Mothers Are Worth More to Society at Work Than at Home


That’s the fascinating revelation of this article by The New York Times, profiling “Teresa Maldonado, a 29-year-old mother of four who works as a waitress, and Nadine Barbosa, 38, the registered family day care provider whom the government pays to watch Ms. Maldonado’s children.”

Author Susan Dominus discovered that Maldonado is paid less to wait tables than Barbosa is to take care of Maldonado’s kids.  How does that work?  The city, state and federal government cover Barbosa’s salary through grants so that Maldonado can work.  Meaning, effectively, that U.S. society is rigged so that Maldonado is worth more to us as a worker than she is as a mother.  Is that good policy?

Dominus writes, “Clearly, the government values the work performed by Ms. Barbosa; but if Ms. Maldonado did it herself, the subsidies would disappear.”  Maldonado says, “I do find it ridiculous in certain senses how they force certain things on you.  I would like to someday stay at home and just take care of my family.”

Maldonado is unable to stay home and take care of her family because her husband is currently unemployed.  Her family might be eligible for welfare, but according to, “eligible clients receiving temporary cash assistance must engage in work activities.”  I’m not saying people should be paid to be unemployed for life, but it does strike me as odd that the government would rather see mothers like Maldonado keep waitressing jobs than raise their own children.  As anyone who has worked in the service industry at a corporate chain knows, while there is opportunity for advancement, often times restaurant managers make less in salary than servers do in tips.  In other words, Maldonado is at a dead-end job.

Barbosa, on the other hand, is in a position to gain from the situation.  “Originally an informal caregiver, she took classes and went through an elaborate state application process that made her a registered family day care provider and drastically increased her income.”  Dominus says, “Unlike Ms. Maldonado, Ms. Barbosa does see possibilities ahead paved by the arrangement, including perhaps running a day care center or two.”

What do you think?  Is Maldonado getting a raw deal?  Or is it, as my Dad used to say, that “them’s the breaks?”

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