I’ve been a mother for eleven years. Over that time I’ve been a nanny, a maid, and an executive. I’ve tutored GED students and proctored MCATs. I’ve also spent a majority of those years physically disabled and unemployed. I have always worked though.
Parenting is a verb, an action, work. It is effort, mental, physical, emotional effort. It calls for endless patience and compassion in the face of bold lies and someone else’s excrement. A parent is a nurse, a teacher, a drill seargant and judge, and must choose the right hat for each moment as they come.
There’s a strong cultural habit of bifurcating the realities of employed and unemployed custodial mothers as either working or not working. This erasure of motherhood as work is damaging for all mothers, and for caretaking fathers as well. Parenting is work. Parents who are not paid for their labor are still working. They’re just not paid.
This false dichotomy allows the culture to exploit women; if unemployed mothers are “not working” what on earth should they be paid for? That the majority of housekeeping and childcare falls to women even when both parents are employed is no accident. It’s unpaid work, therefore not called work, therefore it’s women’s work. (Things are generally more equitable in same gender partnerships, although there is much less data to compare. To my knowledge no one is studying non binary people and gendered work.)
Parenting is work. Maintaining a clean home in defiance of a toddler is work. Meeting the constant physical, emotional, and educational needs of children is hard work. Carrying an infant, carrier, and diaper bag while running errands is hard work. None of it’s easy, and hiring help isn’t cheap. In fact, childcare has gotten so expensive it carries a heftier price tag than college in most American major cities.
There are more mothers unpaid now than there have been since the 1960s, as the prohibitive costs of childcare keep many unable to afford returning to the paid workforce. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of parents (overwhelmingly mothers) are barred from paid work, and unpaid for the work they do. This is a major problem that will mean sexist ideas are preserved for the next generation.
Stay at home moms ARE working moms. All moms are. Mothering is work. It should be paid.
If you’d like to pay me, for my parenting or my writing, become a patron today.