My lifelong career has been a “Stay-at-Home Mom”. This came about for two reasons. The first was that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. The second was that my spousal unit and I decided that one of us would be home for the children. He had a better idea of what he was going to be, and what the potential was for his earning power. So he got to be the “Go-to-Work Dad”.
Staying at home would have been an easier choice if I had been living in my moms generation. But my generation was convinced that the road to liberation didn’t stop in a bungalow in suburbia. My generation wanted to be in the workforce. Many of them weren’t all that complimentary to the few of us who stayed “behind”. I was often asked by women what my career was. When I told them, their response was usually, “Oh, you don’t work.”
If I didn’t work, then what was I doing all day? Caring, cooking, cleaning, driving, advising, managing… well the list goes on and on. If I had been doing this work for someone else, I would have had a job and I would have been paid. But because I worked for my family, I didn’t work.
If I wasn’t working, was I playing? By definition, work is a trade, profession, or other means of livelihood. Play is an activity that exists only for its own sake. It is absorbing, voluntary, and pleasurable. It does not have goals or compulsions. No, I wasn’t playing all day long. Perhaps what I was doing was a Hobby. A Hobby is an activity done in spare time for pleasure and relaxation. A hobby can have goals and compulsions. No, I wasn’t doing hobbies all the time either. In reality, it was a combination of all three things, done in small blocks of time, in no predictable order. I didn’t always realize how lucky I was to have had the opportunity to have such a flexible definition of what was work, play and hobby.
My husbands career was a mobile one. We have moved 15 times and lived in 4 countries. I unpacked our belongings all 15 times. Some people hire someone to unpack their stuff, and someone else to put it where it looks best. When I unpacked, it was like a big game of hide and seek. Then it became an interesting exercise to put things where they would work to the best of their abilities in a house that was nothing like the one it had been bought for. Turning a house into a home… and then a patch of dirt into my yard – it was hard work, but not always work, if you know what I mean.
Apparently someone keeps track of what a stay-at-home mom would earn for her work, if she got paid for it. MSN reports that Salary.com calculated that in 2007, mom would have earned $138,095 for doing the typical tasks that a mom might do in a day: housekeeper, day care center teacher, cook, computer operator, laundry machine operator, janitor, facilities manager, van driver, CEO and psychologist. (Feel free to substitute stay-at-home dad here, because more and more men are taking on this role.)
I’m glad no one has figured out a way to actually pay stay-at-home moms what they are worth. The federal government would just figure out a way to tax it…