As Mother’s Day weekend commences, many are excitedly gearing up for the holiday; cards, flowers and gifts being bought, precious gifts made at school secreted away, brunch reservations made, all is being made ready for the special day. Some of us are celebrating, while others of us are grieving. Those of us left to celebrate Mother’s Day in quiet solitude have time on our hands to reflect, and to ask probing questions.
For some, a Mother is priceless, more precious than the finest gold, emeralds or rubies, and the mere thought of assigning a dollar value to her is not only abhorrent, it is aburd. I would agree; it IS absurd that we even have to go there in the first place.
But we do. In a world where Mothers have become increasinginly expendable, disposable, where Mothering work is seen as “less than”, those of us who are, or who have been, on the Mommy-track have faced a rude awakening, and forced to ask ourselves this very question.
“In 1979, a young attorney named Michael H. Minton successfully argued that a housewife was worth more than $40,000 a year. The public snorted and the press made fun, but the ramifications proved enormous. When the dust finally settled, the 33-year-old Chicago lawyer had catapulted matrimonial law into an entirely new arena.” What’s a Wife Worth? Michael Minton
But here we are in 2019 – 40 years later – and how far have we REALLY come? When the sheer enormity of the work of Mothering, and the importance of it, is still strategically devalued by some men, along with “father’s rights” attorneys and activists, who view divorce as a game of chess to be won at all costs? When society has bought into the false notion that a woman really can, and should have it all-all the time? When “men’s rights” and “father’s rights” become feel-good euphamisms for “screw the bitch” in divorce? Realizing, recognizing and documenting, not only the importance, but also the monetary value of Mothering work becomes even more fundamental and important.
Investing in the career of Motherhood is in direct conflict with our materialistic, superficial, money driven society. How many of us have heard a stay-at-home Mom say “I’m just a Mom”. Somehow, we’ve been sold this notion that being a Mom is not for “smart women, educated or high-value women.”
What Wife and Mother, giving her all for years, suddenly confronts this sad reality when facing terroristic, scorched earth, winner takes all divorce tactics, as well as the Federal Fatherhood Funding driving child custody decisions, hasn’t had a cold slap to the face, and the gut-wrenching realization that their work apparently had no value all along, unbeknownst to them. But Mothers are crying out: “No! There is indeed great economic value to the work I do!” Government’s Intentional Devaluation of Motherhood
Being a Surrogate Mother (becoming impregnated with someone else’s baby, going to doctor’s appointments, time off from work, giving birth, sometimes having a C-Section, medical after-care, then releasing the infant to the paying parents) has a going rate! Yes, there are wage calculations for the work of creating a human!
As someone who experienced “Morning Sickness”, or rather hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme, persistent nausea and vomiting during pregnancy) so severe that I had to be hospitalized and put on IV fluids, along with several other complications, the thought of assigning a dollar value to this physical sacrificing is shocking at best. But, here is a handy chart from one agency, West Coast Surrogacy. A summary of costs: Base Pay (Surrogacy and expenses) First-time $50,000; Experienced $60,000; Twins: ad $5,000; Triplets add $10,000; C-Section, add $3,000; compensation for lost wages-actual cost; additional medical problems-$10,000. Surrogate Mother Costs
Many of us have realized along our own divorce journey, that while Attorney Minton educated us all on the economic impact of a wife and mother’s work, that somehow we didn’t really get the message. We thought it was “progress” to pressure women to have it all, all the time, and it is “for their own good” that they now work full-time outside of the home and full-time when they come home, and if a husband “helps out” in his spare time, then it’s oh so wonderful that he “helps”. Statistics showing the distribution amongst the sexes of hours spent on home and parenting labor hasn’t really changed!
Many of us have also been confronted with the disturbing reality that women who can afford an attorney such as Michael Milton will come out of their divorce at least somewhat protected, without becoming impoverished, raked through the system, and children stolen. Sadly, we learned the old adage still holds true: you get the justice you can afford.
Especially for those doing, or having done, this immense Mothering work, we know the dedication, the exhaustion, the emotional and physical investment in a job that has no vacation days, no “off-duty” time, and that a Mother’s career typically takes a big hit. We have learned that we can spout all the feel-good rhetoric about shared or co-parenting we want, but the practical, day to day reality for most marriages, even today, is that Mothers still do the vast majority of parenting and housework.
But as is usually the case, if Mom has been the one expected to always take a day off for a sick child, has been the backbone of the house, while father focuses on building his career, and suddenly father and his divorce attorneys demand shared parenting, and in too many instances, erase Mom altogether, any thinking, rational person would question whether those motives arose from a sudden, personal epiphany on the importance of assuming a fair-share of parenting work (of course, after they built their career while their wife took up the slack), or is it something more calculated and self-serving.
But even with all of this ugliness, the dismissive attitude towards Mothers, and the fact that when a father fights for sole custody he wins 70% of the time, even in cases of well documented abuse, I still believe in Motherhood. I still believe in the great importance and the immense value of this career. If I were confronted with the same choice again, it wouldn’t change. I would still choose this exasperating, exhausting, undervalued, demanding, joyful, life-changing, unpaid career. I would still choose Motherhood.
So, on this Mother’s Day, to the Mothers out there falling asleep with your newborn on your chest with the deepest joy, I acknowledge you. To the Mother watching her child walk for the first time, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there with the flu while caring for the family, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there who think they’ll never get it right, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there working inside and outside the home, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there caring for children and aging parents at the same time, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there choosing to work inside the home, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there who have lost their children to death, I acknowledge you. To the Mothers out there who have lost their children to Domestic Violence by Proxy and Court Corruption, I acknowledge you. To all Mothers out there, I acknowledge you.
To the children out there celebrating with your Mother this Mother’s Day, I acknowledge you. To the children who have lost their Mothers to death, I acknowledge you. To the children living long distances from their Mothers, I acknowledge you. To the children out there separated from Mom at the border, I acknowledge you. To the children out there missing a Mom erased by family court, I acknowedge you. To the children out there wishing their Mother could have been better, I acknowledge you. To the children out there just beginning to appreciate your own Mother after having children of your own, I acknowledge you. To the children out there making their joyful school gift, I acknowledge you. To all children out there, I acknowledge you.