Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Value of a Homemaker’s Work

Last week, I wrote about Michelle Bernard’s reference to “red state feminists”:

I had never heard of that term, but it seemed to denote women who had opted to devote themselves full-time to the raising of their children and who resented those who looked down at them for not being in the workforce.  The essence of the concept of a “red state feminist” seemed to be a woman who wanted to be respected for the decision to care full-time for her family instead of earning a paycheck in the marketplace.

I expressed in that post my support of such attitudes.  Christianity values the intrinsic worth of human beings as children of God.  It rejects the secular societal emphasis on valuing human beings for their ability to command a certain monetary price in exchange for their labor. 

However, because our American culture respects productivity and making money over other endeavors, it tends to look down upon those who care for children.  I myself have observed such attitudes in so many contexts.  Over the year, I’ve heard people describe stay-at-home parents as lazy, lacking in ambition and wasteful.  Sadly, I’ve even heard terms like “parasitic” and “leech” used to describe full-time parents who are not earning a paycheck.  In my experience, many people seem to have such attitudes.

When my own husband left his successful career as a corporate accountant, his co-workers couldn’t believe he was “throwing it all away.”  They thought for sure he was keeping a secret about some wonderful new professional opportunity he was pursuing.  And I was surprised when my friends did not seem to share my pride and admiration for my husband’s sacrifice and prioritization of his family.  They too seemed to think there was more to the story.  I sensed they thought he must have been fired or something.  Some even seemed to be embarrassed for me. 

At the time, I just didn’t understand these attitudes.  Why would anyone have anything but tremendous respect for someone sacrificing the prestige and money of a successful career for family?  But over the years I’ve come to realize that although we as a nation pay a lot of lip service to prizing “family values,” in reality most of us do not.  Deep down what most Americans seem to really value is status in the marketplace.

Not long after my post on red state feminists, I came across an article on a related theme: “How Much Is A Homemaker Worth?”  The article is available at the link below.

I don’t endorse the basic mindset of the article.  It tries to quantify the monetary value of a person who stays home full-time to care for family.  I disagree with that premise.  Not everything of value can be translated into monetary terms.  My worldview teaches me that human beings have value beyond their financial contributions.  We are uniquely precious and valuable because we are created in God’s image.

Nonetheless, I did at least appreciate the thrust of the article in trying to refute the common cultural attitudes that homemakers are lazy and unproductive.  If you buy into the premise of monetizing everything of value, then it is important to recognize that stay-at-home parents do provide a lot of services with a quantifiable monetary value.  The article concludes the sum of such monetary value is just under $100,000.

But of course homemakers don’t earn a salary.  For this reason alone, they are widely dismissed and disrespected in our society.  This attitude is so misguided, so disgusting.  I don’t even know where to begin to refute it. 

Matthew 6:19-21

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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