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I Want a "Mommy Salary"

Should women be given a salary for their work at home?

Forget the “push present,” I’d much rather get a paycheck that shows me my work in the house and with the children is not just valued by my husband, but that he realizes and acknowledges that my time spent raising our children is just as important as his working time. And that it is inherently valuable and worth being compensated.

And I’m not the only one. In an interview with CNN, Wendy Luhabe, Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg and an international thought leader, says that women who give up careers to stay home and raise their children should be paid a salary.

Luhabe suggests that allocating a salary equal to 10% of the woman’s husband’s income would help assuage the resentment that some women feel at having to make the choice to stay home and would give more value to bringing up children in our society.

I can attest from personal experience that it really does.

Back in the more fiscally happy times of 2005 , I convinced my husband that I would be a lot happier and satisfied at home if I was given a “stipend.” I had become convinced (real or imagined, they were my feelings at the time) that the source of my restlessness and dissatisfaction at home all stemmed from the awkward position of being so completely financially dependent on him and feeling like I needed to “account” for everything I purchased. I wanted to have some disposable cash that I could spend on myself, or anyone else, without feeling like I was depriving anyone else in the house of something they needed or that I would have to explain why I thought I had to have it.

When I received my first check, in the form of a special envelope tucked among the needles of our Christmas tree, it was truly one of the best presents I ever received. Not only was it a means to some financial freedom, it showed that my husband appreciated where I was coming from with the request and valued my contribution to the household more than a “thank you” – no matter how sincere – could ever show. I’d love to say I was above it, but… I’m not. Getting paid always makes work feel more valuable.

Maybe some women will find this idea crass, others might prefer the more traditional thank you present. De Beers’ has done a great job pounding the idea into our brains that really great men show appreciation for their wives with diamonds, after all. Well, both would be nice,… but I’ll settle on the money, thank you. Just enough to let me get a few things a year without having to run it through the budget-approval process that always seems to come down to the basic question: Is it something you want or is it something you need? A buzzkill question for anyone who has ever looked at a new laptop longingly, knowing that they could probably eke another year out of the old one.

Luhabe succinctly points out that “money is the currency that we use to define value of a contribution to the world,” and continues, “so why shouldn’t we do the same for the work of bringing up children, which I think is probably the most important contribution that the world should be valuing.” Luhabe takes the argument well past the resentment issue, though, by wrapping together the technology and social media revolution that is sweeping the world right now and the societal shift that could happen if the contributions of women properly bringing up children were recognized and fully understood to be the basis of a “much healthier society, a more stable society.”

Together, she says, it could be “an invitation for women to offer our experience, to offer our wisdom, to offer our leadership in a world that is riddled with moral bankruptcy… and provide leadership in a world that is desperate for some direction.”

I love her idealist view of a woman-run world, but that leaves the children in whose care, exactly? A whole lot of change needs to occur before we figure out all the world’s issues, but until then, I’ll be at home. Doing my best to raise healthy, happy children that can carry on the good fight. And spending some of my hard-earned “mommy money” to keep the economy afloat.

Photo Credit: © Pavel Losevsky – Fotolia.com

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