I’ve read so many articles about the veritable “mom salary” over the years, and I’m trying to get my bearings on why this hasn’t gotten any traction. I mean, seriously! We moms do it all! I’m not diminishing those hands-on dads or single dads, just telling a mom-type story.
I was a stay-at-home mom for many years when my kids were younger. That was a tough time financially, emotionally, and physically. I went back to work part-time when my youngest was in second grade, full-time when he was in fourth grade. Now he’s in 11th grade and here’s the deal. The mom salary should be real. The last five years of parenting have caused me to be more aware of the millions of roles we play, most of which I can’t even name. I love my children, but even as teens and young adults they can be so ungrateful. Is asking for a little compensation for our troubles too much to ask?
Moms Can Do It All
Lots of people have managed to successfully parent teenagers. I’d like to think I’m one of them, but honestly, the jury is still deliberating. There really isn’t a typical day in the life of a mom of teens. Daily I wake before the sun, as it’s the only chance I have all day to be alone and focus on me. Then I get to deal with all the helicoptering stuff before school. The “did you do your homework? Pack a lunch. Brush your teeth. Feed your creature. Start your car.” Those of you in the frozen tundra know what I’m talking about. I literally ask all of these in rapid-fire succession and get frustrated that something is always forgotten; all of this is assuming that my kid has, indeed, woken himself up. All the while I’m throwing in a load of laundry, re-loading the dishwasher since it wasn’t done right the first time, signing necessary school forms, replying to emails and texts, paying a few bills, turning out lights, putting the dogs away, and trying to make sure I don’t forget any of my own things for the day.
Then, I go to work, trying to do my job while thinking of the little things: Does he need to meet with his advisor? Why is his grade that low? Oh, he did well on that test! Why didn’t he tell me? I hope he’s not sitting alone at lunch. (He isn’t, but we all go there.) I need to add money to his lunch account. Did he pack a lunch? I told him to, didn’t I? Not my problem if he’s starving, unless of course there’s no money in his lunch account and he’s actually starving. Ugh. He needs new swim goggles. I love Amazon.
I return home to my enthusiastic and energetic dogs. At least someone is happy to see me, right? I let them out, and shut off the fan that was accidentally left on all day long. Feed the creature because that, too, was forgotten. Tackle more laundry for a bit, folding some of it. Kick a path through the kid’s room to put a pile of laundry on his bed that will remain there until eternity.
He comes home, throws his bag on the floor, coat and shoes, too. Eats a bowl of cereal and leaves his dishes in the sink again. Kid lays on his bed and watches YouTube videos until swim practice. Leaves for swim practice with a tornado effect, probably forgetting a towel or his goggles, I don’t even ask at this point. I make supper, often something small or simple, but sometimes it’s more of an event. We eat said supper, then I clean up the dishes and kitchen. I attempt to watch Jeopardy or do some never-ending laundry, but once I sit on the couch, getting back up is just exhausting. I’m better off not sitting, but to continue with the doing.
He returns from practice, mumbles a “fine” response when I ask about practice and proceeds to eat his food while playing on his phone. I then remind him to do his homework. He rolls his eyes at my suggestion and continues to lounge about. I encourage him to talk to his advisors about college visits or other post-graduation options, because we all know neither of us wants him still living with us after graduation. He shrugs his shoulders. I get frustrated and tell him it’s important. I’m sure I sound a lot like the teacher on the Peanuts cartoon. I get on him, again, about homework, to which the response is usually, “Uh-huh, I know.”
Surprise! It’s time for bed, because I’m exhausted with the endless encouragement, coaching, psychology-ing, tidying, cooking, laundering, worry, praying, reading of documents, nagging, hounding, helicoptering, etc. This then becomes a time for the child to want to talk about life. So, of course, we let him talk. Well, I do. My husband just carries on with his plan to go to bed. After the child finishes talking, brushing his teeth, powering down his computer, etc., he finally gets into bed. I, however, am just starting with another round of worrying and overthinking. Phew. Tired yet? I am.
You Can’t Put a Value On What Moms Do
Perhaps there isn’t a salary that we mothers need, but more of a vacation experience that would alleviate all the worry and fear, a place where the reassurance that the kids are doing everything they’re supposed to be and excelling at their stuff and taking care of their pets is guaranteed, a place where we can really just let it all go. Maybe there’s a place we can go where someone takes care of us in the same way that we care for our families. But, we probably would hate that. After all, we can do it better ourselves, right? This whole asking for help and being vulnerable, allowing someone else to take care of us is not a hat many wear regularly or comfortably.
The older I get, the more I think a salary for our role as a mom is almost inconceivable. Even on our worst days, we have a value that is far greater than any amount of money, even when our kids don’t see it that way. Check that, especially when our kids don’t see it that way. How do you put a price on what we’re called to do, who we’re called to be? Yes, all moms get frustrated and annoyed and exhausted and grumpy, but we also get to be proud, loved unconditionally, and encouraged by our kids’ choices and the confidence and bravery they have as they make those choices. We get a front row seat to their lives and we get to experience their highs and lows with them.
After all, who do they look for when they’re on stage, scared and nervous, for the spelling bee? Who do they look for after they finish a race? Who do they want when they’re sick or injured? Who do they tell their heartaches to? Who do they share their biggest joys and ultimate failures with? Who gets the honor of teaching them to ride a bike, to tie their shoes, to clean the bathroom and wash dishes—we can dream, right?, to make macaroni and cheese, to drive a car, and how to treat other humans with dignity and respect? Who gets to teach and show them what humility, bravery, honor, faith, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and a million other things look like? Who gets to teach them how to give and receive love? Who, ultimately, gets the right and privilege to be their first and best cheerleader? We do, and it’s a medal of honor that we should wear with pride and extreme privilege. There are some things that we just can’t begin to put a price on. Whether you believe it or not, a large part of your purpose in life is to raise the young humans under your care.
We Do It All Because We Want to—Because We Love Them
Honestly, my average day is different every day, there isn’t really such a thing as average. Most days I question myself and how my kids are turning out. Are they kind? Do they show respect to those around them? Are they concerned about others who have less than they do? What are they doing to make a difference?
Let’s be honest. We all went into this motherhood thing blind. Somehow, most of us handle it with a lot of grace. Others of us find it a daily struggle. We are needed all the time, expectations are ultimately off the charts, we get puked on, pooped on, treated poorly, sleep poorly and erratically, and sometimes we are even verbally, physically, and emotionally abused.
Without any formal education, training, or previous knowledge, we figure it out and embrace this mothering gig. We secretly love it. Don’t tell the kids—they’ll riot! We embrace all of it, the good, the bad, and the average, because we love these humans. If the pay was commensurate with experience, we would put a serious hiccup in the pay rate discrepancy between men and women. We want equal pay for equal work, but there is no such thing as equal work when it comes to parenting. There is no formal scale with which to measure success or lack thereof.
So, while earning a paycheck to do this motherhood gig sounds fantastic and amazing, in theory, it’s flawed. If we got a paycheck for our purpose, even if we think it’s only a small part of our purpose, we wouldn’t be as good at it because the expectations would be different. We do it, all of it, because we want to. It’s what we do, it’s who we are, and it’s strangely invaluable.
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