I remember being in second grade, the teacher asking each of us to identify what we wanted to be when we grew up.
My answer was, “a mom.”
The teacher coaxed, “but what about for a job?” I had nothing, and she moved to the next student, noticeably disappointed. Sadly, that sentiment hasn’t much changed. Recent discussions with friends who feel the same disillusion have brought me to this line of thought: why is a parent who stays at home undervalued in our society? Does the fact that a job doesn’t earn money reduce the value of that work?
I’m a semantics kind of girl, so out of curiosity, I consulted the dictionary. Merriam-Webster provides several definitions of work. Let’s examine.
To fulfill duties regularly for wages or salary.
Yeah, that one right there is what we all mean, and there’s no wage or salary for what I do because I do it for my own children. I argue, though, that if the same job were offered as a position for hire and therefore valuable, shouldn’t it retain its value when no money is exchanged? Surely, it’s work, even if we do it ourselves.
To perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations.
All moms know we do fulfill this definition. Rinse. Repeat.
To exert oneself physically or mentally, especially in sustained effort for a purpose or under compulsion or necessity.
Every. Single. Day.
To function or operate according to plan or design.
And there ya go. The real nuts and bolts. Design. Weren’t we created by the Great Designer specifically for this work? It’s not the sole significance of our existence, but weren’t we created with that intention?
As primary caretakers, we assume the role of teacher, cook, nurse, care-taker, day-care worker, personal shopper, and bus driver. These jobs, if done for other people, are valued and salaried, yet are disparaged if accomplished for no remuneration by a mom staying at home.
Let us begin to acknowledge the value of the mothers who stay home and do all these jobs without getting paid.
Her work is the good work, too.