Thursday, May 3, 2012

Far More Precious Than Jewels

Today, the website posted their annual estimation of what a stay at home mom’s work is worth ( This number is based on average time spent per week on jobs such as laundry operator, facilities manager, housekeeper, cook, van driver, janitor, and psychologist. The study calculated a base salary of about $37,000 for the first 40 hours, plus roughly 55 hours of overtime pay at about $76,000, for a grand total of $113,000. According to a radio interview I heard about the study, this number is a national average so, adjusted for the Boston area (where I live), what I do is worth around $120,000 dollars a year.

Now, I don’t deny that’s a nice, fat paycheck, and I certainly wouldn’t complain if someone offered to pay me that amount. But I do beg to differ at the article’s definition of “worth.” Being a stay-at-home parent cannot be defined simply by monetary worth. And this is a job description that is, by far, so much greater than the sum of its parts.

The time I spend as a day care teacher is worth about $9,500 of my salary. But hearing my son use words like “humongous” and “actually,” or count to twenty, or point out letters that he knows, to me, is priceless. Actually being there to see my daughter stand without support for the first time instead of getting a report about it from someone else is priceless.

The time I spend cooking for my family is worth nearly $10,000 of my salary. But cutting sandwiches into gingerbread men, letting my son be my sous chef when I bake cornbread, and watching my daughter’s funny expression as she tastes a piece of something I just made and rolls it around in her mouth is priceless. Being able to tailor my menus to the tastes of the people in my own family is priceless. Watching my children grow strong and healthy on the food I prepare for them is priceless.

The time I spend driving my son around to things like gymnastics and church and the playground is worth $6,000. And the time I spend as a psychologist is worth nearly $15,000. But the value of just getting to talk to him – and, more importantly, to listen to him – is immeasurable. Discovering how and what he thinks about the world around him has a value that cannot be calculated in dollars and cents.

And let’s not forget that, as with all jobs, there are always “other duties as assigned.” How about nurse, when the baby is running a fever of 102 and the preschooler is coughing up a lung in the middle of the night? Or conflict mediator, when both kids are determined to play with the same toy at the same time? Fashion consultant, photographer, travel agent, personal shopper, manicurist, hairdresser – there are truly too many components to list.

It’s nice that someone has calculated a tangible, numerical value for my job, something that in some way recognizes and attempts to validate what I do every day. But I know, and my family knows, that what I do, and what all stay at home parents do, is worth far more than can be defined by a paycheck.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.

- Excerpted from Proverbs 31

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