Putting a price on a mother’s love can land you in hot water

Being a parent is a full time job. Getty Images
Being a parent is a full time job. Getty Images

Being a mother has always been acknowledged as tough. Yet just last month, a survey by the parental website Motherly found 85 per cent of millennial mothers complaining that society doesn’t support them enough. It estimated if stay-at-home mothers were paid, their salary in the US would amount to $162,000. A separate poll by Campbell Soup Company found mothers spent 97 hours per week on parental tasks, carving the time out by losing out on sleep, date nights, hobbies and time with friends. They too estimated that if motherhood was a paid position, it would equate to a six-figure pay packet.

I’m drawn to such surveys, partly through solidarity and partly for validation for what I perceive to be my own existential struggle of modern-day motherhood. In Facebook groups and Whatsapp messages, I find myself talking to other mothers about the challenges and why it feels like so little has changed in terms of support for parents and mothers in particular, who are often the primary caregivers in families.

However, raising the idea that parenting can be measured in value, rather than just accepting the idea that it is done for love alone, can land mothers in hot water. Parents, it seems, should only expect to be paid in hugs and kisses from their little ones. Asking for their labour of love to be compensated can result in derision. It is probably why these conversations only happen in closed private groups.

Faryal Makhdoom Khan, the wife of boxing champion Amir Khan and mother of their two young children, recently joined the growing chorus of voices and posited that stay-at-home mothers are like the CEOs of their homes and the importance of the work they do is comparative to surgeons and lawyers. She went so far as to argue that they should be paid accordingly. She was criticised for her views and subjected to many personal slights as a result.

Whatever you think of Mrs Khan as a role model – and bearing in mind she has a millionaire husband and can afford home help – she raised an important point. What she experienced is quite common, as any conversation about the value of stay-at-home parents tends to be quickly derailed. Yet managing a household and raising children are actual tasks. It allows the parent who is not at home to go out and earn money and the family to function.

When a couple have children, the assumption is that they will shoulder the burden of whatever cost that entails. But the way society collectively shrugs its shoulders at the struggles families go through for their children totally overlooks the fact they will become the workforce, caregivers and politicians of the future. At the very least, we must acknowledge that today’s parents are carrying out an important function by bringing their children up to be responsible and socially aware. This is particularly crucial for us to bear in mind, given our ageing population and the need for a labour force not just to keep the economy going but also the service industry that will be looking after us in our old age.

Let’s be clear: suggesting what stay-at-home parents are worth is not asking for actual payment. It simply highlights the value they add and the reason why they should be supported. As women still carry out the burden of housework and childcare, it is part of a broader argument pointing to how much of society depends on women’s contributions.

We live in an age where divorce rates are rising, as is life expectancy. How do we deal with the issue of those who spend their working years caring for children, only to find themselves isolated, unsupported and redundant after a divorce?

You cannot put a price on a parent’s love but we could all do with acknowledging the practicalities of time, cost and struggle that it takes to raise a child.

Published: June 13, 2019 01:16 PM


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