Measuring Motherhood

What is motherhood really worth?

If you’ve been on Facebook around Mother’s Day, or spent any time at all reading mom blogs, you’ll have seen numerous articles about how much real money a mom is worth. You know the ones. They add up the yearly wages of chauffeur, chef, daycare provider, psychologist, nurse, etc., and that’s how much you’re really worth, Mom! This past Mother’s Day, there was a very sneaky bit of advertising wrapped up in a video about how motherhood is “the hardest job in the world” and pays nothing. Nothing at all. (And now that you’re feeling guilty, kids, you need to fork over your whole allowance to buy an amazing gift for that completely unappreciated mom in your life!)

Eh. Maybe motherhood is that hard, maybe it isn’t. What I’m more concerned about is what it says about our society that we mothers so need our value to be defined in dollars and cents and hours “worked” that, instead of being ignored as the irrelevancies that they are, these things get passed around like a cold virus in a mid-winter Sunday School class. These articles, infographics, and videos all play to our desire to be appreciated, not by our own immediate families, but by the Joneses.  It’s not our children or husbands that we’re aiming at when we repost these things. We know they love us. We know they know how much they need us. It’s distant relatives, friends, and even strangers that we’re trying to convince. We look at the wider world and beg “Please, appreciate us! Look how much we do! Look how much money we’re worth!”

What motivates you as a mother? I can tell you what motivates me, and it’s the blossoming of my children under my care. I know I’m not alone in that. Nobody really measures that relationship in cash. It’s when we turn our faces from the people who make us mothers, and stare into the faces of strangers that we suddenly we feel the need to justify ourselves in terms of dollars and cents.

If we had any sense of our own real value, we’d find these memes insulting, not inspiring.

Think about it for a moment. Is a prostitute more valuable to a john than you are to your own husband, just because money changes hands? Do you measure that intimate relationship in terms of dollars per transaction? No? Then why try to measure something as priceless as motherhood in currency? Why do we think that being able to put a dollar amount on those things we do makes us seem more valuable, rather than less? All of the things that we can pay–are, in fact, encouraged to pay–other people to do for our children do not add up to our true worth. There is an insidious strain of thought in our culture that serves to separate us from our most important work–that of raising our children–by making all other jobs but motherhood out to be fairly compensated. If you cheapen motherhood, you cheapen the people mothers serve, as well, and the Enemy knows that quite well, so he does everything he can to make mothers look elsewhere for their sense of self-worth.

If you’ve been here for a while, or if you’ve read my ebook, you’ll be familiar with my story about the second grade teacher who taught me that “mother” is not something worth aspiring to. I suspect that the reason we’re all so desperate to prove our cash value is that, like little Cindy long ago, we’ve been taught that the only way to be a grown-up is to bring home a paycheck. Further, I suspect that the reason we’ve been taught that a paycheck equates to usefulness, and the reason that government schools love feminism so much, is because government schools are tax-supported, and you can’t tax mere motherhood. You can only tax income.

And so, from our earliest grade-school lessons, income has become the only value we know how to assign people.

The trouble with the dollar value model of measuring motherhood is that you can’t pay a chauffeur to have a heart-to-heart in the car about the way the rest of the girls treated your daughter after dance class. You can’t pay a daycare worker to look lovingly into your baby’s eyes and tell him he’s still loved while she cleans up the accident that so embarrassed him. You can’t pay a housekeeper to pray over the people to whom the house she’s cleaning belongs.

You can pay people to do the physical act of care-giving, but you can’t pay people to love your children while they do it.

We women have outsourced so much of our physical labor, and not just as mothers, but as daughters, neighbors, and church family, that society has lost its understanding of our spiritual value as care-givers. Most people in our culture in this neglected generation haven’t often felt the difference between care administered for pay and care administered out of love and concern for the well-being of the recipient. We’ve gotten used to being “served” in any number of intimate ways by people who don’t really care a hill of beans about our spiritual condition. But we are people, not machines. We need to be served, not serviced. On a gut level it will always matter to our children whether the people around them would still care if they weren’t paid to.

Motherhood isn’t cheap. It costs us everything we have sometimes, doesn’t it? But it is free! And we do ourselves no favor when we encourage others to view it as a merely financial transaction. To assign a dollar value to what we give daily as mothers only cheapens the relationship. It’s time we reject these cheap, manipulative demands for cultural validation and instead learn to respect the sanctity of our unpaid, often difficult, even lonely, but indispensable and invaluable private duties to our families.

Responses:

  1. Being sinful creatures – makes anything worth dying for hard. Yes – we have to die to ourselves to serve as Christ. It’s a beautiful thing – this being a Mom. You can’t possibly put a dollar sign to it and once you do, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Being a Mom isn’t about being the best, having the best: car, house, organization, crafts, fun – or the best kids – it’s about raising them for God’s glory. It’s either about Him or about you…when it’s about you, it’s only selfish reasons and contentment / joy will never be found.

    I am so blessed to call you friend. This journey requires others and their support to keep us straight so when we fall off the path, a friend can get us back on.

  2. btw – my heart skipped a beat when I saw a ping back on my article….

  3. I appreciate that you think about these things in more than just a cursory, surface way. I missed this one on my own, but I agree with what you wrote. Thank you.

  4. I HATE those ‘motherhood is worth this many $$$$’ crap. First , I think the idea that one should be paid to raise their own child to be a ridiculous and insulting notion. (I’m looking at you advocates for required paid maternity leave!). Second, anyone who does motherhood for monetary benefit is not doing it right. We choose to stay at home and raise our babies because that is what is best for our families (I’ve done the working mom thing and it sucks) and if anyone feels I am less of a contributor to society bc of it, then I really don’t give a damn what they think.

    • LOL. Paid maternity leave is one of my soapbox topics. Unless your boss is the one that got you pregnant, it ain’t his problem. If he (or she or they) wants to be so kind, then that’s lovely, but supporting you while you recuperate and raise your youngins is the baby’s daddy’s job. Ah, marriage, what have we done to you?

      • LOVE THIS! Made me laugh and is so true :) xx
        Heidi

      • You know, I loved your original post but it was this comment that made me think all day yesterday. (That maternity leave as a concept is wrong).

        In my country (Australia) the government is trying to bring in government paid maternity leave (Um, that’s tax-payer funded maternity leave). I have been against this, but never given a thought to employer’s paying maternity leave.

        But this big spider-web picture emerged as I mulled it all over.
        When family duties are taken over by the state (or even employers), such as provision, schooling, child-care, even feeding the kids lunch, (How far does this list go on?) there are huge societal and individual consequences. Here are just some I’ve thought of.

        -The family isn’t pulling together to work and live together as families should- each contributing. (This is bad for families, perhaps not obviously to the average modern thinker- but it is.)
        -Loss of individual dignity for fathers and mothers. This is no longer the house that Jack built. It’s the house that Big Brother built.
        -Loss of identity for children. (Especially when they are sold rubbish in government schools.)
        -Overall increase in sense of entitlement in society and lessening of work ethic. (This is becoming a real problem in Australia.)
        -And probably most importantly, the government doesn’t hold one hand out with ‘free goodies’ without holding the other hand out wanting something from us (or putting into our back pocket and taxing the bajoobies out of us).

        None of this is probably new information to you Cindy, and I’ve thought of a lot of it before- but some of these pieces just clicked together today.

        Thanks, and I like what you do!

        • Amen, and amen! I sure hope a lot of people start putting those pieces together. :-)

  5. This was awesome. Thanks for this :)

  6. I just had to jump over here and tell you I <3 this and could not have said it better myself. Also glad I came to see other thoughtful commenters.

    • The comments are usually worth more than the post. ;-) Thanks for dropping by! I’m always happy to hear from you.

  7. Speaking as a husband and father, this article is fantastic! I especially appreciated this:

    “Think about it for a moment. Is a prostitute more valuable to a john than you are to your own husband, just because money changes hands? Do you measure that intimate relationship in terms of dollars per transaction? No? Then why try to measure something as priceless as motherhood in currency? Why do we think that being able to put a dollar amount on those things we do makes us seem more valuable, rather than less?”

    Let me offer a husband’s perspective: No, a prostitute is not more valuable to a john than my wife is to me.

    Father’s day is just around the corner. The same marketers that brought us that important message about the hardest unpaid job in the world are going to be selling their slick message about fatherhood in just a few days. Keep the principles of this post in mind. They are just as applicable to dads. Thanks for being a voice of reason in an insane world, Cindy.

    • The slick message about fatherhood is usually something along the lines of “Yeah, Dads are idiots who only fish and watch t.v., but we’re so glad you’re at least breathing, you testosterone-laden lump of do-nothing.” Sigh. They attack motherhood and fatherhood in such subtle ways.

  8. Wonderful post ! So glad you came back to write this!
    P.s. I agree about the paid maternity leave.

  9. Hi!
    So this line right here…
    “You can pay people to do the physical act of care-giving, but you can’t pay people to love your children while they do it.”…

    yeah, my hubby used to say ALL the time when his niece and nephew were in daycare, “Anybody can stick a bottle in a baby’s mouth, but not just anybody can love him/her like his Mama.”
    This is so true. This whole thing. If my worth and my work in this home were measured in terms of dollars, I would have quit a LONG time ago. There isn’t enough money in the WORLD to pay me for what I do and have been doing for 26+ years. A billion dollars would not cover it.
    And I am one of the blessed ones with a husband who works his tail off in the heat of summer and cold of winter to provide for us. He exposes himself to the worst of the elements, the worst of circumstances, all so I can teach these kids of ours how to love God, how to love each other, and to top it off, so we can do awesome things like spend the day at the beach while daddy is in somebody’s attic or under their house. That does not go unappreciated around here. Daddy hears nearly every single day a child thank God for how hard he works. No Hallmark card, nor the biggest best present in the world can make up for a child who hugs your neck and says “Thank you daddy for working so hard for me.”

    *stepping off soapbox now before I get in too deep.”

    • Yes, and believe me, I’ve got a Father’s Day post in my head, too. If I can just find the time to write it. It might be September by then, but I will write it.

      • Looking forward to the father’s day post, loved this one as well. Thank you for your eloquence on this matter. Trying to place monetary value on motherhood is as offensive as placing monetary value on my children’s lives. When did raising compassionate, strong, reasonable people who will touch so many lives in the world stop being a worthy contribution to our world? I also feel for the moms who must work to pay bills rather than spend that time with their family. I have done both. single working mom and now stay-at-home wife & mom. There is this internal struggle between doing something worthy in the workforce, contributing to society, and achieving personal accomplishment versus filling the needs of your child. When your kid only gets to see you a few hours of the day, it makes parenting harder and it must then become even more intentional because they still needs their mom, to love, to care, to comfort, to listen, to discipline, to serve. Parenting is then jammed, one whole day into 2 hrs time. It’s so hard. This is also true for all the families whose kids are in school all day.
        For all those moms who must work out of necessity, I admire their strength and perseverance to do for their child what I have all day to instill in them into just a few hours at the end of a long day. It’s the moms that work because they have somehow been convinced that a career is noteworthy just for the mere career’s sake, that I do not understand. Children need their mom more than she needs her career.
        Anyway, thanks again for speaking so clearly on the matter of value in our lives, and where mothering falls into the measure.

  10. My heart needed to hear that.
    Thank you.

  11. Thank you. You are spot on with this. The “toughest job in the world” video didn’t sit right with me, but I couldn’t articulate why and you just did that for me.

  12. I mean, really. Can you hear me whooping and hollering and applauding you from down here in GA? ;) I so love this. And, for what it’s worth, it dovetails so beautifully with some of the other things that the Lord has bringing out of the dark and yucky corners of my heart and having me pour light and truth into. So thank you for sharing your heart and being a channel for Truth.

  13. Cindy, thank you sooo much for this post. I wish your words were printed front page news on the biggest newspapers around the world. Ahhh! You have such a fantastic way with words, and my heart is deeply blessed by your writing of His Truths. God made an incredible thing when He made families…mommies and daddies doing what HE tells us to do, not what the world would like to convince us of. Thank you so much! I am without words for the gratitude I feel in finding like-minded folks who embrace God’s Truth unapologetically. Amen, sister!!! Keep blogging! :)

  14. I am so glad to see another post from you, Cindy! Thank you for sharing your heart for the truth, I really appreciated reading this! I will be sharing :)

    God bless you!

  15. Reminds me of those articles that talk about how it cost two hundred bajillion dollars to raise a child. First of all, that is a ridiculous amount, second, how do you put a price on a child?

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