Thursday, May 03, 2007

$138,095 , "compensation experts," have compiled a list of a stay-at-home-mom's jobs and figured out she would be paid about $138K a year for her efforts.


This number has started a flurry of opinions. Amazing what a hot button issue this is. Usually it boils down to an appreciation factor and misconceptions.

When I worked outside the home, my workmates and I would head down to Target for lunch time shopping. We'd watch the SAHM's shopping with their kids and we'd be filled with envy. How great would it be to have the freedom to go shopping with your kids? How awesome would it be to head over with the crumb crushers for a perky lunch at McDonald's? Boy, those women had the life.

Skip up a couple of years and I discovered what kind of "paradise" it is shopping with kids. Trips to McDonald's are bribes. All of my pastoral visions of being home were quickly obliterated. When I hung up the pantyhose and pumps for sneakers and sweats, I traded in a lot more than a wardrobe.

It isn't that one experience is tougher than another. Moms who work outside the home have a job plus the responsibilities of parenthood. They still have meals to plan and homework to assist with. There is laundry and housework. But when I worked, I also had help. If hubby got home before me, he started dinner and we both did the dishes. On the weekends, we both worked on the laundry. I also had the luxury of using some of my income for a housekeeper who came in every other week to clean. Since no one was home during the day, the house stayed clean. My time was considered more valuable. I actually had more writing time than I do now.

As an SAHM (by the way, I'm not trying to exclude SAH dads, I'm just speaking from my own experiences)I don't have the daycare worries. I don't have to fit in grocery shopping on a weekend. I almost never wear make up. But the expectations also increase.

With the house, there is an expectation it should be clean. Not really out of line...except I hate housework. I cook six nights a week. I don't mind cooking so much and hubby still helps with the dishes, some nights this is the only time we get to have adult conversation. But it is also expected that I will serve on every committee at my kids' school. It means that I should volunteer for team mom/coach/Girl Scout leader/classroom assistant because I have so much time. And most important, that time I get to spend with the children.

My kids are convenient like the ones on "Desperate Housewives." They are always there and constantly demanding something. They fight with each other and they defy me. It is a constant battle to get them to pick up after themselves. If I leave the room, the youngest one is into something. My fridge and pantry are locked. Somedays I have to lock all the rooms in the house just to keep her out of stuff. She's four going on fifteen and figures whatever trouble she gets into, it was probably worth it.

Anyway, enough of the sob story. Parenthood is rough no matter what the circumstances. But people are incensed by the idea of putting a monetary number in relation to parenthood. The value of raising our children and mantaining a loving home defies mere salary. Which is exactly the point and why like to see this kind of validation. It isn't that we think we deserve money or financial compensation and I can tell you, I don't do enough to earn $100K. I just want to do enough to justify my online shopping habits.

Parents who stay at home are either praised as selfless beings devoted to their families, taking satisfaction in the pure joy their nurturing brings. Or they are seen as mindless zombies content to spend their days watching purient televsion munching on Doritos and bon bons. Neither one is true of course, but it does point to one thing: the loss of identity.

My biggest adjustment was my loss of identity as a person. From 8-5 Monday through Friday I was me. Now, there are days where I never hear my name. I am a mother then a wife and that is the extent of it. I do it myself. I allow it.

I think when a parent sees a breakdown of what the value of their services would be in the working world, it makes them appreciate themselves. As mothers, whether you work outside the home or stay at home, we need to appreciate ourselves. We need to appreciate our strengths rather than focusing on our failures.

No one is going to do that for us. Our spouse who spends the day working isn't going to understand how difficult our day is. Our kids aren't going to care. We can only hope they have children of their own and then they will understand.

Look at what you do every day and appreciate the skills it takes to do what you do. Go use the salary wizardand see how much you really do and how tough it really is. Understand how valuable you really are. If you treat yourself like a valued employee, everyone else will to. If not, go on strike.

No comments: