Friday, October 14, 2011

Pipe Down, Moms - You're Already on the Payroll


Every once in awhile it rises to the surface again - the idea that moms should be paid, or at the minimum that were they paid, they would earn in the six figures, based on everything they do and all the hours they put in.  These types of assessments are uplifting and empowering to moms, who feel overworked and undervalued and who, I suspect, are coming to grips with the harsh reality that the cost/benefit analysis of being a mom is slanted severely against their favor.

The most recent exhaltation of maternal worth comes from Wendy Luhabe, an influential South African business woman, who has taken it upon herself to publicly declare that mothers should be paid a salary equal to 10% of their husbands' income, to stay at home with their kids.  You can read the article here (thank you to Cameron for sending me the link), but in summary, these are her arguments:

1.  Paying moms a salary makes them feel valued, and therefore makes the choice to have children one which is free of resentment.

2.  Motherhood is the most important contribution to the world and should therefore be valued.  Since money is the currency used to demonstrate value, mothers should be paid 10% of their husband's earnings.

3.  Women who choose to have children need support so that they can do so joyfully and not dump their children on nannies.

4.  Creating a society where children are brought up properly by their mothers will create a much more stable and healthy society.

I cannot speak specifically to the value of motherhood in South Africa, but let me address Ms. Luhabe's arguments from an American perspective.

1.  In America, as in most cultures, motherhood is not only valued, it is seen as as woman's ultimate achievement and the pinacle of her existence.  In fact, in most cases, womanhood is equated with motherhood, so that women who cannot (or choose not to be) mothers are pitied, judged and made to feel that they are deficient, unwhole and unfeminine.  If anyone has cause for feelings of resentment, it is the childless and childfree women, who are seen as much less than their maternal counterparts.

How is motherhood valued?  Let us count the ways.  Women are encouraged to have children.  The moment a woman announces her pregnancy, lavish praise and celebration is heaped upon her.  She instantly becomes the center of attention wherever she goes.  She is repeatedly told how beautiful, glowing and radiant she is.  Parties and thrown and gifts are showered upon her. 

Once the child is born, she enters into the Mommy Club in which she has a ready circle of supportive friends who all validate her very existence.   Adding a child to her family also bestows a number of financial benefits on the mom, not available to those without kids.  She gets a substantial tax break on her income tax bill.  She gets to fully utilize her local property taxes by using the public school system.  She gets special treatment and discounts from businesses who go out of their way to be "family-friendly".  If she lives in suburbia, her family can take advantage of any number of activities and events that are geared toward families with kids, while those without kids are unlikely to find many (if any) activities geared toward them.

And let's not forget the most important "pay" a mom receives - the joy of having a child.  After all, women do not have children to selflessly contribute to the world.  They have them for all the joy, love and personal satisfaction they believe they will get from the experience.   Women who argue that they should be paid a salary to have kids are unknowingly admitting that the joy and satisfaction they enjoy from having children isn't enough to make the drudgery worth it - which, by the way, is the same argument I have been advancing in this blog from day one.

2.  Being that the world is overpopulated, and there are already far more people on earth than the planet can sustain, I would have to disagree with the persistent message that motherhood is the most important contribution to the world.  In fact, I would argue that what we need is a reduction in the number of women breeding.  We need to encourage people to take care of the people already populating our world, instead of adding more destructive, polluting consumers to a planet teetering on the verge of extinction.  Instead of paying women to be stay-at-home mothers, let's pay people to make meaningful, worthwhile contributions to the world that actually benefit everybody and the planet itself - for example, adoption, working to end poverty and homelessness, environmental activism...and the list goes on.  Breeding is not a positive contribution to the world.  It is a destructive detriment and it should most certainly not be rewarded with monetary compensation.  In fact, I will go farther and argue that those who breed should be heavily fined, with the money raised by said fines going to people and organizations which better the world.

3.  See my reply in #1 above.  Women already receive an abundance of validation, support and financial incentives to have children. 

4.  While I agree that it is important for children to be brought up properly in stable households, there are many stay-at-home moms who have no parenting skills and no business raising children.  It is not a given that all mothers are saintly, benevolent beings and that the best environment for a child is at home with his mother.  Almost every day, in my travels to and from work, during my visits to the bank and supermarkets, I witness first-hand mothers who treat their children with an intensity of seething hostility that I would not wish heaped upon a convicted felon.  Many of these women are stay-at-home moms who are boiling over with resentment, exhaustion and frustration (and I am sure regret) from the spawn they are saddled with.

Finally, a message to would-be moms.  I have said this before, and I will say it again:  If you don't like the idea of a job with endless work, sleepless nights, non-stop crying and screaming, financial strain, endless hours of overtime and no pay, it's very simple:  don't have kids.  Nobody is putting a gun to your head.  You can choose to do something different.  And ladies, if you do decide to have kids, do us all a favor and don't come back later complaining that you are saddled with endless work, sleepless nights, non-stop crying and screaming, financial strain, endless hours of overtime and no pay.  You knew what the job entailed when you accepted it, so if you are resentful about the choice you made, suck it up and accept that you'll be living with that resentment for a long time. 

And please, don't ask for a salary.

30 comments:

Teena in Toronto said...

Who is going to pay the salary? My taxes? No way!

* Valerie * said...

PERFECT RESPONSE!

SylDLucas said...

"Women who argue that they should be paid a salary to have kids are unknowingly admitting that the joy and satisfaction they enjoy from having children isn't enough to make the drudgery worth it." That should be on a T-shirt or a protest sign, or something.

Dave said...

Besides the very thorough analysis you made, a few other things irk me about these so-called "salaries" moms should receive.

(1) Many of these tasks had to be done even before these women became moms. That is, they are everyday tasks or chores everyone has to do, with or without children. So we can eliminate jobs such as cook, janitor, housekeeper, laundry machine operator, and computer operator.

(2) Some of the jobs require professional certification, education, and/or licensing. Driving your kids around to soccer practice or ballet lessons does not equate to being paid like a licensed limo driver. Calming your crying child down does not equate to being paid like a psychologist. Running a household does not equate to being paid like a CEO of a company or a facilities manager. Helping your kids out with their homework does not equate to the salary of a teacher.

So, what is left when you discount for these things? Not much, if anything.

Then remember to deduct the extra income a household gets when a child is added to the mix, mainly but not limited to through the tax code (as you pointed out already).

Hilary said...

As a CF teacher, I'm clearly biased here, and again, can't comment on the South African experience, but from ages 5-18, these kids are, in all likelihood, at school. (Unless they're homeschooled, which is a whole 'nother blog post.)Yes, the years from 0-5 are super important, and the hours from 3pm- bedtime are, too, but we should be paying teachers (and support staff, custodians, librarians, etc.) more instead. Sure, we could choose other careers, but someone has to teach all these children for thirteen years of their lives. Ugh. Paying mothers. Insane.

Laura said...

I think it's rather bizarre that she thinks part of the husband's salary should be forked over to the wife. I am a stay-at-home mom and homeschooler to my two 4th graders. My husband works full time outside the home. There has never been a distinction between "his" and "hers" in our marriage when it comes to income. We each have our jobs that we agreed to together, and the income belongs to both of us. We both work hard at our respective jobs and neither one of us would ever feel that either one of us deserves the income more, or that it should be divided between us. That's just really really weird sounding to me. Of course I'm looking at this from the perspective of an American woman whose husband deeply values her work in the home. I have no idea what it's like in south africa, or how women are treated there. Perhaps from their perspective it seems legit. I do suspect though that women are not valued there as well as American women are valued here.

Temujin said...

I couldn't tell from the article who's supposed to pay this money -- the husband? (She uses the word "husband" to mean "father," I noticed.) Her employer before she quit to have a kid? The government, and therefore the taxpayers?

Mostly I have a problem with a flat rate for it. I don't like the fact that it's completely independent of the QUALITY of the work that you do as a mother. You get paid the same whether you're an attentive parent or not? You get paid just because you have crotchfruit? And, it means that you get paid more for marrying rich than for marrying poor, independent of how hard the work is. That hardly seems fair.

An interesting question is whether children really are always worse off being raised by nannies as opposed to their biological mothers. I know a few cases where ANYONE would have been better than the birth mother.

I think that raising children is an often underappreciated job. No question. BUT, that doesn't mean that EVERYONE raising children is underappreciated or entitled to more. Some people do a great job at it, others do a miserable job.

In some ways, 10% seems pretty low if we look at it in terms of divorce settlements. I know a lot of men would love it if their child support payments were only 10% of their salary....

I'm a teacher. This reminds me of the lip service that people give about teacher pay. "Of COURSE teachers are underpaid and it's a shame that they make so little. We should do something about that. You want me to pay for it? No, ask somebody else."

Temujin said...

A good index of what mothers see as the true value of childrearing is the wages that they pay their nannies and babysitters. If mothers really valued the job, they wouldn't pay their babysitters 10 bucks an hour. You can't have it both ways -- your work is priceless, but when someone else does it they should get low wages for it?

Spectra said...

I don't get it--women bitch about not being paid for being a mom, but you never hear men complaining that they aren't getting paid for being a dad. Either way, women who stay at home with their kids get "paid" by not having to go to work every day at an office and having their husband/spouse/partner take care of them. There are plenty of women who have kids who go to work and take care of their kids when they get home. Hey, if you can't afford to stay at home with your kids and are complaining about having to work outside the home, you shouldn't have had kids. Birth control DOES exist, you know.

Childfreeeee said...

You guys all make some really good points. There are so many things wrong with the concept of paying moms, that it's enough to make one's head explode!

CFVixen said...

Such excellent points made in this blog posts and the comments. I just wish the chick from South Africa could read this. I'd love to see her response.

amanda nicholas said...

Will you do a post on what having a child does to your body? thanks :)

Happily CF said...

WHO, exactly, should be paying this salary?

And, um.... I'm pretty sure that mothers already essentially get far more than 10% of their husband's salary... it's not like most guys are spending it on their toys and secret vacation homes and mistresses (well maybe) and not bringing most of it home to support the family, which includes the wife.

The 10% figure is amusingly low compared to all these other ridiculous six-figure calculations, though. Even if one's husband makes a decent salary, let's say $100,000, that's only $10,000. Most of the calculations drive me crazy - the worst at those that add full-time salaries together, as if the mother is at once cleaning lady full-time, teacher full-time, accountant full-time, doctor full-time, etc., rather than breaking down their time into the hours spent doing each of those things. And, nevermind the fact that they're not ACTUALLY performing the same work at the same skill level that a professional would be doing... and nevermind the fact that they're CHOOSING to leave the work world and do this. It would be one thing if we lived in a country where women were oppressed and had no other options. That's not the case here. These are women who take on a responsibility, meet it (we hope) and then realize they have lost their sense of self-worth, despite claiming it's the most rewarding job ever.

I'm pretty sure they actually ARE paid in the form of tax credits per child, too.

Sarah Giggar said...

Thank you so much for your blog!
People act like there is something wrong with me
because I don't want children...I think there is something wrong with then because they DO! Nice to know I'm not alone in my thinking!

shell said...

I'm a retired teacher and I thought [ years ago ] we should pay women NOT to have kids. Plenty of women are not fit to be mothers - I saw this firsthand when I was teaching. If we paid women a certain amount each month they were NOT pregnant, I bet the taxpayers would be saving money. There would be fewer kids born who were not wanted, the crime rate would go down etc.

Jan said...

Don't feel sorry for us moms (in response to comments I've seen on other articles on this site). keep in mind that you will find just as many tortured souls lamenting that fact that they are lonely and childless! There will always be some people who are not happy with their choices! That's life. Yes, raising children is hard work but of course any endeavour that is rewarding takes a lot of effort such as running a marathon, studying for professional examinations or being a top business executive. Lots of parents do think it is well worth it!! p.s. it's not nearly as bad as some of the parenting stories you have found - obviously you are showing the worst! Some parents find it easy enough! Beautiful, loving children - I'm happy with my decision.

munin_and_hugin said...

Thought I'd point out this article to you stating the ridiculous notion that having children makes you look *younger* based solely on Sharon Stone looking fabulous. The author seems not to realize that she happens to earn quite a lot of money, have access to people to care for her child, personal trainer/s at her beck and call, as well as the funds for plastic surgery.

Direct quote "I believe that taking care of children keeps older adults younger. Certainly, the men and women I know in their 50s who have young children are, in general, far more active than their counterparts who don't." Riiiiight.

Link: http://thestir.cafemom.com/beauty_style/127103/53yearold_sharon_stone_wows_in&utm_medium=sem2&utm_campaign=outbrain&utm_source=outbrain&utm_content=outbrain

Miakat said...

It was THIS part of her interview that got me...
"I just think that we need to create an environment that allows women to make the choices that they want to make. If women choose to have children, they must be able to have the support structure that they require to do that joyfully..."

Are you fucking kidding me lady? Have you any idea how many millions of people in the world would kill for your freedom? How many children currently growing up in slums, war zones, in countries with starvation and famine and disease? And you think the best use of this money is to pay women to make MORE people??

Makes me sick.

Harvey Requiem said...

Very few childfree women regret their conscious decision not to breed. Those "tortured souls" tend to be childless women (ie: those who actually wanted kids and were unable to have them). The fact is that more thought tends to go into not having kids than tends to go into having kids in the majority of cases, and when you make an active and conscious decision to do or not do something, you're less likely to regret it. Very few childfree women look at these harried maternal souls, bereft of money, sleep, time, autonomy, and any semblence of individual aspirations and paid only in smiles, and then later see many of them rotting alone as their kids abandon them and think "Oh, what a mistake I've made in choosing not to have kids!"

As for being lonely, most childfree people are not lonely because they cultivate other relationships in life outside of those one cultivates within a child-centered existence. On the other hand, many people who had children are very lonely in their old age as the children abandon them to their old age homes and whatnot, leaving them to die in a squalor that only exists because that person spent their retirement on those ungrateful brats. Speaking of being tortured, how's that for torture? The childfree have an easier time saving and planning for a comfortable and happy old age because they're not spending it all on their kids.

My sister worked in an old age home doing laundry and was perpetually disgusted at how these people would live and die there, lonely and miserable, only to have their negligent children arrive after their death with their hands out, looking for an inheritance and not particularly upset at their mother's or father's lonely and miserable final existence. (She was disgusted at the kids, not the elderly whom she liked very much and cried when they died. She was very indignant at how these people treated their parents.) There is nothing in having children that guarantees that you will never be lonely and there is nothing in being childfree that guarantees you will. Just because you had kids so they would be there, take care of you or keep you company in old age doesn't mean they actually will choose to do so.

Basically, the idea of the childfree being lonely and tortured is and has always been a complete myth. Yes, there will always be people who regret their decisions, but unfortunately having kids is not a decision for most people much less a well-considered decision, one needing no reason or prior thought, and it is something that is never questioned and always celebrated whereas a well-considered decision not to have kids is always or almost always met with disdain, personal offense, demands for justification, unsolicited psychological analysis (what is wrong with you?), and other such insulting behavior. I believe that at some point they wanted to regard the lack of desire for children in a woman as an official mental disorder--I think Firecraker Mandy covered it somewhere on this site. When that happens for people who want kids, we can talk about equivalence, as we can when most people make as careful and well-thought decisions to actually have kids as the childfree do to not have them.

Amy said...

Glad you're happy with your decision Jan but this is a CF blog. It's one of the few places we CF folks can share our thoughts with like-minded people and I for one don't appreciate you coming here to shove your opinion down our throats. Seems like you have some insecurity issues if you feel the need to come to a CF site to justify your own life choices.

Triple M said...

What about the people who have to quit their jobs to take care of an ill loved one? Do they get a salary? The volunteers of the world who drop their lives to help those of others and the environment. Do they get a salary? No...mothers are no exception and they need no special treatment.

Dogsledder said...

Jan said:
"you will find just as many tortured souls lamenting that fact that they are lonely and childless!"
Yes, there are tortured souls who are suffering because they are childless- they are people who want children and for whatever reason cannot have them. I, and many like me, made a CHOICE not to have children- therefore we are "childfree". There are plenty of websites for regretful moms to bemoan their fate- I challange you to find one for the regretful childfree.

Trisha R said...

Wow - do I wish you worked in my office or were my next door neighbor. I agree with everything you said, and I am
shocked every day to see that hardly anyone else in the world does.

Dave said...

Dogsledder, thank you for your great reply to Jan. You beat me to it which is just fine with me. :)

I, too, have looked around for any message boards from childFREE (not childLESS) people who regret that lifestyle choice and I could not find any at all. Not one. But there is no shortage of websites for regretful parents who wish they never had kids.

Just remember, Jan, we childFREE see nothing positive in having kids of our own, only negatives. Or, any positives we see in kids can be obtained in other ways, perhaps on a limited basis, without all the negatives in having kids of our own. A few quick examples of this are being an aunt or uncle to our sibling's kids and doing volunteer work with kids to get our "kid fix" when we like.

Miakat said...

Harvey Requiem, you are so right.

There is a truly hideous article in Australian Madison magazine out this month along those lines. It uses the line "childfree by choice" on the cover but then once you open the actual article you see three women interviewed, NONE OF WHOM ARE CHILDFREE BY CHOICE!! It's two women with kids, and one woman who desperately wanted them and didn't meet the right man, obviously because she is a condescending bitch with no redeeming features.

Anyway, not only do they spurt tired bingoes about the purpose of a woman's life being to procreate, and how your whole life as a woman is just leading up to having kids etc, but they are all horribly judgemental when asked about women who CHOOSE to be childfree. One woman questions if women like that even exist, and the other says she'd love to talk to them later on in life when the option is no longer there and see how they feel about their decision then. Lady, there are thousands of women out there post-menopause who are happier than ever with their choice. You could have met and interviewed some of them, if you had tried ACTUAL JOURNALISM.

It makes me so mad.

Childfreeeee said...

I would like to address Jan's question of why this blog focuses on the downside of parenting, instead of being solely about promoting the childfree lifestyle. It is a good question and one which I am delighted to answer.

One of the stated purposes of this blog is "to expose the unreasonable pro-parent, pro-child, pro-family bent of our culture (pronatalism) which glorifies parenthood and misleads many unsuspecting, unthinking people into a life that may not be best suited to them; and third, to critically examine parenthood and give it the honest treatment it does not get in our child/family-obsessed culture".

It is my opinion that the glorification of parenthood in our culture is a dangeous thing and there is not enough truthful information about parenthood out there, for people who are considering having children. People (esp. women) are beaten over the head from the time they are children with relentless messages that parenthood is the most important and most rewarding role in life and that our lives will be empty, deficient and regretful without children. Yet, the truth is that there are MANY unhappy and regretful parents (particularly moms) who now - through the anonymity afforded them by the internet - are coming forward in droves to tell their unhappy stories. Many of them say they made a mistake by having kids and wish they could go back in time and undo that decision. I've even had a number of mothers admit to me in person that if they could do it again, they wouldn't have kids.

YET, one would be hard-pressed to find similar stories of unhappiness and regret from childfree people.

This fact flies in the face of the messages we are fed about the joy of parenthood and the emptiness and regretful life of the childfree. The truth needs to be told.

It also bears mentioning that this blog is written for the childfree, and those contemplating the childfree lifestyle. It is not written for parents, although I am happy to have parent readers.

I guess that begs the question of why a parent who is offended by the approach of this blog, is an active reader. What draws you to this blog? What brought you here and why do you return?

Happily CF said...

If I could "like" Triple M's comment, I would.

And I would just like to echo that almost every childless person who regrets the decision to not have children is one who wanted children, and then couldn't or didn't have them, for whatever reason... infertility, didn't find the right partner, waited too long, etc.. People who make a conscious and considered decision to not have children rarely regret it. That said, I'm sure there must be SOME person who is very, very clear about not wanting children, and who gets to be old and alone and regrets it. It would be ridiculous to think NO ONE EVER regrets such a decision. However, I would venture to guess that FAR FEWER childfree people regret the decision than do parents. First, people who make a conscious decision not to have children have made a CONSCIOUS decision. They have thought about it. Plenty of people become parents without giving it any thought whatsoever. Others give it some thought, but aren't aware of the reality of it. They get married, (or not) and having children is just what's "supposed to happen." And still others, of course, LOVE being parents and find it fulfilling. Of course there are people like that, and the world is better for them. But, the world is also better for those who choose not to breed, and give attention to people who already exist who need help.

Now, back to something somewhat related to this post... there was an advertisement for business cards on my Gmail login page. One of the examples of a card was a "Mommy card." Yup, that's right. You include your name, and your title is "Mommy to [Little Angel 1] and [Little Angel 2]."

SERIOUSLY? Is this how mothers validate themselves? WHO would they be giving these cards to? Are the people who would buy these cards the same people who get vanity plates with things like "MOM2JON"?

Miakat said...

@Jan - I've found many older people who are tortured, lonely, childless souls are actually people who have had biological children. Just because you gave birth doesn't necessarily mean those children will look after you in old age or even speak to you.

Just a thought, before you get too smug.

Maria said...

apart from the good points raised so far:
10% of her husband income... hmmmm, what about non married couples who have children, what about gay couples and what about a potential divorce?

TurboFerret said...

Hey I am a childress individual and so far am not planning to have any(just for the notice). Well, having read a couple of your posts I do find most of them valid, But I do not agree with the idea of people not having kids to reduce world`s population. Well the problem in this otherwize valid argument is that the amount of children above the natural replacement limit which is 2.1 (at least in European countries) replacing the parents after they die, is being had by parents who usually do not give a damn about overpopulation or are unaware, pressured by culture, peers or otherwize to have many children. Examples would be India and Traditional Arab countries. They produce most people, in developed countries local population is mainly being replaced by immigration from these human-producing countries.
To sum up this trivia - the input of people who consciously not have children in order to save world from overpopulation is not really significant on a background of some families which have at least 7 kids in average.