. Just a few remarks from the conversations regarding stay-at-home mothers:

  • It would be so nice to be able to do nothing all day.
  • What do they even do with all of their free time? I would be so bored.
  • I don’t think I could handle it, I need to be challenged.

I wasn’t sure how these distorted views had formed. I was raised by a stay-at-home mom and she had never resembled any of these assumptions.

Before my mother had children, she was working as a computer programmer in the late 1980s. She was successful and would have received many opportunities for advancement being a woman in such a male dominated industry. She left the full-time workforce a year after I was born, devoting her time and talents to raising her children. Her example was anything but the stigma of a lazy or unproductive housewife that seems to be validated today. She kept an organized household and devoted her personal time to volunteer work or small business ventures all the while raising four girls.

The real price of motherhood

Regardless of our reason to be home with our children, mothers are penalized economically for leaving the workforce. We become dependents, wages are diminished and we suffer loss of stature. Instead of being valued for the hard work that is raising children, many women may find difficult challenges as they chose to leave their career behind.

In Ann Crittenden’s eye opening book titled The Price of Motherhood, we see her perspective of motherhood change after the birth of her son.

“Being a good-enough mother, I found, took more patience and inner strength – not to mention intelligence, skill, wisdom, and love -than my previous life had ever demanded. Nurturing and guiding an ever-changing child was not like housework, a checklist of domestic chores, but highly skilled labor, informed by the same spirit that inspires the best teachers, ministers, counselors, and therapists.   

 The second surprise came when I realized how little my former world seemed to understand, or care, about the complex reality I was discovering. The dominant culture of which I had been a part considered childrearing unskilled labor, if it considered child-rearing at all. And no one was stating the obvious: if human abilities are the ultimate fount of economic progress, as many economists now agree, and if those abilities are nurtured (or stunted) in the early years, then mothers and other caregivers of the young are the most important producers in the economy. They do have, literally, the most important job in the world.”   


How can society validate a mother’s work?

Despite all the customary praise of mothers, the devaluation of their work is deeply entrenched in our thought and institutions. It’s not just a matter of casual remarks implying that women who stay home with the kids aren’t working.

When our official economic statistics add up the goods and services in the economy, they leave out the unpaid services performed inside the household. Mothers at home are, by definition, unproductive, even though by educating and socializing their children, they contribute to the human capital that is critical to economic growth. And because their work isn’t quantified, they disappear from pictures of the economy that are drawn with the data. – New York Times (2011)

Or, as Jane Lewis, scholar of the British welfare state said:

 “No government has attempted to attach a significant value to the unpaid work of caring.”

How much a mother worth?

Edelman Financial Services once estimated a mother’s worth to be $508,700 in wages alone – not including retirement, health and other benefits. The amount is astronomical, but mothers continue to perform the job knowing that they will not receive any monetary compensation. Ric Edelman, the founder of Edelman Financial Services confirms “No one’s crazy enough to work for free but moms. And no one has enough money to hire a good mom…From that perspective our mother’s are indeed priceless.”

The likelihood of mothers receiving a wage for their efforts may never be possible but I do believe as a society we can change our attitude towards the stay-at-home mom.

We can start with woman respecting woman, regardless of their choice in child rearing. Whether a woman works outside of the home or in the home shouldn’t matter. Everyone is entitled to their own decision in what is best for their own family. As women and mothers we all have the same goal in raising a new generation that will learn from our mistakes and will be successful in facing the challenges that await them. Mothers may never be validated as they should be if we don’t learn to value each other.

Betsy Allred Toyn
Betsy currently resides in Utah, USA, where she was born and raised. After the birth of her little girl, Betsy decided to leave the workforce and become a full-time mom. She is currently busy helping her two little girls discover the beauty, creativity and love in the world. “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” -Eleanor Roosevelt, is a philosophy that she hopes to instill in her children. Betsy believes in stepping outside of your comfort zone and realizing your full potential.

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