Michael Swartz / May 11, 2018

Motherhood: More Than a Full-Time Job

"Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her."

Often taken for granted by the children (and men) in their lives — at least until those children need something — mothers deserve our thanks more than just once a year. But with Mother’s Day upon us, we noticed various media outlets reminding us about a study by the Welch’s fruit juice conglomerate that came out last summer. It shows just how hard moms work at pleasing the rest of us:

The study of 2,000 American mothers with children ages 5 to 12 aimed to discover the useful tools, resources and techniques moms use to keep their lives and their family’s lives afloat. Their most astounding finding: the average working mom clocks in a 98-hour work week, with her day typically starting at 6:23 a.m. She doesn’t end up finishing her work or family duties until 8:31 p.m., meaning she works 14 hours per day.

Is this self-reported study the most scientific of surveys? Probably not. Are husbands and fathers going to argue with the results? Maybe, but in that case we hope the couch is comfortable.

Kidding aside, the venerable institution of motherhood has been under assault for decades, as those who chose to stay home and raise their children became “old-fashioned” outsiders in our modern culture. Paradoxically, the Baby Boom ushered in an era in which working mothers became far more common — either as part of a two-income family trying to keep up with the Joneses, or as a single mom raising her children without a father but with full responsibility for feeding and clothing them. It may get easier as the children grow up, making a job outside the home a piece of cake by comparison, but regardless of whether she also works outside the home, a mother’s work is never done.

Mothers have also become pawns in the political struggle over the so-called wage gap. This oft-cited “truth” that women earn less than 80 cents for every dollar a man is paid doesn’t account for the satisfaction derived during those periods one study euphemistically called “a temporary interruption” in their careers. Some in the more radical “equal pay” community call this phenomenon a “motherhood penalty.”

One solution to this is for employers to more flexibly account for moms’ desire for part-time work.

But in any case, with regard to this “motherhood penalty,” writer Hadley Heath Manning, a relatively recent addition to the working-mom sisterhood, noted: The term “depicts mothers as helpless victims and ignores the tremendous benefits of motherhood that women often choose to embrace in exchange for lower pay.” She prefers to think of these intangibles in terms of trade-offs. The time that a mom forgoes in the bubble bath because her daughter needs help with her homework is offset by the sense of pride she eventually feels in raising her to responsible adulthood. And that time spent tending to a son’s skinned knee allows her that little bit of bonding time she wouldn’t get if it happened at daycare while she was at work. While Mom may be tired after her long hours, it’s moments like these that keep her going.

As the men in our humble shop consider our wives and mothers, the words of Proverbs 31:28-29 come to mind: “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.’”

Wishing our moms and yours a Happy Mother’s Day!

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