In Our View: Giving Thanks for Mothers
Contributions of moms priceless, so let’s celebrate, not monetize or argue
Sunday, May 13, 2012
It has become common around this time every year to see media reports about how much a mother’s work is worth.She’s a protector, a provider, a counselor, a planner, and a fixer of broken items ranging from bicycles to hearts. Throw in occasional duties as chef and cleaner and chauffeur and reader of bedtime stories -- not to mention, for many, that pesky job outside the home -- and it’s true that a mother’s work is never done.
So, we see reports attempting to quantify the monetary worth of a mother’s household duties, with the results falling anywhere between $50,000 and $150,000. As if you could put a price on something that is priceless.
And while we pause today to celebrate Mother’s Day -- really, shouldn’t every day be an excuse to thank your mom? -- we bring forward an indisputable truth: Nobody accepted the job for the financial reward.
No, motherhood is an unpaid position, at least in terms of money. Imagine seeing a help-wanted ad that spelled all the duties required of motherhood followed by fine print listing the salary. Think anybody would apply for the position? Of course not.
Which leads to some interesting conundrums. For example, any political candidate -- or, more often, a candidate’s spouse -- who is asked about the subject insists that motherhood is “the hardest job in the world” or “the most important job in the world.” We don’t doubt the truth of those statements, even if we question the sincerity of the person making the proclamation.
But we do wonder why such statements aren’t taken more seriously. In a society in which people typically are defined by their jobs, by what they produce, by the tangible results of their daily efforts, why is motherhood often shunned? You rarely see obituaries listing “motherhood” as somebody’s lifelong profession.
And studies have demonstrated the difficulty that people who spend years in the profession of motherhood have in returning to the workforce. It’s not like “motherhood” is an eye-catcher on a résumé, although it should be when you consider all the aforementioned duties that come with the position. Surely, being able to balance the tasks associated with motherhood can prepare somebody for a career a little better than being familiar with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel.
The fact is that one of the catchphrases of modern society -- “working mother” -- is a redundancy. Any mother who cares -- and the vast majority of them do, regardless of the abhorrent stories that grab the media’s attention -- is working full-time whether or not that includes a job outside the home.
We have created a generation in which being a Superwoman is not only a possibility but an expectation. And there is no fashion in which that can be adequately repaid.
Sure, the advertisements might suggest that a fancy nightgown or $30-an-ounce perfume might be the perfect way to say “thanks” this Mother’s Day. In truth, no monetary gift could possibly be adequate. In truth, many moms say, what they really want is a simple “thanks” and a little free time. Or maybe a lot of free time. Or maybe a lot of free time to do something that they want to do on their schedule without interruption.
It’s not that Mom doesn’t enjoy the interruptions. They come with the job; she signed up for them, along with the heartbreaks and the chores and the bedtime stories. Goodness knows, she didn’t take the job for the money.