The Value of the Stay-at-Home Workforce

Cartoon © Phillip Martin

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 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…

Will you Quit Facebook?

CBC News informed us today that more than 27,000 people have pledged to Quit Facebook. These people are concerned about how Facebook manages their personal data.

facs_neighborsI thought I had all my privacy settings adjusted such that my personal data could only be viewed by my friends. Then, Facebook initiated Community Pages, and all of a sudden all my profile information was linked to pages that I hadn’t authorized. Sure, I like watching NCIS, and I had put that in my profile. But now I was getting updates about the NCIS TV show arriving on my home page. Of more concern, had I become one of the almost 3 million people whose face would appear as a fan on NCIS Facebook? I would hope not, but I still didn’t want my home page filling up with unsolicitated reports – I get enough stuff from my friends. So I did the most logical thing I could think of. I erased everything from my profile page.

The QuipperyIt was like spring housecleaning, but a lot easier. Is the information gone for good? Probably not. Information in cyberspace is sort of like dust. You can clean dust out of a room with your duster or vacuum, but you haven’t destroyed it. You have just put it somewhere else. Information that you upload onto the internet is much the same. You  can erase it from one place, but there is a good possibility that a copy of it exists in another place.

The lesson here is – if you use the internet at all, do not expect privacy. Express yourself accordingly.